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Uneven urban metabolisms: toward an integrative (ex)urban political ecology of sustainability in and around the city

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Expanding cities present a sustainability challenge, as the uneven proliferation of hybrid landscape types becomes a major feature of 21st century urbanization. To fully address this challenge, scholars must consider the broad range of land uses that being produced beyond the urban core and how land use patterns in one location may be tied to patterns in other locations. Diverse threads within political ecology provide useful insights into the dynamics that produce uneven urbanization. Specifically, urban political ecology (UPE) details how economic power influences the development decision-making that proliferate urban forms, patterns of uneven access, and modes of decision-making, frequently viewing resource extraction and development through the urban metabolism lens. The political ecology of exurbia, or, perhaps, an exurban political ecology (ExPE), examines the symbolic role nature and the rural have played in conservation and development efforts that produce social, economic, and environmental conflicts. While UPE approaches tend to privilege macroscale dynamics, ExPE emphasizes the role of landowners, managers, and other actors in struggles over the production of exurban space, including through decision-making institutions and within the context of broader political economic forces. Three case studies illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, demonstrating the benefits for and giving suggestions on how to integrate their insights into urban sustainability research. Integrated political ecology approaches demonstrate how political-economic processes at a variety of scales produce diverse local sustainability responses.
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Keywords: Urban sustainability; exurb; exurbia; global urbanization; urban political ecology; urbanization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Social Science Department, University of Wisconsin Stout, Menomonie, US 2: Environmental Science, Ursinus College, Collegeville, US 3: Department of Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos, US 4: Independent Scholar, Helena

Publication date: March 16, 2019

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