Structure of class:
  1. Discussion about urban ecological frameworks (BU)
  2. Discussion on urban metabolism (NCSU)
  3. Presentation and discussion with Kirsten Schwarz on the spatial distribution of tree canopy cover and soil lead in built environments
  4. Formulating a hypothesis that fits into the framework by Collins et al. (2011) (BU)
  5. Discussion on urban metabolism (BU)

1. Discussion about urban ecological frameworks (BU)

We began class with a discussion on frameworks for analyzing social-ecological systems. Is there one framework than can best generate hypotheses and shape social-ecological research? Collins et al. (2011) describe an iterative framework in which social and biophysical processes are bridged by presses, pulses, and ecosystem services. This framework encourages hypotheses that integrate human dimensions with traditional ecological research. We had little bit discussion on the definition of Purses and Presses in the framework. We next considered the framework described by Grimm et al. (2008). Under this framework, human drivers can have different sets of impacts at local, regional, and global scales. In this framework, local land use and cover change can have a large impact – these local changes can influence land use and cover at the regional scale, and they can influence biogeochemical cycles and climate at the local, regional, and global scales.

2. Discussion of Urban Metabolism (NCSU)

As a class we discussed the Kennedy and Golubiewski articles on Urban Metabolism. Christopher Kennedy’s article was a literature review of Urban Metabolism. Nancy Golubiewski’s article was critical of urban metabolism as a framework for studying cities and insisted that the analogy to a superorganism was wrong and that the term urban metabolism should be thrown out in favor of the term “materials and energy flow accounting.” Our reactions to the articles were mixed. Overall through the discussion I think we came to the conclusion that urban metabolism is not a framework, but a methodology of urban materials and energy accounting. We discussed nutrient budgets and metabolism and distinguished that classical urban metabolism is only interested in inputs/outputs while nutrient budgets look at a single nutrient, like carbon, cycling within the city/ecosystem.

3. The Spatial Distribution of Environmental Goods and Hazards - Tree Canopy and Soil Lead in Built Environment

Presenter: Kirsten Schwarz

Dr. Kirsten Schwarz presented her work on spatial distributions of tree canopy cover and soil lead in urban environments. Both areas of research consider links between landscape structure and ecosystem functions and services.

Regarding her research on tree canopy cover, Dr. Schwarz is interested in whether the positive benefits of trees are equitably distributed among urban populations. Specifically, she investigated whether variation in percent tree canopy cover can be explained by socioeconomic variables such as income and demographic data. This analysis was carried out over seven cities (the cities having different socioeconomic, ecological, and climatic makeups) at two different spatial scales. Though results varied across different cities, income was a significant explanatory variable across the seven cities and both spatial scales. Overall, urban tree cover varied for different cities, and the equity of their distribution remains an important question in environmental justice.

Conversation topics:
  • Historical injustices show up in tree studies because trees take time to grow.
  • Studies looking at types of trees – native/non-native; some work will be done in Cinnicinati on this topic.
  • Past environmental justice studies have focused more on hazards than on ‘goods’

Dr. Schwarz also presented her work on how lead in soil can affect urban gardens. Her previous research was on the spatial distribution of soil lead in Baltimore, MD. In the current study her interdisciplinary team wants to quantify the lead impacts on the gardens and also the impact to the community access to healthy food through these gardens. Lead has been added to the environment primarily through leaded gasoline and lead-based paint. Despite bans on lead in these products, lead persists in urban soils and remains a public health hazard. Children are the most susceptible population as lead is primarily absorbed by eating contaminated soil or something that has been in contact with it. This research has an environmental justice component as well, since the likelihood of elevated blood lead levels are not equally distributed in the population. The study is looking at spatial distributions of lead on three scales: garden, parcel, and city. The garden and parcel levels will inform the GIS models for the city scale. Preliminary findings indicate that lead levels are highest in areas closest to buildings. This is consistent with the research done in Maryland that showed soil lead concentrations were highest near buildings, and they were higher near major roads than near lawns or under trees.

