Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski’s research focuses on the social, ecological, and technological relationships driving landscape-scale patterns of human well-being and ecological health with an emphasis on hydrological systems. Drawing upon interdisciplinary methods, he seeks to generate actionable knowledge around some of our most pressing contemporary human-environment challenges.
As part of the larger ‘Is Green Infrastructure a Universal Good?” project, Dr. Grabowski works with Drs. Steward T.A. Pickett and Timon McPhearson to examine how and if affected communities are involved in green infrastructure planning efforts in 20 US cities. Green infrastructure, defined broadly as the functions and benefits provided by ecological systems in relation to infrastructures and society, is a vital life support system in cities and beyond.
Historical and contemporary planning, and the urban transformations it guides, have had highly unequal outcomes along lines of race, class, and political power. Taken together, these forces have given rise to the linked socio-ecological crises of our times: massive economic inequality, housing insecurity, and widespread ecological destruction. By examining the current state of democratic, participatory, and equitable planning processes around green infrastructure, we hope to chart a path towards community-led generative planning processes and positive urban socio-eco-technological transformations.
Conventional environmentalism guided by ecological science has long been steeped in troubling myths of Edenic wilderness and humans’ inevitable fall from grace. At the same time, technological utopians have posited a future where global environmental impacts are lessened through decoupling or producing greater economic outputs from lesser material inputs (eg. fossil fuels, raw minerals, etc.). While seemingly opposed to one another, both approaches reinforce the human separation from nature, centering the same ways of thinking and political-economic structures creating the socio-ecological crisis.
This line of research examines a resurgent third way by asking: how can moral frameworks emphasizing our connectivity and relatedness with the non-human world guide technological development? In other words, how do deep senses of ecological relatedness, cultivated in human cultures since time immemorial, manifest as contemporary proposals for reimagining and re-enacting social, ecological, and infrastructural systems across scales?
Scientific research on urban green infrastructure, planning, and community resilience must consistently deal with the operationalization of squishy semantic concepts pertaining to qualities of complex systems and normative goals guiding their evolution.