1. A videographic essay by Leo Miller, Megan Jones, and Craig Reschke.

    This video is produced for the 'DES 3241 : Theories of Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology', a course taught by Pierre Bélanger at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in the Fall 2013.

    "The Colorado River is well documented as the dwindling water source of the American Southwest, sustaining over 35 million people and irrigating roughly 15% of the nation’s commercial crops. Climate change, extensive damming, evaporation, and major diversions have significantly reduced the flow of the Colorado River and its tributaries, preventing the once roaring river from reaching the sea in most of the last 50 years.

    Despite the water shortage issues, water intensive energy production is growing in the region as it sits atop a number of fuel rich deposits including oil, natural gas, and tar sands. Until now, the Colorado River has been talked about as a ticking time bomb that will eventually explode into a web of litigation with states, cities, tribes, corporations and federal agencies all suing each other for water rights.

    In 1869 John Wesley Powell explored the Colorado River and it’s main tributaries. In his Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States, he proposed that only the 2% of the lands closest to the river were suitable for agricultural development, focusing on drainage basins as the driving force for urban expansion, and advocating for conservation and small scale grazing in the greater part of the west.

    Powell redrew the map of the Western United Sates, determining regional boundaries based on drainage districts, irrespective of political delineations.

    Nevertheless, Today, river water is delivered to hundreds of cities and towns with more than 70% of the recipients residing outside of the watershed basin. As Powell had predicted, it is considered to be one of the "most controlled, controversial and litigated rivers in the world".

    The Federal Bureau of Reclamation is in charge of managing the river’s resources, and has divided the seven basin states into the upper and lower river basin regions, once again redrawing the map in relation to river. Through the Colorado River Compact, each of these basin regions is proportioned an equal and fixed amount of water in perpetuity.

    In recent decades, the seven states in the Colorado River basin have had the highest rates of population growth in the country. Looking forward, populations in some basin states are expected to double within the next 16 years.

    Urban areas continue to expand along interstates 15, 80, 25, and 10, connecting each city, and completing a ring of urban settlement encircling the basin. As these emerging cities and economies mount increasing pressure on the Colorado River, a new map emerges practically drawing itself.

    Powell’s map theorized that development should occur within proximity to water resources. The Bureau of Reclamation’s map split the river in two. Emerging patterns suggest that a basin-wide perspective is necessary to better understand the future relationship between the Colorado River and the cities that it feeds."

    # vimeo.com/81959704 Uploaded 221 Plays 0 Comments
  2. A videographic essay by Stephanie Hsia, Michael Keller, and Lara Mehling.

    This video is produced for the 'DES 3241 : Theories of Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology', a course taught by Pierre Bélanger at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in the Fall 2013.


    An investigation into Soviet Collectivization points toward a new narrative of the Syr Darya watershed: large scale, mechanized state farming and the infrastructural projects enabling it were and still are a means of exerting political power in the remote Central Asian region. Hydrologic infrastructure, in the form of reservoirs, canals and basins, are understood as industrializing agents for the hinterland, both expression of past political will and ready ground for new political projects of control.

    In relationship to Russia, Central Asia has long signified a frontier. Imperial expansion into the Kazakh landscape and tsarist actions to promulgate a new administrative structure in the nomadic and agrarian culture began in the early 19th century. While Russian settlers began cultivating the “virgin” steppe a century before the Russian Revolution of 1917, agricultural development aided by massive hydraulic engineering programs became a means of exerting power by the USSR from the early to late 20th century. Soviet policies of the past are revealed in satellite imagery and remain as permanent marks on the land.