Conversation topics:
  • Comparative analysis of cities for indicators of lead like age of homes
  • Other legacy pollutants depend on whether they come point sources or are dispersed and how they move in environment
  • Policy issues/implications of this research for citizens
  • Plant uptake/phytoremediation
  • Exposure pathways and whether children are routinely tested for lead
  • Bioaccumulation in soil invertebrates or backyard chickens
  • Communicating Science to public: NSF workshop – “Becoming a Messenger”

4. Formulating a hypothesis that fits into the framework by Collins et al. (2011) (BU)

After concluding our discussion with Dr. Schwarz, Professor Hutyra challenged us to fit a hypothesis into the “Press-Pulse Dynamics” (PPD) framework put forth by Collins et al. (2011). Our hypothesis looked at potential effects of urban soil lead on the practice of keeping backyard hens. We considered placing our question in an environmental justice context, such as the bioaccumulation of lead differentially affecting "minority" populations who raise hens. When fitting our hypothesis into the framework, there were difficulties in specifying certain processes as pulses, presses, or ecosystem functions. For example, weather may have both long and short-term effects on soil lead concentrations, and weather may be influenced by the underlying ecosystem. Our conclusion is that there isn't one perfect framework that fits with all ecological studies, certain hypothesis fits better in other frameworks.

5. Discussion on urban metabolism (BU)

We finished class with a discussion on the definitions and functions of urban metabolism (UM). We considered a series of papers by Kennedy and Golubiewski that offered differing perspectives on UM. One side argues that UM is a useful tool for gauging the magnitude of energy and materials inputs to a city, as well as the amounts of wastes generated. In this light, UM can be used to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and indicate levels of sustainability. Moreover, the metabolism concept can be an educational tool for describing energy and material flows through cities. Another perspective argues that UM analogizes cities to individual organisms, and that this comparison is taken too far in scientific literature. Following this argument, ecosystems operate under different processes and drivers than organisms, and the organism analogy can mislead future research on social-ecological systems.

With these differing perspectives in mind, we looked at previous UM studies, such as the comprehensive study of Brussels, Belgium in the early 1970s (Duvigneaud and Denayeyer-De Smet 1977). Studies such as these have gained popularity as concerns over GHG emissions have increased. We juxtaposed UM approaches of GHG accounting with satellite-based tools for monitoring global carbon dioxide concentrations (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2). Taking into account the varying perspectives on UM, as well as the objectives of different approaches to monitoring environmental conditions, we were asked to consider: are ecologists glorified accountants?


Janet Felts
In class today we discussed the benefits and limitations of urban metabolism as a interdisciplinary framework. As someone from outside of the field of Ecology, I had to sift through a mountain of new information presented by the two articles by Kennedy and Golubiewski, who in my very limited ecological opinion somewhat debated the same benefits and limitations of urban metabolism. Through class discussion, I was able to better determine just what these benefits and limitations are, and why the debate between these two scholars is necessary. Both ways of looking a city are valid, whether it be looking a city from a biological view or a ecosystems view, but including aspects of both viewpoints are necessary to account for the inputs/outputs of a city, but also the ecological processes that occur within the city that affect these inputs/outputs as well.
Some of the benefits of the urban metabolism framework would include the ability to close certain loops in the system to make the city a little more sustainable. For example, the output of waste could be contained within a city by using some of the waste as recycled goods, thus reducing the output and creating a more sustainable feature of the city by not relying so much on future inputs for those same goods. However, one limitation that was discussed in class would be the variation of people residing in that city would constantly be changing and re-opening that waste output loop that was just closed. A few more limitations with this framework that were discussed is the fact that these urban metabolism studies are not completed over consecutive time to see the changes that occur between data collection dates. Also, the fact that the scale for each city is different, making it harder to collectively compare or use the data to apply to other cities. I do believe, however, that this framework is a useful tool when focusing on one city. It allows the researcher to pinpoint those specific inputs/outputs to see how that specific city could be more sustainable, because what works for one city may not work for another. This framework allows for that specification and catering to what that city needs.

Additionally, our speaker, Kirstin Schwarz made two wonderful presentations. I never considered the problem of lead in soil to be source of concern because I always associated it with being in paint and as long as we were careful to not eat the paint then we would be lead free. I never considered how paint can interact with the soil and cause problems with food and urban gardening for the future. I am now more aware of this problem and the way lead remains a problem for everyone, not just people who had lead paint in their homes 40 years ago.

