Book compares green policies in Toronto and Los Angeles

“Ecology provides much of the base of urban conflict. It is the matter through which urban regimes re-organize themselves, with which elites embroider their projects of state and market control. Yet it is also the basis – forever rejuvenated in new waves of subversive urbanism – for a new politics of urban ecology strongly articulated with projects of emancipation, democracy and justice.”

Gene Desfor and Roger Keil

from Nature and the City: Making Environmental Policy in Toronto and Los Angeles

The launch

On Feb. 4, York University Bookstore hosts the launch of Nature and the City: Making Environmental Policy in Toronto and Los Angeles by York environmental studies Professors Gene Desfor and Roger Keil. The authors will be on hand to sign copies and talk about challenging the notion of “ecological modernization” at the launch and reception from 6:15pm to 7:30pm at the bookstore in York Lanes.

The launch, also hosted by the Faculty of Environmental Studies, coincides with the Political Economy of Scale Conference Feb. 3-5 at York.

The book

Nature and the City takes a new look at urban policy that links development with ecological issues. Considering policy processes around land-use in urban watersheds and pollution of air and soil in two disparate North American “global cities”, they question the dominant belief in the power of markets and experts to regulate environments to everyone’s benefit. They argue instead that civil political action leads to beneficial policies.

Desfor and Keil examine four case studies in Toronto and Los Angeles, Calif. from the 1990s: restoration of the Don River in Toronto, cleanup of contaminated soil in Toronto, regeneration of the Los Angeles River, and air pollution reduction in Los Angeles. In each case, local constituencies created alternatives to ecological modernization. The authors show that environmental policies are about much more than green capitalism or the technical mastery of problems, but about how future urban generations live their lives with sustainability and justice.

The University of Arizona Press published Nature and the City in 2004 and posted the following comments on its Web site: Jennifer Wolch from the Center for Sustainable Cities at University of Southern California, calls the book “a compelling comparison of how and why urban nature is continually transformed by human actions.” It “puts nature-society relations back into the urban agenda – a crucial intervention in the larger project of ‘greening’ urban theory and analysis,” she said. Neil Brenner of the Metropolitan Studies Program at New York University says, “I would enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who is concerned with the contested transformation of urban social, spatial, and natural landscapes under advanced capitalism.”

The authors

Roger Keil has done most of his research over the past years on politics in world cities, mostly on Los Angeles and Frankfurt, Germany, and recently on Toronto and Berlin. Since the early 1990s, he has been particularly interested in issues of urban ecological politics. He is a founding member of the International Network of Urban Research and Action and has been involved in several labour and community groups. He is author of Los Angeles: Globalization, Urbanization, and Social Struggles.

Left: Roger Keil

Gene Desfor has been involved with union and community organizations for years and has, most recently, been investigating the political economy of the waterfront in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For more information about the book launch, contact Michael Legris at the York University Bookstore at ext. 22078, or e-mail