I spent last week at the Center for Urban Resilience at Loyola Marymount University, where I spoke about the ethical and public policy issues that inform outdoor cats and urban wildlife. Check out their website at www.cures.lmu.edu.
The centre was recently founded by Eric Strauss, Presidents Professor of Biology and an expert on urban ecology, urban wildlife, and behavioural ecology. Seeking to build on what we have learned about urban sustainability and environmental justice, CURes point of departure is helping communities adapt to the inevitable environmental and social changes facing cities in the 21st Century. This is first time in world history that a majority of people live in cities, and by 2050 the vast majority of us will do so.
Most discourses and programs on resilience are technocentric and technocratic in focus. By this I mean that technological innovations and adaptations are the central means by which they view urban resilience. And these innovations are deployed by educational and policy elites — scientists, professors, and local/state/national policy wonks. Green urbanism is a case in point, with its focus on green infrastructure in terms of electric vehicle, solar and wind energy, water conservation, closed loop manufacturing and waste treatment, and centralized urban design and planning. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this per se. It is one piece of the puzzle.
Still, CURes is different. It is the only centre I know of that seeks to reconnect communities with the natural world in a way that not only teaches them that cities are urban ecologies in their own right, but to value the human and non-human beings that share the urban landscape. It tries to give them the knowledge and support to effectively participate in the wider ethical, scientific and policy discussions that will shape their urban lives.
Like anything new, CURes is still a work in progress and is building out it academic courses, community education and public scholarship. I am very excited to see how the centre grows and adapts in the Los Angeles environment.