Toby Fusco - Our guest lecturer today gave a very interesting presentation on lead in soil and its effect on urban gardening (among other things). There was an image she presented about the accumulation of lead along the exterior of the home and how it seemed to be highly concentrated along the home and driveways/streets. This image and the discussion that followed made me think of an instance many years ago where my parents were attempting to plant shrubs along the perimeter of their house. Despite their best attempts, all the plants and shrubs where dying even though they were receiving adequate water and sunlight. The home was built in 1905 and the original clapboards that had been painted red had been covered with vinyl siding. If by chance some of the paint chipped off the clapboards and if it was lead-based paint, it could have contaminated the soil with lead. It seems most plants from our discussion do not handle lead in the soil very well. Ironically, once my parents began planting away from the house, plants began to prosper. They have a huge dogwood tree and two stands of lilac along the back fence which is approximately 15 feet from the house that have been doing well for many years. This just seemed like an interesting connection to me and perhaps could be the reason for my parents’ bad luck with planting along the house (though I still might tease them about their black thumbs!)

We were asked to respond to whether or not ecologists are glorified accountants in class. I do believe ecologists and accountants share many similar duties within their professions. They are both expected to analyze the flow of specific components: accountants follow the money that enters and leaves a business while ecologists follow an organism, a nutrient and/or energy within an ecosystem. Though they analyze the flow of materials, I do not believe it is a simple linear relationship in either case. I do not think either one of these people can use simple models where you analyze inputs and outputs. There are cycles and systems within the business/ecosystem that also must be accounted for that may be overlooked in a simple input(s) = outputs(s) formula.

We were also asked to discuss the idea of urban metabolism as proposed by Kennedy and Golubiewski. Both scientists made many valid points but I think Kennedy’s explanations and arguments for what urban metabolism is and how it can be applied were better than Golubiewski’s points. In particular, I think his use of flow charts (from other scientists) helped in my understanding of urban metabolism. As a meteorologist, I am used to seeing budgets (i.e. the solar radiation budget and balance) and I find these charts that utilize numbers are easier to follow than schematic diagrams. Kennedy’s paper is also good for someone who had no idea what urban metabolism was before reading it. From an educational standpoint, I think it was the better choice.

Amanda Gallinat-
Kirsten Schwarz gave two interesting and very articulate presentations! One of the questions that came up during the question/answer session is-- what exactly are the social responsibilities of scientists with results that matter to human health? Dr Schwarz gave a great setup to the dangers of high lead-content in soils: lead is a direct danger to human health, particularly for children, it is not evenly distributed among communities, and even raised-bed gardens can accumulate over double the lead content in 4 years. Dr Schwarz was so convincing about the hazards of lead, in fact, that many of us were surprised there wasn't more policy action coming out of her research! As Dr Hutyra mentioned, we could spend hours and hours discussing the current expectations of tenure-track scientists, where the work of research scientists begins and ends, and what we, as scientists, are ethically obligated to do with our results. So I thought this week's blog might be a good place to start spending those hours and hours. If anyone has interest in responding to these, I think it would be great to get a discussion going! If not, they still might be interesting to think about during your commute.

1) Where does the work of scientists begin and end? Are we finished after publishing our research? Is it someone else's job to advocate, to seek out policy makers and to communicate to the public?
2) Can scientists be advocates? Does advocacy ruin a scientist's reputation as an objective source, and should it?
3) What are the ethical obligations of scientists that work with issues of human and/or environmental health?
4) It is clear that advocacy and social programs are not measures of success that help most people get tenure. Should they be valued more highly in the research university setting, and if so, how do we begin to make this transition?

Finally, I'd like to quickly plug a student-run workshop I attended this summer for communicating science. It was a fantastic experience and I recommend bookmarking it and applying next year if you're interested in science communication:

Mustafa Saifuddin-
We discussed two analogies on Friday, both of which were useful albeit imperfect. First, we looked at the exchange between Kennedy and Golubiewski regarding urban metabolism and the analogy of cities as organisms. Then, we separately considered whether ecologists might be likened to accountants. In both instances, as with all analogies, there are limits to the extent of similarity, but I felt like the purpose of using an analogy was sometimes lost in our focus on identifying flaws. By framing the debates in the form of smplified Yes/No questions, “Are ecologists glorified accountants?” and “Are cities superorganisms?” we might unnecessarily create a polarized debate, when in actuality, it would be surprising to find anyone fully committed to either side.

I also felt Golubiewski’s criticism of the analogy was unnecessarily abrasive. I don’t think anyone is in danger of thinking cities are organisms, and I don’t see any evidence for the analogy clouding any scientific approach, as she mentions in her reply. It was instructive for her to point out pertinent differences between cities and organisms, such as the lack of clearly defined borders surrounding cities, but I don’t think that pointing out these flaws necessarily requires us to discard the analogy unless it is in fact somehow misguiding science or policy.

