Given that social-ecological systems experiencing disaster and conflict can be resistant to further change, one cannot expect that single actions such as greening will enable a system to rebuild following a major disturbance. The social-ecological systems resilience framework, and in particular notions about vicious and virtuous cycles or feedback loops (Gallopin 2002; Powell, Selman et al. 2002; Matthews and Selman 2006; Selman 2006; Tidball and Krasny 2011), are helpful in identifying barriers to change but also opportunities that can be leveraged for transformation. Such cycles represent interactions that are typically self-sustaining and reinforce one another. If their direction of influence is negative, they are considered vicious cycles, and if their direction is positive, they are known as virtuous cycles.
This is what we are trying to avoid.
In the parlance of resilience scholars, vicious cycles (Gallopin 2002) represent one stable state within a landscape at a given moment in time (cf. Beisner, Haydon et al. 2003). Any one landscape contains other possible stable states, such as virtuous cycles of people creating or restoring green space, leading to greater access to nature and community and ecosystem well-being, and setting the stage for further greening activity (Tidball and Krasny 2008; Tidball and Krasny 2011).
Depicted in another way, a vicious cycle can be imagined as a ball that is constantly swirling around one basin within a larger landscape (for a detailed discussion of 'ball and cup' depcitions of stability landscapes, see Pawlowski 2006); the goal of a policy maker is to move that ball to a different basin that represents a virtuous cycle. To allow the ball to enter a different basin requires either making changes within the basin, or allowing the ball to move to a new basin by changing features of the landscape so that barriers between the two basins are lower (see Scheffer, Carpenter et al. 2001; Walker, Holling et al. 2004 for a more thorough description of stability landscapes and basins of attraction). We are most concerned in this conversation with changing the conditions within a basin, for example by increasing the magnitude of the stewardship activities in a disaster-affected neighborhood.How might one change the landscape to lower barriers between the red vicious and the green virtuous cycles?
One can envision a ‘ridge’ or bifurcation zone (Scheffer 2009), separating the two cycles or basins. Then one can envision that by reducing the height of the ridge it becomes easier to move the ball from the vicious cycle to the virtuous cycle basin.
Conversely, shoring up the ridge might prevent the ball from moving from a virtuous greening cycle to a vicious cycle of degraded green space and crime. In this metaphorical model, the ridge could represent legal barriers, unfavorable public opinion or low morale, competition for scarce resources, or theabsence of a policy framework that fosters greening practices. Altering the ridge might require a change in government or NGO policy or an influx of money or other resources from outside the vicious cycle. Changes in government policy or resources may be dependent upon the discovery of evidence in support of the value of greening practices in these particular contexts.
Gea 2011 presentation
Greening in the Red Zone:Human-Nature Interactions as a Part of Sustainable Reconstruction in JapanKeith G. Tidball, Cornell University<br />Global Environmental Action International Conference 2011<br />Building Sustainable Societies through Reconstruction: Working with the International Community for Regenerating Japan<br />Tokyo, Japan<br />
What is a red zone?<br />“Red Zones” refer to multiple settings (spatial and temporal) that may be characterized as intense, potentially or recently hostile or dangerous, including those in post-disaster situations caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as those associated with terrorist attacks and war. <br />The view of Middleburgh Valley from Vromans nose in Schoharie County, New York Daily Gazette, August 29, 2011<br />
What is greening?<br />“Greening” is an active and integrated approach to the appreciation, stewardship and management of living elements of social-ecological systems. <br />Greening takes place in cities, towns, townships and informal settlements in urban and peri-urban areas, and in the battlefields of war and of disaster.<br />Greening sites vary -- from small woodlands, public and private urban parks and gardens, urban natural areas, street tree and city square plantings, botanical gardens and cemeteries, to watersheds, whole forests and national or international parks.<br />Greening involves active participation with nature and in human or civil society (Tidball and Krasny 2007)—and thus can be distinguished from notions of ‘nature contact’ (Ulrich 1993) that imply spending time in or viewing nature, but not necessarily active stewardship. <br />
Why should we do it?<br />Greening can enable or enhance recovery from disaster or conflict in situations where community members actively participate in greening, which in turn results in measurable benefits for themselves, their community, and the environment.<br />Affluence<br />Disaster prevention<br />Reconstruction and restoration of “sense of place”<br />Social healing<br />Environmental sustainability<br />History of nature appreciation<br />
Tokyo & Hiroshima (post- WWII)</li></ul>These examples and others can be found in a forthcoming book edited by myself and my colleague, published by Springer.<br />
How to begin?<br />Remember that the relationships people have with nature are important<br />Recognize that people want to be a part of restoring their home, their town, and their country<br />Decide that the relationships people have with nature are important to recovery and rebuilding<br />Learn by reaching out to communities that have benefited from greening in the red zone <br />Invest in community processes where reconstruction of nature is part or recovery efforts<br />Document and celebrate greening activities <br />Capitalize on feedbacks and expansive virtuous cycles<br />
Caveats<br />Scale issues<br />Greening at a neighborhood scale post-disaster may be repeated in multiple communities and have implications for resilience at the local as well as national scale.<br />Greening also may be one of the first practices emerging almost immediately after a disaster.<br />Greening in turn may lay the groundwork for –or tip the balance in favor of -- other resilience processes, such as rebuilding the built infrastructure. <br />Although transformation may be framed as incremental versus whole system, greening may obfuscate such distinctions. Related to both scale and pace, greening may be unusual in its ability to treat individuals, communities and nations simultaneously, as it can bring immediate salve to individuals and communities while slowly establishing the foundation for a deeper resilience that may be drawn on in future crises.<br />Only a piece of the puzzle, not “the ultimate answer”<br />
An invitation <br />The Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell University would welcome an opportunity to work with you and your international partners as you recover and rebuild to develop “Greening in the Red Zone” approaches that are appropriate.<br />Thank you.<br />He who plants a tree plants hope. <br />Quote from Lucy Larcom<br />