    Efforts to mechanize and expand agriculture in the Syr Darya watershed were bolstered in the early 20th century through a series of decrees by Soviet authority. Josef Stalin’s First Five Year Plan in 1928 established collectivization as part of a greater effort towards self sufficiency across the Soviet Union. In response to the Soviet famine of 1946, Josef Stalin’s “Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature” propelled forward an ideology that sought to objectify, conquer and control the perceived limitations of the landscape. A series of large scale hydraulic projects were proposed to divert Siberian Rivers through a series of locks and canals to further fuel agricultural expansion across the Syr Darya and Amu Darya watersheds. The “Virgin Lands Campaign” of Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s resulted in the transformation of the “Hunger Steppe”, formerly a tract of uninhabited desert between Tashkent and Samarkand, into over 300,000 hectares of newly irrigated land.

    These large scale hydrologic transformations of the Syr Darya enabled a cotton based monoculture in Central Asia mandated from Moscow. As a result, the hinterland, long a multiethnic borderland region, became incorporated as a Eurasian periphery and the Syr Darya River became one of the backbones of the new Soviet agenda.

    Prior to the large scale mechanization of the regional cotton industry, local technology, primarily hand labor, limited the extents of independent farms. To create larger economic units that would increase the scale of production and yield, Collectivization of peasant villages to form kolkhozy (collective farms) began in 1929. Inefficient, smaller farm operations became further malgamated through Khrushchev’s 1950/51 strategy after Stalin’s death. Approximately 3,000 kolkhozy were converted into sovkhozy (state farms) each year. Rather than urbanizing rural regions, the Soviet government sought to keep the populated territories operative and settled. However, a tolerable threshold (a 8km association among settlements providing for 1214 places per 1000 sq.km) was determined for population density to best suit the Virgin Lands Campaign agenda and push economic development as a means to control the peasants of the hinterland.

    Following the dissolution of the USSR, government mandated cotton cultivation remains a means of political control in the republic of Uzbekistan. Soviet type planning remained in force until the later part of the 1990s, when collective enterprises were transformed into cooperatives and private farms. Cotton production in modern day Uzbekistan is stagnant in a structure that relies on law enforcement rather than economic incentives. Thus, Uzbekistan is seeing significant labor migration to nearby Kazakhstan.

    The Soviet implementation of a centralized, inflexible system of hydraulic engineering weakened the region’s ability to respond locally to issues of economic development. The Central Asian republics today have inherited an infrastructure that cannot be supported beyond the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Centralized both spatially and politically, Soviet legacy in the Syr Darya watershed begs a new redrafting of local boundaries in response to existing political structures.

    # vimeo.com/81958097 Uploaded 191 Plays 0 Comments
  3. Deruralization of the Niger Delta: Reconsidering Rurality in the Urbanization Discourse

    A videographic essay by Sourav Biswas, Yujun Yin, and Sara Zewde

    This video is produced for 'DES 3241 : 'Theories of Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology', taught by Pierre Bélanger at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in the Fall 2013

    The West African coast is home to a network of growing, dynamic urban centers. And while urbanists remain fascinated by the peculiarities of hyper-growth and informal settlement, analyses of concurrent processes of de-ruralization have been missed. By framing the changing lagoonal landscapes of the West African coast solely as a process of urbanism, we fail to understand the conditions of de-ruralizing landscapes as integral to conditions of urban settlement.

    Perhaps none of these cities has prompted more discussion in urban discourse as Lagos, Nigeria, one of the fastest growing cities in the world. In view of Vikramāditya Prakāsh’s notion of de-ruralization, the Lagosian context offers an opportunity to re-consider ruralism, and the violent transformation of rural landscapes, as a core condition of what is happening to cities.

    As a slave port city, post-colonial capital, and now, emergent financial center of an economy fueled by extractive industries, Lagos shares similar trajectories as the lagoonal urbanisms of the West African coast, including Abidjan, Accra, and Lome. The late 1950s saw the discovery of oil in the estuarine and offshore region of the Niger Delta, prompting petroleum to become the most important Nigerian industry, now accounts for 90% of gross revenues. However, years of political turbulence, unaccountable institutional and corporatist practices, and structural failures has disconnected the larger population from the benefits of oil wealth. Processes of extraction have led to enormous environmental and social damage, uprooting agrarian livelihoods with little of the generated wealth helping to improve the region.

