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Planetary health in practice: sensing air pollution and transforming urban environments

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  • Jennifer Gabrys

    () (University of Cambridge)

Abstract

Often, health is seen to be a matter of attending to individuals and their behaviour, or of studying populations in order to manage disease. However, pollution is a problem of the health of environments, as much as it is a problem of the health of bodies. To understand health and pollution, it is necessary to examine energy-intensive infrastructures and developed environments that produce air pollutants and impair ecosystems. In other words, air pollution requires approaches to health that are planetary in scope and that account for the socio-environmental processes and relations that make health possible. Planetary health is often approached as a broad analysis of earth systems. However, diverse and situated environmental practices also contribute to the formation of planetary health. This article asks how citizen-sensing practices tune into the problem of air pollution in Southeast London, and in so doing differently configure pollution and planetary health. While many sensing technologies promise to make citizens into more capable political actors through the collection of data, this research investigates how communities use sensors in distinct ways to support, activate or extend community-led projects in urban environments. Rather than citizen-sensing practices contributing to improved air quality through the abstract circulation of data, we found that environmental monitoring became enmeshed in ongoing and broader struggles to improve the health of urban environments. These practices not only challenge the official scripts of sensing devices, they also remake the usual ways of demarcating health in relation to air pollution by shifting away from individual behaviour and toward collective environmental actions. This article then asks how community proposals for urban design and action conjoin with citizen-sensing practices to generate strategies for reworking and reconstituting health toward more planetary compositions.

Suggested Citation

  • Jennifer Gabrys, 2020. "Planetary health in practice: sensing air pollution and transforming urban environments," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-11, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:7:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-020-00534-7
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-00534-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephen Hinchliffe & Mark A. Jackson & Katrina Wyatt & Anne E. Barlow & Manuela Barreto & Linda Clare & Michael H. Depledge & Robin Durie & Lora E. Fleming & Nick Groom & Karyn Morrissey & Laura Salis, 2018. "Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-10, December.
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