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B.Sc.  4-4, 2-8
Sommersemester 2018
2 SWS / 3 Credits
Dietwald Gruehn, Bryce Laurence

Equitable, Efficient, and Environmentally Sustainable Development in East Lansing, Michigan: a living laboratory knowledge bridge to compare social / environmental justice in Germany and the USA

Workshop Travel Dates: September 22nd to October 6th, 2018 

Workshop Locations:

1)       September 22nd to September 28th in Chicago, Illinois (Field Visit; City Visit)

2)       October 1st to 6th in East Lansing, Michigan (Workshop at MSU)

Workshop Description

Along the northern edge of the City of East Lansing, Michigan (see images below), new residential development – including single-family housing, duplexes and triplexes, apartment complexes, and condos– offers both opportunities and risks. The conversion of agricultural and greenfield sites into residential areas may have unintended environmental impacts on the local area, while increased development pressure risks displacing lower-income tenants in manufactured home communities located to the west of Highway 127 (see top left portion of the lower image below). At the same time, however, new development may have environmental benefits, such as supporting access to and the use of a network of parks and hike and bike trails that span the metro area. To address both the risks and benefits of residential development in this suburban community, this project will examine possibilities for promoting equity, efficiency, and environmental sustainability in future development activity.

Since 2017 the ZUKUR research project in the Metropol Ruhr in North Central Germany has been exploring the future development of the Ruhr region at the local, municipal and regional levels in the light of climate resilience, environmental justice and socio-ecological justice.  ZUKUR’s aim is to develop and implement long-term sustainable governance strategies to cope with climate change and to promote urban cohesion, and to produce indicators and knowledge that help stakeholders to make their decisions “climate-proof” and supportive for urban cohesion. The ZUKUR project focuses on a broad range of thematic issues, including climate related weather extremes, urban climate (multiple pollution), socio-economic inequalities, distribution of and access to commons (green space, bike lanes…), resilient (affordable, energy-efficient, climate-proof) housing and social cohesion.

The joint MSU and TU Dortmund University workshop will build a ‘knowledge bridge’ between the USA and Germany, using the framework of the ZUKUR project to analyze an urban quarter level development plan in East Lansing, Michigan (the American post industrial ‘rust belt’ with similar post coal / steel and unemployment background to the Ruhr region) with the aim of comparing the state of the concept implementation of social / environmental justice in Michigan and the Ruhr region.  A predefined site (below) will be the ‘living lab’ in Michigan, where students will receive impulses from regional stakeholders in the living lab area development and planning and be able to analyze the development within sub-frames of ZUKUR, including:

-          socio-economic inequalities

-          climate resilience

-          urban cohesion   

Driving research questions in the workshop include:

-          How applicable are social /environmental equity methods used for regional policy and target setting in Germany to a project specific application in the USA? 

-          What are the gaps and similarities in the policies and instruments, stakeholder perceptions and potential socially and economically viable alternatives in both German and American contexts?

Workshop Outcomes

The outcome of the 5-day MSU workshop will produce alternative plans for the living lab area and a policy statement indicating which instruments related to social / environmental justice are in place, which are needed, what incentives can be put in place for cooperation, and which obstacles exist in implementation or policy adoption.  The workshop products can be used by scientists at TU Dortmund and MSU to write a comparative summary article on the comparison of social / environmental justice expression in both of the living labs.  This research is important for the United States given the current political situation where social safety nets, protections for diverse individuals in society and government support of climate change is eroding the social and environmental justice in the USA.



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