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Nature and the City: Making Environmental Policy in Toronto and Los Angeles
by Gene Desfor and Roger Keil
University of Arizona Press, 2004
eISBN: 978-0-8165-5112-5 | Cloth: 978-0-8165-2373-3
Library of Congress Classification GE185.C2D47 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 363.70091732

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Pollution of air, soil, and waterways has become a primary concern of urban environmental policy making, and over the past two decades there has emerged a new era of urban policy that links development with ecological issues, based on the notion that both nature and the economy can be enhanced through technological changes to production and consumption systems. This book takes a new look at this application of "ecological modernization" to contemporary urban political-ecological struggles. Considering policy processes around land-use in urban watersheds and pollution of air and soil in two disparate North American "global cities," it criticizes the dominant belief in the power of markets and experts to regulate environments to everyone’s benefit, arguing instead that civil political action by local constituencies can influence the establishment of beneficial policies.

The book emphasizes ‘subaltern’ environmental justice concerns as instrumental in shaping the policy process. Looking back to the 1990s—when ecological modernization began to emerge as a dominant approach to environmental policy and theory—Desfor and Keil examine four case studies: restoration of the Don River in Toronto, cleanup of contaminated soil in Toronto, regeneration of the Los Angeles River, and air pollution reduction in Los Angeles. In each case, they show that local constituencies can develop political strategies that create alternatives to ecological modernization. When environmental policies appear to have been produced through solely technical exercises, they warn, one must be suspicious about the removal of contention from the process.

In the face of economic and environmental processes that have been increasingly influenced by neo-liberalism and globalization, Desfor and Keil’s analysis posits that continuing modernization of industrial capitalist societies entails a measure of deliberate change to societal relationships with nature in cities. Their book shows that environmental policies are about much more than green capitalism or the technical mastery of problems; they are about how future urban generations live their lives with sustainability and justice.

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