One particularly useful application of these analogies appears to be in communicating science to a broader audience, which as Amanda points out above, is also a topic that came up following Kristen Schwarz’ presentation on lead. With the subdiscipline of urban ecology in particular, I think many research paths will have a strong human component. It seems like practically every paper we’ve read in this course calls for “inter-disciplinary” work. So far, much of that has focused on integrating social sciences into frameworks of human interactions with the environment, but we also need interdisciplinary connections to extend from research findings to advocacy. I don’t think advocacy is necessarily part of a scientist’s job, but in many cases, as with the lead studies, it naturally flows from the findings. I think the researcher’s duty is to convey their findings to interdisciplinary connections and work toward effecting policy to incorporate new findings. Additionally, advocacy does not have to conflict with being objective, especially when there is no financial incentive involved. (I’m sure Golubiewski would criticize some part of this for probably confusing interdisciplinary with transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, but I'm just sticking with the first!)

Kelly Suttles

Kirsten’s presentation was great. Here are a few random thoughts and then I would like to respond to Amanda G.
I had not thought of environmental justice (EJ) issues in terms of whether under-served communities are getting less of a perceived “good” like tree cover; I had always heard of EJ in terms of pollution.
I wonder if this research gets more publicized, if cities will take notice and want to test childcare facilities and schools near high traffic roads.
I loved the student's question about bio-accumulation in soil invertebrates and backyard chickens!

Amanda you raise some very interesting questions. I am taking a class right now where we will spend much of the class discussing adaptive governance and the role of scientists in policy (Current Issues in Natural Resource Management for NCSU students). Through the first few weeks of class, it has already become abundantly clear that scientists shouldn't just hide in the lab. Whether we want to work in "policy" or not, I think we as scientists all have a responsibility to communicate our work to the larger community. Does that mean that you become an advocate to the exclusion of everything else? No, I think instead a more rational approach, since our time is limited, is to cultivate relationships with decision makers and advocates who can benefit from your research. There are people who primarily work on children's health and welfare issues. Seek that person in your community out, talk about her concerns (which might inform your next project), and share your research findings. I look forward to continuing the conversation...

Amanda Gallinat-- Mustafa and Kelly, I'm glad to read that you don't think reaching out is off-limits for scientists, and that it doesn't necessarily threaten a scientist's objectivity. I attended a panel discussion in which reporter Michael Lemonick from Climate Central was asked how climate change biologists can avoid being seen as "controversial" and he responded that educating people about science is rarely controversial. The more I consider this, the more I agree; often it is more powerful to have strong science that you can communicate very clearly, than it is to jump into advocating for specific policies. This gives your audience (whether they're in government or reading a newspaper article) the chance to draw their own conclusions about policy decisions. If you've communicated well enough and presented the science logically, they will probably be more convinced by their own conclusions than yours.

I agree with Kelly that the first step is for scientists to exit the lab. Whether we dip a toe into social advocacy is up to the individual, but learning to communicate our science to everyone is a very good place to start. Kelly, it would be great to hear any more ideas you have about this during your Natural Resource Management course!

Xiaojing Tang- This is a late response but I think the argument on Urban Metabolism has gone too far. In physics, when trying to understand light we have both the electro-magnatic wave theory and we also have the particle theory. Both theories are not wrong. They help to explain specific behavior of light. Same in urban ecology, the idea of Urban Metabolism helps us to visualize and understand the inflow and outflow of urban as an organ. But there're certain limitation of UM. At some point, we need to give up UM and think differently in order to study the other perspective of urban ecosystem.

Scott Beck -- I thought Kirsten did an excellent job presenting her research. I really enjoyed the contrasts in her discussion of environmental goods and bads. We (NCSU) had recently discussed the differences between environmental services and disservices, so I thought this was a fitting topic. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a spatial geek, so I was hoping that there would be a bit more conversation about the spatial analysis aspects of her studies (I'm particularly interested in the details of the predictive modeling, and the variables used to parameterize these models). I figured I could always ask after the fact to save others from boredom. I'm glad there is a conversation going about the practicality of moving these types of studies from the lab to the streets. This is something that I've struggled with throughout my graduate career: conducting academic research that translates to 'boots on the ground' policy intervention -- or really just affecting any kind of 'real' change. It seemed to me like Kirsten was just starting to really dig into the promotion aspect of her research by teaming up with stakeholder (and/or advocacy) organizations, which was refreshing.