    Mangrove swamps, rivers, and wildlife that supported the fishing practices and survival of local communities have been badly affected by repeated oil spills. To gain access to hydrocarbon bearing zones, oil & gas development companies carry out dredging in order to overcome the network of creeks and river systems of the delta. Waterway sediment, soil, creek banks and vegetation are typically removed and deposited as dredge spoils at the bank of the newly dredged canals. Uncapped and unconfined, leachates from the dredging material often return to the water body. Gas flaring, the burning of the gas released when crude oil is pumped up from the ground, causes damage to agriculture due to acid rain and also causes a wide range of health effects. Ethnic and political unrest in the Niger Delta arose in the early 1990s and continues, as groups aim to expose the devastation of the region and secure a greater share of the oil revenues. The actions of some groups include sabotage of oil development infrastructure, theft of oil, property destruction, guerilla warfare, kidnapping, and pirating. In May of 2009, the Nigerian military began offensives against groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which have caused hundreds of deaths and thousands to flee their homes.

    Prakāsh’s assertion on the deruralizing landscape provides a valuable lens for understanding West Africa’s lagoonal urbanisms. As Lagos maintains its position as the financial headquarters of the country’s extractive industries, we see that it is a transformation of rurality that is in fact critical to its growth, similar to many West African cities. Destructive resource extraction, and associated resource and migration flows, must be acknowledged in our understandings of urbanization.

    # vimeo.com/82017824 Uploaded 141 Plays 0 Comments
  4. A videographic essay by Dalal Alsayer, Matthew Brown, and Adriana Gutierrez

    This video is produced for the 'DES 3241 : Theories of Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology', a course taught by Pierre Bélanger at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in the Fall 2013.

    The Euphrates-Tigris River basin is located in the fertile crescent, an area rich in both water and oil.
    Throughout history, numerous ethnicities have settled within this region.
    As countries formed, colonial boundaries were drawn, thus fragmenting this watershed.

    Both Rivers begin in Turkey and flow through Syria, Iraq, discharging in the Persian Gulf. This rivershed also impacts the neighboring countries of Iran, Jordan Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Often creating conflict.

    The most evident conflict is that of water, as damming projects impact all environments downstream. With the source of both rivers in Turkey, Syria and Iraq are continuously adapting to changing is flow, thus affecting their economies and GDP. In addition, the infrastructural projects in the region have been engineered by Russian, English, Dutch, Italian, French and now American companies, furthering political confrontation.

    Since their development, infrastructural projects have caused the displacement of thousands of people, thus can be seen as a tool of social engineering.

    Below the surface lies yet another lucrative resource, that being oil. This highly sought after resource now dictates the economy of the fertile crescent nations.

    The most prominent example of hydrologic infrastructure as forced migration was under the rule of Saddam Hussein. His dam and dike projects were constructed to dry the marshlands thus forcing over 50,000 Iraqi’s out of the country. This draining displaced thousands of unwanted Shiites, and allowed for further oil extraction raising the countries GDP.

    It is now seen that prominent leaders were using dams to drain water and people out of the country for reasons of oil exploration.

    In 2003 the UN Embargo on Iraq was lifted, which initiated wetland restoration. Restored wetlands allowed the return of agriculture practices, and thus the Iraqi people.

    The United Nations coupled with Nature Iraq continue to push for the wetlands conservation, which is currently supported by the Iraqi Government. That is until, the value of oil once again takes precedence over nature and people.

    # vimeo.com/82014195 Uploaded 185 Plays 0 Comments
  5. A videographic essay by Michelle Arevalos Franco, Peichen Hao, and Yi Lun Yang.

    This video is produced for 'DES 3241 : Theories of Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology', a course taught by Pierre Bélanger at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in the Fall 2013.

