Urban Regeneration and Socio-Environmental Conflicts: Towards a Political Ecology of Urban Forests

Authors: Andrea Zinzani*, Bologna University
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: urban political ecology, socio-environmental conflicts, urban forests
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the last decades, in the context of the neoliberalization of urbanscapes, urban regeneration policies have played a key role in promoting the reconfiguration of post-industrial, abandoned and renaturalized urban spaces. Despite urban regeneration and related socio-spatial processes have been framed as inclusive and participatory dynamics, often depoliticizing their nature, they led to the rise of urban asymmetries, marginalization and conflicts. By reflecting on this context, Urban Political Ecology emerges as a relevant critical lens to analyse these issues and advance a critical reflection on contemporary urban transformations.
This contribution critically analyses regeneration policies of the urban forest of Prati di Caprara in Bologna (Italy) and the rise of a socio-environmental conflict between the visions of institutions and private investors and those of urban movements which emerged to preserve the forest and valorize its socio-environmental value. Indeed, Prati di Caprara forest represents a socio-nature, product of a complex renaturalization process of a former military area abandoned since the 1980s. Today it is strategic in terms of capital investments and commercial development and has a symbolic power in terms of conflictual urban visions. A qualitative ethnographic approach embedded in the socio-environmental movements enabled the understanding of practices, strategies and power relations. Therefore, this contribution, by highlighting the key role played by urban forests in socio-environmental terms and their political and conflicting nature with regard to urban futures, aims to advance research and debates within the Political Ecology of Urban Forests.

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