Lital Kroll-- To start with, I really appreciate Amanda’s questions about scientists advocating, because a lot of times it seems to me that so much effort is going into studying the ecology and biology of various systems and not much is being acted upon. We all know how difficult it is for public policy to be passed on the federal level (or really any level) in matters pertaining to the environment, which is why I don’t consider it the responsibility of the scientist to advocate for a change in policy. That being said, I think when it comes to issues affecting the health and well-being of members in our community, the scientists should bring it upon themselves to find someone who would be willing and able to advocate for the cause. I would like to think that if I ever found something in one of my studies that endangered the lives of the people I care about, I would do everything in my power to attract attention to the conclusions. Unfortunately, like Amanda was hinting at in her second question, this might be misconstrued as an author simply trying to get recognized for his/her findings. I also agree with Kelly when she wrote about the importance of finding the person with the strongest connection to the subject matter. Having someone as passionate as you on the topic can make all the difference!

On another note, I thought both of Dr. Schwarz’s presentations were really interesting! I have to admit that I was rather shocked to hear her discuss the presence of lead in our everyday lives. In my past environmental courses, my professors always made it seem like the presence of lead in our communities almost entirely disappeared when lead-based paint was outlawed in the late 1970's. It scares me to think of all the urban gardens out there whose by-products are toxic. Something I still don’t really understand: is lead in soil common in urban environments, or is there simply a higher likelihood of encountering it? Would gardening in urban environments then be futile?

Mary Farina-- Amanda, thank you for asking such important questions on the roles and obligations of scientists. There seems to be a common thread in the responses posted above, namely that scientists have a responsibility to convey their findings to audiences outside of the scientific community. Whether or not individual researchers become involved in advocacy, it's important for scientists to relay the results and implications of their work to the larger community.

Mustafa and Kelly made great points about scientists forming interdisciplinary connections, whether with advocates, decision makers, or even scientists from different fields. Such connections can channel information directly from scientists to key members of the community. Building on these points, it's also important to form connections between scientists and journalists. These connections can go both ways, with both scientists and journalists working to better communicate with each other. Perhaps this can take place at the university level, through collaboration between scientists and those in science writing programs. Promoting scientific literacy through the media may help to inform advocates and decision makers, as well as the general community. The media may be a useful tool to help scientists communicate concepts such as statistical significance, model predictions, and varying levels of certainty associated with research findings.

Regarding the series of papers by Kennedy and Golubiewski, it seems that the urban metabolism and urban ecosystem concepts are complementary,
each describing different aspects of cities. Some points from Kennedy (2012) made me consider the relative impacts of human-made systems versus ecosystem processes. For example, Kennedy (2012) describes how human-made systems, such as waste collection, are centralized and grow outward toward rural areas. Like organismal waste removal, "net wastes are collected and concentrated at a small number of outflows, rather than being broken down by spatially dispersed detrivores." This description fits human-made methods of waste collection, such as curbside garbage pickup or sewer systems. However, this view minimizes the impact of urban detrivores that may be dispersed throughout cities, and it does not account for decomposers and biogeochemical cycling in urban environments. In this example, the organismic analogy may better describe the human-made systems of waste removal, while the urban ecosystem perspective captures more spatially dispersive processes such as biogeochemical cycling.

Steve Decina - Amanda, thank you for putting these questions out for public discussion. I think that the dedication to advocacy is dependent upon the individual scientist. Some of us are in our fields out of pure, genuine desire to study and gain knowledge, but I would be willing to bet that the majority of us would like to make some sort of positive difference via our research. Echoing Lital, I think that it would be the responsibility of scientist whose findings could impact human health to put that knowledge in the hands of someone who could do something constructive with the knowledge. At the very least, it would seem that this action would be dictated by professional ethics.

Truthfully, however, I think our responsibility is greater than that; we are seekers and bearers of knowledge, and knowledge is (one source of) power, and power can be used to make positive change. Concerns of "publish or perish", tenure, and even the perception of objectivity would seem to be of little import in comparison to making changes that would benefit the planet and its people. There is certainly the argument that being career-focused will put a person in a better position later on to make bigger differences, and I understand that, but personally hope that I will not subscribe to this philosophy in my own career.

