Monthly Archives: September 2015

“The European City in Transformation: Urban politics and urban planning in a postsocialist city”


This book analyses postsocialist urban policy. The focus lies on the question of how certain it is that postsocialist Eastern European Cities are approaching the Model of the classic “European City“. The city of Warsaw was chosen as case study. Based on the neo-weberian approach developed by Le Galès, the author defines the characteristics of the European City in the field of urban planning and studies them in relation to the contemporary debate on Governance. The public institutions along with the formal urban policy goals in Warsaw show convergence to the Model of the European City. However in practice, informal processes and negotiations initiated by economically strong parties dominate the urban development in Warsaw. This duality of urban development stands against the Model of the European City. The situation in Warsaw is compared with urban planning processes in Budapest, Prague, Wroclaw, Poznan and Gdansk. As a result, the specifics of postsocialist urban policy and the Varsovian urban development are shown. This demonstrates that there is no linear progression from the postsocialist city to- wards the European Model. Instead, a particular Eastern European type of urban development has evolved.
Koch, F. (2010). Die europäische Stadt in Transformation. Springer Fachmedien.

“The role of trust in restoration success: public engagement and temporal and spatial scale in a complex social-ecological system”


The social dimensions of river restoration are not well understood especially in the context of large-scale restoration projects embedded in a complex social-ecological system. This study used in-depth interviews with diverse stakeholders to examine perceptions of restoration success on the Clark Fork River Superfund project in Western Montana. Trust emerged as critical to restoration success and was influenced by public engagement, and by spatial and temporal scale. At this large scale, multiple relationships between agencies, NGOs, businesses, landowners, and other stakeholders meant that building trust was a complicated endeavor. The large spatial scale and long time frame made public engagement challenging, and landowners in particular were critical of the project, expressing mistrust in both agencies and the project as a whole. However, projects focused on smaller spatial scales, such as particular stream reaches, appeared to inspire more effective collaboration. Relationships between organizations were important at this large scale, but inter-organizational conflict affected trust across the project. Further, because trust requires accepting vulnerability, recognizing the differential vulnerability that particular groups and communities experience, based on the risks and benefits they accrue relative to the project, is important.


Sociedad del riesgo segun Giddens

Vivimos en sociedades complejas en las que las cadenas de decisiones, interacciones, causas y efectos son tan numerosas que siempre habrá consecuencias imprevistas de nuestros actos. Los graves accidentes tecnológicos como los de Chernobyl o la explosión del Challenger están ahí para recordárnoslo. El mayor problema de nuestras sociedades consiste en aprender a manejar los riesgos, más que querer dominarlo todo.

La enfermedad de las vacas locas, por tomar un caso, ha puesto a los gobiernos frente a un dilema. Si el gobierno anuncia prematuramente que la enfermedad de las vacas locas es un riesgo mayor y que hay que tomar medidas draconianas, existe el riesgo de trastornar sin razón a la gente y de poner en peligro un sector económico. Entonces se le reprochará haber tomado medidas desproporcionadas en relación con la realidad; pero esa exageración de los riesgos habrá permitido vencer cualquier epidemia. Si, por el contrario, el gobierno hace un anuncio más tardío y estimaciones razonables y prudentes sobre la evolución de la enfermedad, corre un riesgo inverso, que los productores y consumidores no toman en serio: la enfermedad misma. De este modo, se corre el riesgo de que la enfermedad se propague con mayor rapidez… Así pues, el anuncio no es neutro. En un clima de información abierta, tal situación es difícilmente evitable.

El mismo problema tiene lugar en cuanto a las previsiones sobre los riesgos de difusión del sida. Pienso que vivimos en un mundo de “reflexividad” creciente en el que esa clase de problemas ocurre todo el tiempo. Los sondeos sobre el comportamiento de los electores contribuyen a cambiar las estrategias de voto. Los índices económicos sobre las tasas de crecimiento y desempleo —al incitar o no a los productores a invertir y a los consumidores a consumir— actúan sobre el crecimiento mismo y el desempleo. La información que se difunde en la sociedad sobre los comportamientos sexuales contribuye a modificar a su vez las conductas sexuales…
Uno de los problemas que me interesa mucho es el del miedo a los riesgos. Vivimos en un mundo donde surgen nuevos riesgos para los que no hay experiencia histórica.
Existen los riesgos ambientales, por ejemplo, el del aumento de temperatura de la tierra. Hay decisiones que tomar. ¿Qué hay que decirle al ciudadano? Todo lo que se diga tiene consecuencias sobre los mismos riesgos. Causar temor a la población es problemático; en determinadas circunstancias causar miedo es necesario, pero si se es alarmista ante cada amenaza, la ciudadanía va a perder poco a poco su capacidad de respuesta. Éste es uno de los nuevos dilemas de las políticas públicas.


Human health and wellbeing in an uncertain environment

Yesterday I attended at UFZ Leipzig a lectured led by Professor Michael Depledge DSc, FRSB, FRSA, FRCP from European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School entitled “Human health and wellbeing in an uncertain environment”. See bellow the abstract:

Throughout human evolutionary history we have lived in intimate contact with our local ecosystems. This has involved surviving threats from diverse natural hazards and learning to thrive by manipulating the natural world to acquire resources. Over the last two centuries, however, new ways of thinking have given rise to a vast range of novel technologies that have transformed the ways in which most of us live. A progressive migration away from natural settings now means that ca. 60% of the global population reside in urban, built environments, supported through the exploitation of natural resources. This proportion continues to rise rapidly with important implications for energy use, food and water security and especially waste handling and disposal.

In this lecture some of the interconnections between human activities and global environmental change will be explored and their consequences examined. Particular attention will be paid to the threats posed by climate change, weather, demographic change and emerging chemicals, including pharmaceuticals and nanomaterials. Chemical production worldwide has increased by over 2500 fold over the last 75 years and continues to escalate. Pharmaceutical use is also increasing rapidly. As these chemicals are released into the environment, intentionally or unintentionally, humans and wildlife may be exposed. The accumulation of increasing body burdens of contaminants poses potential threats to health, biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability.

Paradoxically, there are also many benefits to health and wellbeing that can be derived from natural environments. For example, there is growing evidence that time spent in natural settings can be used to promote physical activity and foster better mental health. These may be important factors in addressing the global epidemics of obesity and psychiatric disorders.

Public health programmes such as the Green Gym and the Blue Gym provide examples of the ways in which health benefits can be delivered. Such work raises questions regarding where exactly are the healthiest places to live? In the UK, for example, self-reported health is consistently better in coastal dwellers. Furthermore, there is a global trend towards moving to live in coastal areas. Indeed, more than 30% of the global population now live within 100 kilometers of the sea.

Interestingly, as climate change progresses and sea level rises, it is coastal areas that are most likely to experience more frequent flooding and severe storms, putting the human population at increased risk. The lecture will conclude with a discussion of the difficulties of minimising environmental threats and maximising opportunities through policy development.

The lecture and subsequent discussion raised interesting questions:

  • Living in coastal areas significantly affects wellbeing, research say. It is important to bring up a previous post where a research says that “individual’s level of personal well-being is strongly related to the level of wealth of the household in which they live”. In this sense, and according to the lecturer research even controlling the wealth of the household, the variable proximity to water is determinant.
  • Empirical evidence are rarely definitive. i.e. there is always a unobserved reality that does allow for consistent conclusions. This brings up the Popperian concept of falsability, that is, no number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, yet it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. In other words, theories may be accepted provisionally, but never verified. In this context, the discussion raised the question “how (scientist) to communicate uncertainty” and, in turn, be credible.
  • Moreover, the lecturer starte talking about the risks the climate change infringe to our lifes. Some of them are the cost of having benefits on other hand and he raised the question: “what is an acceptable risk?”
  • Finally, the concept of “environmental empathy”. Do people living in urban areas has more or less environmental empathy? Is the fact of being in touch with nature a determinant variable of environmental empathy? It is logical to think that a person that benefit from his/her contact with nature will tend to have more environmental empathy. However, what is the concept of nature? For some people nature may mean “dangerouos snakes” or threatening wild pigs.

