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ix Preface My son’s nightlight is a globe. Every evening at bedtime, he makes up a story about the origin of the planet or about its future. All of his stories are imaginary and, at the same time, grounded in his daily experience of living on the planet and in a beautiful city: Seattle. Children have the ability to identify with the world and the objects in it, to acknowledge what supports them, to see the world through many lenses, to tolerate ambiguities, to accept multiple explanations, to experiment with what is possible, and to exist simultaneously in many physical and mental spaces. These qualities are critical to humanity as a whole, if it is to succeed in creating a human habitat of the long now. Cities now face an important challenge: they must rethink themselves in the context of planetary change. What role do cities play in the evolution of Earth? From a planetary perspective, the emergence and rapid expansion of cities across the globe might be another turning point in the life of our planet. Earth’s atmosphere, on which we all depend, emerged from the metabolic processes of vast numbers of single-celled algae and bacteria living in the seas 2.3 billion years ago. These organisms transformed the environment into one where human life could develop. Can humans now change the course of Earth’s evolution? Can the way we build cities determine whether we will cross thresholds that might trigger abrupt changes on a planetary scale (Rockström et al. 2009)? Can the rapid development and emergent patterns of urban agglomerations across the globe represent a tipping point in Earth’s life, one on the scale of the Great Oxidation (Lenton and Williams 2013)? Will we drive Earth’s ecosystems to unintentional collapse? Or will we consciously steer the Earth toward a resilient new era? x preface The challenge for urban ecology in the next decades is to understand the role humans play in eco-evolutionary dynamics (Post and Palkovacs 2009). Humans are not simply changing ecological conditions globally (Crutzen 2002; Vitousek et al. 1997); we are changing what Hutchinson (1965) called the ecological stage on which the evolutionary play is performed . From a planetary perspective, NASA’s Visible Earth Night Lights images suggest an even more extraordinary story of urbanization: the planet and life are co-evolving, changing the courses of each other’s histories (Frank 2013). If, as emerging evidence indicates, rapid evolution does affect the functioning and stability of ecosystems (Schoener 2011), current rapid environmental change and its evolutionary effects may have significant implications for ecological and human well-being on a relatively short time scale. Integrating humans into the study of eco-evolutionary feedback can generate significant insights to advance understanding of urban ecosystems’ functions and lead to major revisions in the theories of ecology and evolution on a human-dominated planet (Alberti 2015). A science of cities as coupled human-natural systems has yet to be developed. During the past few decades, we have learned a great deal about how urbanization affects ecological conditions (Grimm et al. 2008a; McDonnell and Pickett 1993; Pickett et al. 2011). Yet the complex mechanisms and feedbacks governing the dynamics of human-natural systems are poorly understood (McPhearson et al. 2016). We do not know how local interactions among human and biophysical processes shape the urbanization patterns of metropolitan regions or how emerging patterns affect human and ecological functions in urbanizing regions. Evidence from growing numbers of studies does indicate that we need to redefine the assumptions of traditional theories and methods in ecology and human sciences if we are to understand such complex dynamics (Alberti 2008; Grimm et al. 2008a; Pickett et al. 2013; Liu et al. 2015). Ecology has long excluded humans from ecosystem studies (Alberti et al. 2003). Thus, ecological experiments conducted primarily in pristine areas can offer designers and planners only limited scientific knowledge, except for the typical advice to keep humans out. By articulating testable hypotheses about the interplay between human agency and eco-evolutionary dynamics , urban ecology has a unique opportunity to advance ecological science and practice (Forman 2014). In this book, I advance the hypothesis that cities are hybrid ecosys- preface xi tems: the product of co-evolving human and natural systems. The hybrid city simultaneously serves social and ecological functions and is defined by complex interactions among these functions. I ask: What makes an urban ecosystem simultaneously resilient and able to change? Do urban ecosystems have...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780295806600
Related ISBN
9780295996660
MARC Record
OCLC
951678414
Pages
232
Launched on MUSE
2016-08-23
Language
English
Open Access
No
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