Chatham News

Dr. Michael Finewood participates in urban political ecology workshop in Pretoria, South Africa

PITTSBURGH: Dr. Michael Finewood, Assistant Professor of Geography and Sustainability in the Falk School of Sustainability at Chatham University, was one of 20 scholars selected to attend an Antipode Foundation workshop in Pretoria, South Africa.

The Urban Political Ecology in African Cities Workshop, held at the University of Pretoria in September 2014, was a five-day collaboration of global scholars addressing urbanization in the African continent and the need for research that focuses on the increasingly significant socio-environmental impacts of expanding African cities. As a scholar who studies water governance and urban sustainability in the U.S., Dr. Finewood’s participation contributed to a broader goal of strengthening research connections between the global north and south.

The workshop was structured around “urban political ecology” (UPE), a critical approach to studying the wide-ranging challenges that cities face; ranging from more traditional environmental issues (such as climate change, air pollution, and conservation) to urban flows (such as sanitation and electricity provision). An UPE approach to these urban socio-environmental challenges draws attention to who wins and who loses as cities grow and change, as well as how urbanization as a process is shaped by inequitable power relations.

“Over the next 20-50 years, a majority of the planet’s urban growth will occur on the African continent. As an increasingly globalized community, this provides an opportunity to draw from the lessons older cities have learned and institute equitable and sustainable futures for what will likely be important places in our planet’s political economy,” states Finewood. “But this can’t be a one-way flow of knowledge from the global north to the global south. Scholars, citizens, and other stakeholders must work together – across political and ecological boundaries – to develop strategies that are just and equitable for both humans and nonhuman nature.”

2014 is also the “Year of the States of Southern Africa” in Chatham’s Global Focus Program. Chatham’s award-winning Global Focus program engages Chatham students and faculty in a comprehensive study of a global region through coursework, travel, campus events, community activities, co-curricular programs and service learning projects. This year’s program focuses on the southernmost expanse of the African continent that includes the countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Chatham also bestowed an Honorary Degree on Ebrahim Rasool, South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America, who visited the campus on October 21, 2014.

About Michael Finewood
Michael Finewood is a human geographer and political ecologist with research and teaching interests in environmental governance, water, climate change, and urban sustainability, with explicit attention to critical geographies and justice. He earned a Ph.D. in Human Geography from the University of South Carolina, where he trained as a social scientist who works on human/environmental issues. Over his career Dr. Finewood’s interests have focused on environmental perception, expertise, and decision-making, with attention to water resources and urbanization. He has conducted research on the social and ecological impacts of coastal development in South Carolina, hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania, and sea level rise in Virginia. Currently his work centers on two projects: stormwater governance in Pittsburgh and the relationship between food production & climate change.

About The Falk School of Sustainability
One of the earliest schools of its kind in the country, the Falk School provides bachelor and master-level academic programs: Master of Arts in Food Studies, Master of Sustainability, Master of Sustainability and MBA Dual-Degree and the Bachelor of Sustainability. These programs are dedicated to producing professional sustainability leaders, with graduates able to apply principles of sustainability in a variety of areas. All Falk School students, faculty, and staff engage in courses, projects, and careers that promote the professionalization of the fields and afford students experiences that illustrate and translate to real-world progress. The Falk School is located on Chatham’s new, zero net Eden Hall Campus—the first in the world built from the ground up for the study of sustainability.