, Volume 41, Issue 7, pp 767–768 | Cite as

The Power of Language in Feedback Metaphors: A Response to Kennedy

  • Nancy Golubiewski

Kennedy (2012) makes an impassioned plea that urban metabolism (UM) research makes worthy contributions. Here we can agree: Material and energy flow accounting (MEFA) is a commendable activity. The merit of accounting for the resource consumption of cities—delineating their inflows and outflows—is not being questioned. Rather, precisely because it is a useful tool, it is important to understand what it does—and does not—offer to the interdisciplinary community of researchers and practitioners interested in understanding socio-ecological systems and finding sustainable solutions to global environmental change.

Where we part ways is the extent of its usefulness. The language chosen to convey ideas, and the science and theory underpinning them, matter for both the researchers engaged in the generation of knowledge and those who consume it. The way a community contextualizes its subject affects its investigations and interpretations (Larson 2011). Once adopted, such ideas have staying...


Riparian Vegetation Urban System Global Environmental Change Urban Ecosystem Ecological Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Larson’s work on the resonance of cultural values in scientific language (2011) first introduced me to the idea of feedback metaphors. I appreciate Dr. Söderström’s invitation to respond to Kennedy’s comment.


  1. Craige, B.J. 2001. Eugene Odum: Ecosystem ecologist and environmentalist, 226 pp. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  2. Golubiewski, N. 2012. Is there a metabolism of an urban ecosystem? An ecological critique. AMBIO. doi: 10.1007/s13280-011-0232-7.Google Scholar
  3. Kennedy, C. 2012. Comment on article “Is there a metabolism of an urban ecosystem?” by Golubiewski. AMBIO. doi: 10.1007/s13280-012-0314-1.Google Scholar
  4. Larson, B. 2011. The metaphoric web: Environmental metaphors and sustainability. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Likens, G.E. 1992. In The ecosystem approach: Its use and abuse, ed. O. Kinne, 166 pp. Oldendorf: Ecology Institute.Google Scholar
  6. Seto, K. 2010. Welcoming/opening statements. International conference on urbanization and global environmental change. 15 Oct 2010, in Phoenix, Arizona.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry for the Environment – Manatu Mo Te TaiaoWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations