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Urban political ecology for a climate emergency

Urban political ecology (UPE) has been conceptually influential and empirically robust, however the field has mainly focused on the way cities are metabolically linked and networked with resource flows and ecological processes. Currently, in the face of climate change challenges, scholars working on UPE are taking the field in new directions: from expanding the field of enquiry to include more than human actors, to shifting the geographical focus to overlooked peripheries, the Global South or the suburbs. Although cities are framed by the New Urban Agenda, adopted by the UN Habitat 2016, as central actors, the very ontological status of cities is also questioned, with important implications for UPE. We argue that in order to answer these emerging questions we need renewed, qualified, conceptually robust and empirically substantiated research that does not come from already privileged vintage points or geographical locations. This book launches an inquiry into a UPE better informed by situated knowledges; an embodied UPE, that puts equal attention to the role of more than -human ontologies and processes of capital accumulation. The book aims to extend UPE analysis to new places and perspectives. As discussions regarding the environment are now dominated by policy makers, planners and politicians, it is more crucial than ever, we argue to maintain a critical engagement with mainstream policy and academic debates.

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Urban political ecology for a climate emergency
Yannis Tzaninis
,
Tait Mandler
,
Maria Kaika
, and
Roger Keil

This introduction frames the book in a debate on urban political ecology (UPE). UPE focuses on unsettling traditional understandings of ‘cities’ as ontological entities separate from ‘nature’ and on how the production of settlements is metabolically linked with flows of capital and more-than-human ecological processes. The contribution of this paper is to recalibrate UPE to new urban forms and processes of extended urbanisation. This exploration goes against the reduction of what goes on outside of cities to processes that emanate unidirectionally from cities. Acknowledging UPE’s rich intellectual history and aiming to enrich rather than split the field, this paper identifies emerging discourses that go beyond UPE’s original formulation. The chapter introduces the individual chapters of the book in this context.

in Turning up the heat
The urban political ecologies and pathologies of Ebola virus disease in West Africa
Roger Keil
,
S. Harris Ali
, and
Stefan Treffers

A disease outbreak is an emergent product of social and ecological processes. To more fully understand disease outbreaks and their response, we must therefore consider how these dual processes interact in specific locales within the context of an increasingly urbanised world. As such, in this paper we examine the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak and its response in West Africa by adopting the lenses of two approaches that are usually treated separately – namely, urban political ecology (UPE) and urban political pathology (UPP). The UPE approach sheds light on how the material/biophysical basis of the EVD outbreak was influenced by the socio-political-economic and vice versa. The UPP approach gives us insight into how the EVD response was influenced by broader socio-political-economic forces, particularly the historical legacy of colonialism. Through the adoption of this dual lens we are able to gain greater insights and a more comprehensive understanding of the EVD outbreak and response in West Africa.

in Turning up the heat
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Is an integrated UPE research and policy agenda possible?
Tait Mandler
,
Roger Keil
,
Yannis Tzaninis
, and
Maria Kaika

This concluding chapter summarises the main debates in the book and discusses them in the context of emerging new publications in the field of UPE. It ends with a speculation on the question of whether an integrated UPE research and policy agenda is possible?

in Turning up the heat