Our ESDLA researcher Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz defended his doctoral dissertation “Reterritorializing conflicting urban natures: Socio-ecological inequalities and the politics of Spatial Planning in Bogotá” on March 12th, 2021.
We are gladly sharing in this post the record of the public examination event that had around 60 persons following online. The Opponent in the public examination was University Researcher, Docent, Florencia Quesada Avendaño of the University of Helsinki, and the Custos was University Lecturer Juha Kotilainen of the University of Eastern Finland. More information about Germán’s doctoral dissertation can be found in this press release.
In his doctoral dissertation, M.Sc. Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz argues that the environmental conflicts related to spatial planning and urbanization open opportunities to create more just spaces to rethink planning as a collective political task aiming for more democratic practices, and not only as of the duty of planners. By analyzing the environmental conflict cases such as profit-driven urbanization over protected areas, quarrying activities, or the impact of landfills in urban-rural areas over the last three decades in Bogotá, Colombia, the dissertation analyzes spatial planning practices embedded in Bogotá’s socio-ecological inequalities. The public examination of Quimbayo Ruiz’s dissertation will take place on Friday, 12 March 2021, at 12 noon and will be live streamed. The public examination will be in English.
Quimbayo Ruiz’s prompts on his previous experience as a practitioner and activist, to document environmental conflicts related to spatial planning in Bogotá. Through interviews, participant observation, content analysis of documents, and relying upon ecological and social science traditions, Quimbayo Ruiz’s research found that in recent decades there have been conflicting visions around urban nature in Bogotá, which together have triggered socio-ecological inequalities and new possibilities for urban politics to overcome them. Moreover, Quimbayo Ruiz argues that environmental conflicts do not correspond to a ‘lack’ or ‘absence’ of planning. Instead, they correspond to the consolidation of a city model that deepens segregation and inequality and is promoted by sectors of political and economic power. Nevertheless, this research also shows that political practices in planning processes around nature are constantly shaped, disputed, and negotiated along with social and non-human actors. Such practices have been mobilized through knowledge in ecology and law by (multiclass) social organizations and various citizen sectors that have flourished from the 1990s to the present, coinciding with the positioning of environmental imperatives on the neoliberal urban agenda.
‘Environmental conflict’ as a territorial process and not as an outcome
In this research, the key question is understanding the dialectic between conflicts and spatial planning. Quimbayo Ruiz’s dissertation shows that the idea of nature in Bogotá’s planning consists of a diversity of narratives, practices, and local governance techniques, where there is a complex interplay of both social and non-human actors. Such an interplay is territorial and framed in a volatile and fragile democratic setting simultaneously placed at one of the most biodiverse metropolitan regions globally. The often negative notion of ‘conflict’ is key to understand this case, and it should be re-casted in a more positive light to find productive ways to address environmental issues and inequalities. A conception of planning that transcends the dualisms of state and society and instead, immersed in conflicting visions of nature, may afford new opportunities to understand the democratic practices fostering just urban ecologies. The mobilization of urban nature advocacy in Bogotá through individual and collective political mobilization, driven by continuous learning and reform, has always addressed the question of who urban space should be for. Planning practices are unavoidably political and embedded in conflicting values and dissent around nature.
Socio-ecological inequalities should be addressed to achieve just urban ecological transitions
The current land-use and planning tools in Bogotá (and elsewhere) urgently need to address urbanization without traditional politico-administrative boundaries of zoning polygons, or which perpetuate nature-society dichotomies. This dissertation demonstrates how urban and spatial planning processes are a source of environmental conflict, and how are related to several socio-ecological inequalities as such. One of the study’s recommendations is the further analysis of the kinds of social exclusion and constitutive ecological effects produced by environmental conflicts and dispossessions. Consideration of such exclusions is key for assessing territorial vulnerabilities to climate change, as well as cultural valuations of nature for climate change adaptation, but such a consideration remains scarcely documented in research on urbanization. The Bogotá case can therefore also shed light on concerns around urban nature and spatial planning elsewhere.
The doctoral dissertation of M.Sc. Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz, entitled Reterritorializing conflicting urban natures: socio-ecological inequalities and the politics of spatial planning in Bogotá, will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The Opponent in the public examination will be University Researcher, Docent, Florencia Quesada Avendaño of the University of Helsinki and the Custos will be University Lecturer Juha Kotilainen of the University of Eastern Finland.
Three keynotes were commissioned for the seminar. Maija Faehnle, senior researcher in the Programme for Sustainable Urbanisation at Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, opened the seminar with her presentation about solving complex problems where activism is seen as a challenge and opportunity for collaborative governance. The second keynote was on charge of PhD Mariana Walter, postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) in Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), who presented a perspective on radical transformations to sustainability, covering resistances, movements and alternatives, and related with the network of scholars and activists for environmental justice ACKnowl-EJ, including the Environmental Justice Atlas initiative. Finally, in the third keynote Marta Conde post-graduate research associate at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Associate Researcher in UAB, who presented experiences of counter-expertise and co-production of knowledge in the interface between science and activism. Likewise, there were held presentations covering experiences from Finland, Catalonia, France, and Bangladesh, which as such covered different intersections between science and activism. Members of the ESDLA group at UEF, Mariana Galvão Lyra and Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz, also took part with presentations in the seminar addressing the main topics of the event and related with their doctoral research projects, in Brazil and Colombia, respectively.
At the end of a long and intense two-day seminar, some of the participants took part in a “world café” on environmental collaboration and conflict resolution focus on young people was led by the ALL-YOUTH Strategic Research project team. In the third day, Mariana Walter and Marta Conde gave open lectures on the Mining, environment, and society –course at UEF, covering as well items such as The Environmental Justice Atlas as a tool for activism and research, and initiatives in resistance to mining projects. The seminar finished with a visit to Koli National Park, where participants had the chance to meet one of the most iconic Finnish national landscapes.
ESDLA group is hosting a session on Sosiologipäivät 2019 in Turku, the next March 29th. Postdoctoral researcher Tuula Teräväinen and Professor Juha Kotilainen are coordinating the Working Group #39: Environmental governance and social inequalities. Researcher and doctoral student, Germán A. Quimbayo Ruiz, will be also there presenting. More information about the conference and working groups here: http://sosiologipaivat.fi/2019-annual-conference/working-groups/