Nelson Institute Dean Paul Robbins discusses urban ecology during the COVID-19 pandemic on The UW Now

January 13, 2021

Nelson Institute Dean Paul Robbins was recently featured on “The Future of Cities” an event hosted by the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s The UW Now, a virtual livestream discussion series that showcases the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s top experts in connection to current events and issues. 

Robbins addressed COVID-19 in relation to urban ecology and the environment. In a presentation titled “Lessons from Lockdown: Urban ecologies after the Anthropause” he discussed the positive impact the pandemic has had on the environment, such as increased air quality and the reemergence of wildlife in urban areas.

He defines the term anthropause as a temporary halt in human-centered activities and environmental domination.

“The anthropause gave us a lesson on how quickly change can occur, and it’s not just here in the U.S.,” Robbins said.

The livestream also featured Timothy Riddiough, chair of the Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics, and professor at the Wisconsin School of Business. Riddiough describes how cities have transformed during the time of COVID-19 and how he believes the future of cities could be impacted, such as rising tax rates and increased rate of people working from home.

Lastly, the segment included Alfonso Morales, a Vilas distinguished achievement professor in food systems, marketplaces and public policy in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture and a Nelson Institute affiliate. Morales explained the pandemic’s influence on local perspectives of food production and consumption.

The presentations were followed by a question-and-answer session including topics of inequality, health, and the future of environmentalism in urban areas.

A video recording of the event is available here.

The UW Now livestream takes place on YouTube every Tuesday at 7 p.m. CST. Each segment is recorded for later viewing, and closed captioning is provided. See upcoming events here.