    The moon and Antarctica were equally unattainable. 'From the moon, the earth is seen in all its glory.' From Antarctica, we are allowed to 'peruse the changes we are wreaking on it.'

    'No one clears things away in Antarctica.' Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s last hut is as it was, except now a relic of the English heritage. It is estimated that Captain Scott’s bones and deep-frozen corpse will emerge inside a calving iceberg in 120 years; his route to sea thousands of miles of glacial drift. But the people make and remake. Snow is melted for water; ice is packed for runways; camps are choreographed to the wind. As the seasons progress, ships sidle in where planes once touched down. The noonday moon arrives and the people leave. The camps wait though, boxed and bermed, for the return of the mammals and the sun’s light, for the next year.

    As they are wont to do, things have been scientifically improved. Shackleton’s crew of men, after the three-month winter waiting for their stranded boat to be released from the ice, instead watched as it was crushed to bits by the pressures on the shifting floes. Nowadays, there are ice-breakers, ice-piers, cloaked imperial might and brazen technological glory, but still, no permanent solutions for the vagaries of the sky.

    Antarctica appeared just as science turned to the study of invisible forces, of time beyond human understanding: magnetism, electricity, evolution, geophysics. It was pure, uninhabited. It is at peace, it is a shining success of international harmony. This was crafted from the debris of colonial control, created for the development of technological might.

    There are no wars, no murders. 'The heroes have gone and are replaced by scientists, a wonderfully international crew of investigators intent no longer on racing each other to the pole or on naming bits of unnamed land, but on unraveling the remaining geophysical mysteries of the earth.' The delicate coalition of rejection—no soldiers, no miners, no property—leaves the continent as object of desire, of study. To know is to own, to probe is to keep.

    We are heavily indebted to Paul Shepheard, for ‘Hope’, in The Cultivated Wilderness, Or, What Is Landscape? Chicago, IL: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, 1997.

    Data from:
    The U.S. Antarctic Program Data Coordination Center, http://www.usap-data.org/
    Antarctic Digital Database, http://www.add.scar.org/
    Australian Antarctic Data Centre, http://data.aad.gov.au/
    NASA Visible Earth, http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/
    U.S. Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/countries

    Selected bibliography:
    “Antarctica.” The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.

    Blaisdell, George, and CPT Christina Shelton. "Ship Offload Infrastructure in McMurdo Station, Antarctica."

    Collis, Christy, and Quentin Stevens. "Cold colonies: Antarctic Spatialities at Mawson and McMurdo stations." Cultural Geographies 14.2 (2007): 234-254.

    Dastidar, Prabir G., and Olle Persson. "Mapping the global structure of Antarctic research vis-à-vis Antarctic Treaty System." Current Science 89.9 (2005): 1552-1560.

    Heim, Barbara Ellen. "Exploring the Last Frontiers for Mineral Resources: A Comparison of International Law Regarding the Deep Seabed, Outer Space, and Antarctica." Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 23 (1990): 819.

    Herber, Bernard P. "Mining or World Park-A Politico-Economic Analysis of Alternative Land Use Regimes in Antarctica." Nat. Resources J. 31 (1991): 839.

    Joyner, Christopher C. "The Exclusive Economic Zone and Antarctica." Va. J. Int'l L. 21 (1980): 691.

    Mellor, Malcolm, and Charles Swithinbank. Airfields on Antarctic glacier ice. No. CRREL-89-21. Cold Regions and Research and Engineering Lab, Hanover, NH, 1989.

    Nandan, S.N. “The Exclusive Economic Zone: A Historical Perspective.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. http://www.fao.org/docrep/s5280t/s5280t0p.htm

    Swithinbank, Charles. "Airborne tourism in the Antarctic." Polar Record 29.169 (1993): 103-110.

    # vimeo.com/82015845 Uploaded 369 Plays 0 Comments


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