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The Reinvention of Urban Nature: Wildlife Preservation and Ecological Planning in West- and Post-Unification Berlin

Dr Jens Lachmund, Department of Technology and Society Studies, University of Maastricht
Tuesday 18th February 2014 - 4:00pm
Glamorgan Building Council Chamber

Event hosted by the Environment Research Group.

Probably there has been no other city in which issues of urban wildlife preservation have figured more prominently on the public policy agenda than in West-Berlin. During the 1970s and 80s, an emerging coalition of ecologists, activists and planners began to criticize the dominant pattern of urban development for its alleged detrimental effects on flora, fauna and habitats. By integrating criteria and practices of nature preservation into city planning they hoped to direct urban development into a more favorable form. Although the far-reaching wishes of its advocates were rarely fulfilled, since the late 1970s, ecological problem framings were institutionalized in many planning decisions and regulatory practices of Berlin city planning.

The presentation seeks to shed light on the scientific and political dynamics through which a new form of nature came into being and was institutionalized as an object of public concern. Drawing upon a constructivist notion of scientific knowledge and space, it traces the various ways in which ecological planning discourse was both connected to and constitutive of new urban spatialities. As it will be argued, the rise of ecological planning was not just the reaction on pre-existing environmental problems, but a complex process of place-making in which both a new type of “nature” and a new concept of the “urban” have been produced. As it will be argued, the conflicts that surrounded the project of urban nature protection in Berlin reveal tensions and dilemmas that will be characteristic for any form of conservationism in an age of increasing ecological novelty.