by Anne Rademacher, author of Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai
At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here. #OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo
We live in an age marked by environmental vulnerability—some of it longstanding, and some completely new. In recent weeks, flooding and storm events seemed to serve as a daily reminder of environmental vulnerability: from Florida to Houston to Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean. Just a few months ago, Mumbai, the setting for Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai, experienced record-setting rainfall and catastrophic floods—just one chapter in the story of 2017’s Asian monsoon, a season marked by floods, landslides, and damaging rains that affected millions across the region and killed well over a thousand people.
The frequency and intensity of storm events is just one environmental condition that cities around the world will have to face if they are to maintain basic services like water, energy, and shelter provision—to say nothing of social well being, public health, and safety. Regardless of our location on the global map, we face the question of whether and how we can realize ecological sustainability and social resilience in the context of an uncertain, but certainly unprecedented, environmental future.
If achieving sustainable cities is a key challenge to humanity, then those who seek to design and implement its components—green buildings, open spaces and parks, cleaner energy systems, and the like—are critically important for forging needed change. We might consider certain kinds of green expertise to be essential to the planners, developers, municipal officials, activists, and architects of our future cities. What are their visions and aspirations for sustainable cities and societies? How is training in a “green” urban profession different from conventional training? And, perhaps most importantly, once one knows the tools of the green expert, what does it take to implement them?
Building Green traces the experience of environmental architects as they study to acquire the skills they need, and then try, post-training, to implement what they’ve learned. By recounting architects’ experiences, the book gives us a sense of the layers of powerful interests, institutions, and history that are fundamental aspects of any kind of urban transformation. It underlines the chasm that often exists between practitioners who are trying to make cities more environmentally sound, and the forces that hold sway over how cities are ultimately built—a key obstacle we must overcome if we are to realize a more sustainable urban future.
Why open access? At the level of a future we share in common—one marked by an uncertain and even unprecedented environment—open access allows readers worldwide to learn from one another. But equally important is the potential for open access publications to reach readers who would otherwise be unable to participate in the conversation or to learn from the experiences beyond their geographic context. In the case of Building Green, it is a chance to widely share one group’s story of forging a greener urban future in a complex and unsustainable present.
Anne Rademacher is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Anthropology at New York University. Her books include Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu, Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability, and the edited volume Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism.
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