Ecological Urbanism weds the theory and practice of city design and planning, as a means of adaptation, with the insights of ecology (the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment and the processes that shape both) and other environmental disciplines. Ecological urbanism is critical to the future of the city and its design: it provides a framework for addressing challenges that threaten humanity, such as climate change, rising sea level, declining oil reserves, rising energy demands, and environmental and social justice, while fulfilling human needs for health, safety, and welfare, meaning and delight.
Ecology and economics share the same root, eco- from oikos, Greek for house. This year, the class will focus on how flows of water and capital shape the landscape of West Philadelphia's inner-city neighborhoods. After more than a half century of redlining and disinvestment, capital is flowing into West Philadelphia's low-income, African-American neighborhoods, and owners are losing their homes through predatory lending (reverse-redlining) and unscrupulous practices of aggressive speculators. To make matters worse, tangled deeds make it difficult for heirs to claim a deceased relative's property. These neighborhoods are in dire need of investment, but not through tricking and cheating residents out of their homes. These problems are not just Philadelphia's, they are happening across the US. One authority has described the consequences as "potentially the biggest loss of black wealth in history."
Working with Monumental Baptist Church and its community development corporation, the class will develop an action plan to address this crisis. Monumental (founded in West Philadelphia in 1826) is a historic African-American church with a large congregation. The class will build on more than three decades of action research in the West Philadelphia Landscape Project and the experience of community activists and the congregation of Monumental Baptist.
We will begin the semester with a brief overview of the historical and ecological context for the catastrophe that is facing low-income homeowners in the face of rampant property speculation, followed by a review of programs that Philadelphia and other cities have developed to address the problem. Finally, we will propose a plan for action.
Student work will be evaluated in four ways: class attendance and contribution to discussions (20% of final grade); the weekly journal (20%); a case (20%); the final proposal, presented and posted on class website 40%).
Please refer to MIT's policy on academic integrity. Students with documented disabilities or any other problem that may affect ability to perform in class should see me early in the semester so arrangements may be made for accommodation. For more information on academic accommodation, see MIT's Division of Student Life.
Enrollment is limited to fourteen students.