Toward a Social Ecology of Scale: Collective Action, Design for Health, and Landscape Praxis

M. Rios
2011 Landscape Journal  
The recent focus on healthy lifestyles converges on a specifi c dual crisis-the rise of obesity related to sedentary behaviors on the one hand and a physical environment resulting from poor policies, planning, and design on the other. At the national level, the public health sector, federal agencies, philanthropic foundations, and national organizations representing planning, architecture, and landscape architecture interests are developing new partnerships, agreements, and programs. The aim is
more » ... rograms. The aim is to promote community designs that foster healthy lifestyles while reducing land consumption and dependence on the automobile. Alliances among and between planning and design disciplines and public health exemplify novel approaches that not only cut across geographical scales and temporal horizons but also have implications for landscape architecture and planning practice. This article draws from the fi eld of geography to consider how a social ecological approach sensitive to various scales of social and spatial production can inform practice and presents a framework of landscape praxis centering on three interrelated processes of placemaking: (1) imaginaries, which are used to create common visions, produce identities, and give meaning; (2) narratives, which produce discursive framings to legitimize particular imaginaries and identities; and (3) polities, in which project identities are negotiated, formed, and mobilized toward specifi c goals. The article is organized into fi ve sections: 1. a brief overview of trends that have led to the convergence of health and the built environment and to the emergence of transdisciplinary coalitions in response to these trends 2. the introduction of a theoretical framework based on theories of scale to inform a social ecological approach to practice 3. the case of the Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity (PANA) to demonstrate the use of strategies across organizational and geographical boundaries to change policies and environmental ABSTRACT Alliances among public health, planning, and design disciplines illustrate the use of scale-based approaches to mobilize actors across space and time. Obesity prevention efforts demonstrate the use of strategies across organizational and geographical boundaries to change policies and environmental determinants that affect the level of physical activity in community settings. One framework for landscape praxis based on a social ecology of scale centers on three interrelated processes: place imaginaries, place narratives, and place polities. This trialectic highlights the possibilities for transdisciplinary practice that: (1) creates social imaginations to produce identities and give meaning, (2) produces discursive framings to legitimize particular imaginaries and identities, and (3) facilitates the formation of political communities where project identities are formed, negotiated, and mobilized toward specifi c goals. The obesity prevention program of the Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity (PANA) draws attention to social ecological approaches sensitive to various scales of social and spatial production and the possibilities for professional engagement ranging from design to policymaking.
doi:10.3368/lj.30.1.106 fatcat:lgnxpiwmxjd6zhvznazvo7ofvu