“An individual’s level of personal well-being is strongly related to the level of wealth of the household in which they live”

“Relationship between Wealth, Income and Personal Well-being, July 2011 to June 2012”

This article uses data from the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) for July 2011 to June 2012
which, for the first time, included measures of personal well-being. It describes the results of
regression analysis considering the relationships between the total wealth or total income of
the households in which individuals live and their personal well-being. Regression analysis is
a statistical technique which was used to analyse variation in well-being outcomes by specific
characteristics and circumstances of individuals while holding all other characteristics equal.
This allows for a better understanding of what matters most to an individual’s personal well-being
compared to analysis when different factors are considered separately.
Main points
• An individual’s level of personal well-being is strongly related to the level of wealth of the
household in which they live. Life satisfaction, sense of worth and happiness are higher, and
anxiety less, as the level of household wealth increases.
• The levels of household income are less strongly related, with relationships found only with life
satisfaction and sense of worth.
• The net financial wealth of the household appears to be the type of wealth most strongly
associated with personal well-being. In particular, life satisfaction will be higher in households
with greater net financial wealth.
• Levels of property wealth and private pension wealth were not found to be related levels of
personal well-being.


Combustión de carbón para la generación eléctrica en España

Para completar el panorama, la combustión de carbón para la generación eléctrica se mantiene como una de las fuentes a las que más se recurre. Según elobservatorio de la electricidad de la organización WWF-Adena, en junio pasado esta fuente lideró el llamado  mix eléctrico, superando a la nuclear, con un 26,8% de la generación española. En agosto se ha mantenido alto, casi un 20%.


Historicism = our thoughts are “socially located”

Historicism especially as expressed in the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, immediately preceded the sociology of knowledge. The dominant theme here was an overwhelming sense of the relativity of all perspectives on human events, that is, of the inevitable historicity of human thought. The historicist insistence that no historical situation could be understood except in its own terms could readily be translated into an emphasis on the social situation of thought. Certain historicist concepts such as “situational determination” and “seat in life” could be directly translated as referring to the “social location” of thought.


The importance of marxist “sub/superstructure” scheme within sociology of knowledge

The sociology of knowledge has been particularly fascinated by Marx´s twin concepts of “substructure/superstructure” (Unterbau/Ueberbau). It is here particularly that controversy has raged about the correct interpretation of Marx´s own thought. Later Marxism has tended to identify the “substructure” with economic structure tout court, of which the “superstructure” was then supposed to be a direct “reflection”. It is quite clear now that this misrepresents Marx thought, as the essentially mechanistic rather that dialectical character of this kind of economic determinism should make one suspect. What concerned Marx was that human thought is founded in human activity (“labour”, in the widest sense of the word) and in the social relations brought about by this activity. Substructure and superstructure as best understood if one views them as, respectively, human activity and the world produced by that activity. In any case, the fundamental “sub/superstructure” scheme has been taken over in various forms by the sociology of knowledge, beginning with Scheler, always with an understanding that there is some sort of relationship between thought and an “underlying” reality other than thought. The fascination of the scheme prevailed despite the fact that much of the sociology of knowledge was explicitly formulated in opposition to Marxim and that different positions have been taken within it regarding the nature of the relationships between the two components of the scheme.


The sociology of knowledge of Berger and Luckmann

The sociology of knowledge must concern itself with whatever passes for “knowledge” in a society, regardless of the ultimate validity or invalidity (by whatever criteria) of such “knowledge”. And in so far as all human “knowledge” is developed, transmitted and maintained in social situations, the sociology of knowledge must seek to understand the process by which this is done in such a way that a taken-for-granted “reality congeals for the man in the street. In other words, we content that the sociology of knowledge is concerned with the analysis of the social construction of reality.


The validity of sociological knowledge

To include epistemological questions concerning the validity of sociological knowledge in the sociology of knowledge is somewhat like trying to push a bus in which one is riding. To be sure, the sociology of knowledge, like all empirical disciplines that accumulate evidence concerning the relativity and determination of human thought, leads towards epistemological questions concerning sociology itself as well as any other scientific body of knowledge. As we have remarked before, in this the sociology of knowledge plays a part similar to history, psychology and biology, to mention only the three most important empirical disciplines that have caused trouble for epistemology. The logical structure of this trouble is basically the same in all cases: how can I be sure, say, of my sociological analysis of American middle-class mores in view of the fact that the categories I use for this analysis are conditioned by historically relative forms of thought, that I myself and everything I think is determined by my genes and by my ingrown hostility to my fellowmen, and that, to cap it all, I am myself a member of American middle class?