Truth, and its dissemination to create justice, should guide us as scientists. Malcolm X said, "I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against." Malcolm X did not hold back truths or bide his time accepting injustices in order to build his career. He agitated for change from the very day of his spiritual, intellectual, and moral awakening, and if I can learn from his example, then change and the betterment of this world will be my single-minded focus, and will inform my research and its ultimate use.

Evan Kuras - After Kirsten's presentation, the eminent dangers of soil lead began sprouting up in my life like so many unwanted weeds. I attended a canning workshop in Jamaica Plain and the presenter warned us to avoid using apples that had already fallen from trees because they tend to accumulate lead from the soil (she assumed we would be picking our own apples). Just today when I retrieved my CSA box (community supported agriculture) I noticed some dirt on my vegetables. While this dirt symbolically testified to the localness of my produce, it also set off a warning light in my head. Oh soil lead, is nothing sacred?

My newfound understanding of soil lead forced me to realize just how susceptible we are to public hazards, especially in cities. And worse, we are often totally unaware of the hazards out there. I appreciate the comments above about scientists "exiting the lab" to educate the public and to engage with stakeholders and policymakers. But I don't think it has to be and either-or scenario. Citizen science is a growing fad in ecology research and I think it has even greater potential in cities to both gather information and spread awareness. Imagine a study where real people were given collecting tubes and tasked with collecting soil samples (when relevant), dirt from vegetables, and maybe even pieces of the produce they are consuming. The researcher can process the samples to determine the levels of soil lead (or lead in our food) as they actually impact people. I'd hypothesize that the urban residents who cook at home and eat more local produce will measure higher soil lead levels than those who eat out and buy produce from Star Market. Not only would this be a fascinating data set but the researcher would be inculcating a profound awareness of soil lead dynamics in the research participants.

In other words, I believe that urban ecologists have the unique opportunity (I may even be so bold to say responsibility) to engage the public in research not just to ask important and relevant questions but to spread awareness about urban ecological phenomena, such as the distribution of goods and hazards.

Eric Bullock - I know I am joining in on this discussion a little late, but I wanted to give my two cents on what is being talked about. I agree with Steve when he said that the conclusions of research should be put "in the hands of someone who could do something constructive with the knowledge." I believe, as a scientist, that this is the most effective coarse of action. While pursuing further action with your results individually is noble, there must a few thinks taken into account when doing so. First, other people may be better at reaching a mass audience than the researcher. Second, purpose-based research has a potential to lose respect from an academic viewpoint. Not that it's bad to do so, but it is just important that a researcher finds results and then uses them to pursue the greater good, not start by trying to pursue a greater good and generate research to do so. I am not trying to say scientists should not try to pursue such things, just that they should be careful in doing so.

Going back to the origin of this talk, which was Dr. Schwarz's study and presentation on the accumulation of lead in soil and it's potential risks in urban gardens. Personally, the take home message I got was that local-level tactics at incorporating the natural environment (like urban farming) into the urban setting are going to have confusing and unorthodox problems (such as lead in the soil). I have always been fascinated in urban farming, and have even considered applying for a spot at the Fenway Victory Gardens. From my personal experience, urban farming has been an amazing attempt of city-livers to recreate the benefits of a rural lifestyle in the urban setting that results in various social benefits. It has also been a way of city people cheap, local, fresh produce. Across the country their are drastically different demographics creating urban gardens, from the wealthiest to the poorest. For instance, in LA there are urban gardens in abandoned lots used as a 'Boys and Girls Club' type program to get school kids off the streets and also in conctact with the natural world. In Portland their are urban gardens rented to the wealthy, with rent almost as much as my rent in Boston. In Rotterdam the urban gardens are used for handicap for the mentally ill. While the risk of lead may depend on location, the fact of the matter is that urban-ecological programs such as urban gardens are going to carry unique issues that are not as prevalent in rural areas.

