The Standing Dead: Constructing and Deconstructing the Urban Forest

Authors: Mariya Shcheglovitova*, University of Maryland - Baltimore County
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: urban political ecology, urban forest, gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Balcony B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In Nature’s Metropolis William Cronon describes how whole forests were harvested and rearranged as cities. Drawing on evidence from Baltimore, MD, USA this presentation considers the politics and potentials of this process occurring in reverse: where the urban forest is now being reconceptualized to include vacant buildings and rendering abandoned spaces as potentially harvestable. In 2015 the US Forest Service (USFS) conducted a feasibility study on woody biomass utilization in Baltimore, and concluded that vacant buildings present a new and fruitful terrain for urban forestry. Doing so, the USFS predicted that “the foresters of the future may have to trade their axes in for jackhammers to reap the fruits of this urban landscape.” In drawing links between homes and forests, the USFS is intervening in a discourse of vacancy and abandonment which positions some urban spaces as without use. In Baltimore, this occurs in a context where over 16,000 vacant homes exist while the city is simultaneously experiencing an affordable housing crisis. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Baltimore, this presentation considers the relationship between the construction of the urban forest, the everyday politics of urban space and the affective experience of living in a neighborhood that is framed as full of resources, but not homes.

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