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Trading Zones in Environmental Education

Creating Transdisciplinary Dialogue


Edited By Marianne E. Krasny and Justin Dillon

Environmental educators often adhere to a relatively narrow theoretical paradigm focusing on changing attitudes and knowledge, which are assumed to foster pro-environmental behaviors, which, in turn, leads to better environmental quality. This book takes a different approach to trying to understand how environmental education might influence people, their communities, and the environment. The authors view changing environmental behaviors as a «wicked» problem, that is, a problem that does not readily lend itself to solutions using existing disciplinary approaches. The book as a whole opens up new avenues for pursuing environmental education research and practice and thus expands the conversation around environmental education, behaviors, and quality. Through developing transdisciplinary research questions and conceptual paradigms, this book also suggests new practices beyond those currently used in environmental education, natural resources management, and other environmental fields.
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Chapter 10. Disturbances in Urban Social-Ecological Systems: Niche Opportunities for Environmental Education: Timon McPhearson and Keith G. Tidball

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Chapter 10

Disturbances in Urban Social-Ecological Systems: Niche Opportunities for Environmental Education

Timon McPhearson and Keith G. Tidball

The field of disturbance ecology has demonstrated the importance of both small- and large-scale perturbations in ecosystems for opening niches and creating opportunities for species and processes to become established and change the system over time (Pickett and White 1985; Tilman and Downing 1994; Parminter 1998). Here, we explore the ecological and educational corollary of disturbance ecology by looking at the effect of human-mediated and other disturbances in urban systems, and the potential they have for creating niches where new awareness and associated attitudes towards urban ecosystems can reside and therefore open unique opportunities for environmental educators. We do this by investigating two U.S. urban case studies, New York City and New Orleans, as social-ecological systems (SES) in which large-scale, but very different, disturbances occurred in 2001 and 2005, respectively. We examine how the social, ecological, and educational communities changed as a result of these disturbances. We specifically ask how attitudes towards urban nature may have changed, using an adaptive cycle framework that analyzes post-disaster citizen-driven initiatives. This analysis will examine tree planting as living memorials as an initial node in the post-disaster grieving process in New York City (Svendsen and Campbell 2010), the succession in the SES that led to the establishment ← 193 | 194 → of a public-private partnership to plant a million trees in the city (McPhearson 2011), and how tree planting continues to expand...

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