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Studying the socio-ecological metabolism of sacrifice zones through citizen-generated geodata

Sacrifice zones are environmentally alienated territories facing environmental violence, degradation, and destruction. Being a term once used in the Cold War to describe territories assigned to nuclear purposes, highly contaminated for uranium mining and processing, the term sacrifice zone is nowadays mainly used to describe various forms of environmental injustice at different spatial levels and scales. We investigate how people living in sacrifice zones attach themselves to their voluntarily or involuntarily chosen homes.

Environmental justice is a multifaceted concept involving humans and their relations to the environment. Humans and their various forms of social organisation form an integral part of practically all ecosystems. Understanding the different anthropocentric components of environmental justice therefore requires exploring in-depth the intricacies between humans and ecological processes. These intricacies give rise to so-called socio-ecological systems, which are investigated in a wide array of contexts including resilience, sustainability, multi-scale and hierarchical systems, among others. Socio-ecological systems are not uni-dimensional but consist of many subsystems interacting at multiple levels, exacerbating an analogy to an organism’s metabolism. This analogy is also used in our research on sacrifice zones in order to facilitate a better understanding of cities and regions as complex, interwoven systems.  Most common cases of sacrifice zones are permeated by extractivism, such as coal mining in West Virginia, USA and Hambach, Germany; gold and silver mining in San Luis Potosí, Mexico; steel milling in Gary, IN, USA; and gas plants in Ontario, Canada. But some sacrifice zones are characterised by industrialism, and sometimes logistics, as the main threat to their immediate environment and environmental health. Examples include the industrial clusters in Quintero, Chile and Gdansk, Poland. No matter how different these examples are, common ground can be found among all sacrifice zones. Oftentimes, public policy-making in such areas perpetuates the pollution cycle, either by execution or omission of said policies. Also, faulty decisions are frequently taken in the expectation of misconceived development, which then affects the wellbeing of affected populations. Having this in mind, this research proposes two innovative approaches. First, we aim to understand sacrifice zones as socio-ecological systems. Employing the notion of socio-ecological metabolism, this allows us to analyse these territories holistically while at the same time considering and understanding their different subsystems, drivers, and conceptions individually. This way, we are able to identify different kinds of impacts on distributive, procedural, and corrective processes, as well as on social justice. Second, we incorporate a place-based perspective to understand and categorise said contexts and impacts from an inhabitant's point of view. This strategy allows us to not only understand sacrifice zones but also how people see themselves and their lives in such territories.

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund University has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Site Map of TU Dort­mund University (Second Page in English)