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Reclaiming Broken Places: Introduction to Civic Ecology



Cornell University


Marianne E. Krasny , Keith G. Tidball

Life Sciences, Environmental Science, Social Sciences

6 weeks



The actions of ordinary people are often absent in studies of urban renewal and urban ecology. Around the world, people who are fed up with environmental degradation and the breakdown of their communities come together to transform blighted vacant lots, trashed-out stream corridors, polluted estuaries, and other “broken places.” Civic ecology practices—such as community gardening, wetlands restoration, river cleanups, and tree planting—are a means for people to express resilience and rebuild communities marked by disaster and disinvestment. Civic ecology draws on psychology, sociology, political science, education, ecology, and social-ecological systems resilience to understand how and why people care for nature and their communities. Throughout this course, you will: Explore the people, places, and practices that restore nature and revitalize neighborhoods, making a difference in ways big and small. Discuss and evaluate contemporary thinking in resilience, social-ecological systems, and the relationship between nature and human/community wellbeing. Grasp an understanding of how civil ecology enables those with limited resources to defy and cope with daily struggles, including after disaster and war. Acquire the knowledge and skill set to enact change in your own community. Participate in a civic ecology service learning project to turn classroom learning into real-life application. This course is ideal for a learner who is intrigued by both social and environmental concerns, or simply has a desire to dive into an emerging 21st century, cross-disciplinary subject area. You will complete this course with a keener awareness of social-ecological issues and concerns, as well as a greater knowledge of the practical steps required to rebuild and maintain community and nature in a world marked by inequality, conflict, and climate change. FAQ How do I learn more about Civic Ecology to help me decide if I want to take the course? Visit the Civic Ecology Lab website at Also, a book called Civic Ecology: Adaptation and Transformation from the Ground Up by Marianne E Krasny and Keith G Tidball will be available from MIT Press in January 2015. What will students do in the course? Students will watch short lectures and videos, complete short readings, reflect on the course content and post reflections to the discussion board, meet other students with similar interests online, and have the opportunity to participate in a unique service-learning project. What do I need to do to earn a course certificate? You will need to complete a minimum number of assignments in each of the four different types of activities (lectures, readings, reflections, and service-learning). You are welcome to join the course as a non-certificate student if you are not able to complete the required number of assignments. Who are the lecturers in the course? In addition to Marianne Krasny, the course has a number of guest lecturers from Cornell including Keith Tidball, Nancy Wells, and Philip Silva. You also will view interviews with civic ecology stewards.