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Auckland: Pollution, Urban Ethics and Cultural Practice (2015 - 2018)

Increasing numbers of people from all parts of New Zealand and from around the world migrate to this popular city on the North Island. One-third of residents in New Zealand live in Auckland and the population is growing steadily. Flanked by two harbours, built on 48 volcanoes and featuring rainforest and sandy beaches, the metropolis offers a unique combination of different landscapes. In keeping with the "100% pure" image of New Zealand, Auckland is presented as a “natural” city, which is not only idyllically situated but also environmentally conscious. The current "Auckland Plan" attempts to optimize the livability of Auckland with the aim of raising it from third place in international rankings to the "most livable city". In this urban environmental quality plays an important role adding further dimensions to the role that environment and nature play in the construction of a national identity and, subsequently, in social discourse.

In particular, air quality in the city is a key issue in everyday urban life. Other issues such as water quality, rising land values, minimization of urban green areas for the benefit of housing construction, production and handling of waste have emerged. The demands for more environmentally friendly practices in the city have not only been the concern of municipal administration but citizens have been organizing themselves into environmental groups, engaging in civil action and arranging eco-festivals. Environmental policy, whether implemented "from above" or by grassroots movements, has become linked to social creativity. Designs for alternative lifestyles are emerging from below, and are inseparably linked and overlapping in environmental debates and ethical disputes.
The sub-project investigates these practices, whose goal is a "good life in the city" and which point to ideals of the urban lifestyle. How do the citizens of Auckland envisage a good and environmentally friendly city? What makes an environmentally conscious city dweller? What are the symbols, ideas and behaviors associated with an eco-friendly lifestyle in the city?

The research considers two contrasting neighborhoods: The mainly European influenced and wealthy citizenry of Devonport located on a peninsula in the north of Auckland and the multicultural, marginalized suburb Mangere, south of the city center. In considering these heterogeneous areas of study, environmental ethics must be contextualized in terms of their interrelations with identity, cultural values, socio-economic issues and environmental justice.

Methodology used includes participant observation, qualitative interviews and group discussions.