Sravya- At first I didn’t anticipate blogging for this lecture but all the discussion has gotten me interested. So to start: Friday's class was packed with new information that challenged me to think a little outside the box (or perhaps more fittingly outside the framework).Here are a few of my thoughts regarding last class’s discussion topics.
For me, the most enlightening portion of class was our discussion with Dr. Kirsten Schwarz on spatial distribution of canopy coverage and lead concentration in urban soils. I recall hearing how socioeconomic factors contribute to urban plant diversity from the NPR podcast, but it was really constructive to see tangible data displaying the magnitude of this correlation. For someone like me who is not very familiar with environmental justice, Dr. Schwarz’s lecture really highlighted this concept, which also neatly tied in with her work on soil lead concentrations.
I didn’t realize that income could be correlated to soil lead. I didn’t consider how factors such as housing age, material (which higher income residents have better access to) decease the susceptibility of this health hazard. Furthermore I was also not aware that these were still prevalent because I had the impression that since lead was removed from paints etc. that the threat was gone.
Additionally, I found the discussion of environmental frameworks very eye opening, especially when we tried to fit a hypothesis into one of these frameworks, and it limitations was made apparent. Although, intuitively one might predict that not all research questions can be fully fit into any given template. I found it interesting how we were trying to tweak with our hypothesis to fit the model. I’m not sure how this would affect research/research questions that were purposely modified be presented in such framework. That being said, I do appreciate that these new models are integrating human factors with ecological factors, especially with the pulse- press models because they more clearly highlight the human component of these issues (with specific actions and interactions). I also liked the Grimm framework for specifically trying to trace impacts at local, regional and global scales.
Finally my last thoughts are on the discussion of ecologists being glorified accountants. I would have to say that ecologists are more than accountants because the reason for ecological study (to me at least) is not simply for the purpose of keeping different biogeochemical inputs and outputs, but rather to see what the effects of these interactions are. And to address the great questions Amanda brought up, I believe the intention of a scientist is to understand a phenomenon for a greater purpose. Therefore, I consider scientists to innately be an advocate for something. While I do agree that scientists can be better advocates, I believe that in end it's the policymakers’ duty to use this research to come up with better policies.

Wyatt S.-- While Nancy Golubiewski may have come off as a persnickety ecologist on the defensive (and I feel that there are parts of that description/"critique" which are apt), I found myself enchanted by the eloquence of her rhetoric. She loses no time in setting her tone, inveighing in paragraph two,"Implementing interdisciplinary research and acquiring integrated understanding is much more difficult than using the rhetoric that invokes them" (Golubiewski). I think we had a really lively discussion about Golubiewski and Kennedy's papers, of whom the former's I was championing from the outset. That came primarily from my respect of her writing style and the semantic/linguistic critique thrust of its argument. Logo-intoxication doesn't last forever however, and while I agree in spirit with her insistance upon as close a cleaving as possible of metaphor to the signified, I am not absolutely sure that a minor catachresis will grease the slippery slope towards ineffectual science. Her compelling point for me though was in this point of philosophical semantics. Kennedy's review of the discipline (urban metabolism) was quite intriguing, and I would like to look at some of the literature cited in the paper.
After our discussion of the usefulness of policing our allusory language, we had the pleasure of hearing Kirsten Schwarz presenting on two cool, and probably quite useful, spatial studies. I spoke with a friend this evening about Kirsten's lead distribution paper. He commented that it was u known that reducing childhood lead intake would reduce later incidence of violent crime offense. Wait, I just looked that up! Looks like it was a Mother Jones article he (evidently) read, referencing a couple papers by Rick Nevin here and also here. Anyway, this is sort of a tangential illustration of how cool I thought the talk was, and it feels compelling to heare the of environmental justice and research/science spoken of simultaneously. As a student still very much struggling to process his relationship with science and personal responsibility, it is very refreshing to see illustrations of science in service of humanity.

Bahareh (B.) Sanaie- The conversion regarding advocacy and Professor Phillips team for “Gas Leak” project reminds me about the book which I begun reading while ago. It named “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. M. Conway” . I would like to suggest it to you guys. As Professor Hutyra mention during the class when money and politics are getting involved in an industry with flaws (such as gas, cigarette, or etc.) there is always a group of high level scientists -with strong back up and connections- to deny scientific knowledge. This book discusses those kinds of challenges over the history, you may find it interesting.

The conversion regarding advocacy and Professor Phillips team for “Gas Leak” project reminds me about the book which I begun reading while ago. It named “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. M. Conway” . I would like to suggest it to you guys. As Professor Hutyra mention during the class when money and politics are getting involved in an industry with flaws (such as gas, cigarette, or etc.) there is always a group of high level scientists -with strong back up and connections- to deny scientific knowledge. This book discusses those kinds of challenges over the history, you may find it interesting.