First Advisor

Alida Cantor

Term of Graduation

Spring 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography






nature-based solutions, policy analysis, political ecology, Portland Oregon, urban climate change, urban heat



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 122 pages)


Anthropogenic rising heat associated with climatic changes in the built environment has become a serious global issue. The built environment is often comprised of impermeable, paved surfaces, lack of vegetation to make way for development, tree removal, and loss or alteration of urban waterways, which leads to a degraded ecosystem for humans and non-human life, and less of an ability for carbon capture, all of which contribute to higher urban temperatures. This alteration of the existing natural environment leads to populations often unable to conceptualize that a built environment is still an ecosystem, and restoration is possible and necessary for healthy human and non-human life. This research aims to shift the general perception of the built environment, and asks the culture to remember the land that was there before the alteration by human activity, as well of the stewards of that land. Restoration is becoming more essential as vulnerable populations succumb to the dangerously high temperatures associated with the urban heat island effect, and the sun’s heat radiating off of urban impermeable surfaces. Due to decades of historical inequities and disinvestment in certain neighborhoods, the effects of urban heat are not equally distributed.

I analyzed interview data from a diverse variety of voices involved in work around the issues of the urban ecosystem, climate change, urban food production, environmental justice, ecopsychology, and green infrastructure. This research examines nature-based solutions that are currently being utilized to help restore and repair the urban ecosystem in the city of Portland, Oregon, as well as which ones are underutilized, barriers to progress, and how one values and relates to land may be tied into these systems. I examine these practices at the intersection of equity and environmental justice, and political ecology and legal geography. This research points to the fact that stakeholders and citizens must radically change the way we design and conceptualize urban spaces to meet the demands of a changing climate that includes dangerously high temperatures in summers.


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