Urban Regeneration, Forests and Socio-Environmental Conflicts
The Case of Prati di Caprara in Bologna, Italy
In the framework of contemporary neoliberal urban transformations, the role of nature and forests has been emphasized with regard to urban environmental and climate change issues. Whereas since the late 1990s urban political ecology has critically explored urban transformations, their spatial, political asymmetries and contestation, little attention has been paid on the concept of urban regeneration and its practices in relation to forests and renaturalized areas. Therefore, the strategic nature of urban forests in socio-political terms still needs to be explored in-depth. By critically linking urban political ecology with urban regeneration policies, this paper analyzes the emergence of socio-environmental conflicts in relation to the redevelopment process of the Prati di Caprara forest in Bologna (Italy). The paper analyzes roles, interests and visions of institutions and private actors, policies and claims of social groups within the rising socio-environmental conflict. The paper relies on an ethnographic approach, embedded in urban social movements, enabling an in-depth analysis of practices and power relations. Despite the role of capital accumulation strategies in influencing urban regeneration policies, the results show how a socio-environmental movement was able to repoliticize and shape the agenda through its progressive empowerment and its transformative power. By advancing urban political ecology of forests, our analysis shows how forests and renaturalized areas emerge as strategic socio-natures for the empowerment of urban communities and for the emergence of movements who struggle for socio-environmental justice and alternative futures.
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