Hello! My name is Jenny. I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia but have lived in Toronto now for nearly two years. I’m in the second year of my MES and will be moving on to MES III in December 2015. My time in FES so far has been a whirlwind of lessons, time crunches, and reading (so much reading), but I can confidently say I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. My journey into Planning was a little different than most – I came to MES intending just to do the general Environmental Studies stream, but during the evolution of my POS last Fall, it became apparent to me (with the guidance of my advisor) that joining the Planning stream would simply supplement the research interests that I already had. I switched over in January, taking all Planning courses since then, and I’ve never looked back. I came in with comically minimal knowledge of Planning as a profession or a field of study, but I’ve thrown myself into it so much that now I’d almost consider myself an urban studies junkie. My perceptively minimal knowledge was met with a very naive and unquestioning perspective, I had the tendency to think that Planning was a well-established practice that I could simply learn about rather than contribute to. What I’ve found is that while there are many established things – best practice, standards for consultation, tried and true legislation, extensive Official Plans, etc – the reality presents significant opportunities for inspiring change for the better within the realm of Planning and also through Planning in its interactions with societal hegemony. The way that Planning has truly changed me is to inspire a critical analysis of almost everything that I encounter, whether in school or in everyday life. A good deal of this criticism stems from the school of Urban Political Ecology, which is one of my research interests. I’ve learned to shy away from romanticized conceptions of nature and the environment, to understand the interconnectivity of planning and politics and how this influences the results on the ground, to look more closely at the ways in which money and power can affect decision-making even in an established democratic system.
I will be starting research (that goes beyond reading) in January 2016 which will include theoretical notes and data, along with qualitative data gleaned from several interviews that I plan to conduct with various actors whose lives are intertwined with the Greenbelt in Ontario. The aim of my research is to perform a situated urban political ecological analysis of Greenbelt legislation in Ontario and the civil society groups that surround it, with an eye to the proliferation of radical political thought and action within these groups.
While this sounds completely determined and put together, one of the biggest things that I’ve learned throughout this program is not to rush things – trying to plan for your Major Paper before nearly completing your Plan of Study would be to try learning to run before learning to walk (as my advisor, now supervisor, Roger Keil said to me recently). The Plan of Study initially seemed like a bother – something to distract from time spent in classes – but in fact, now that it is a nearly complete document for me, I value it as a place that I kept track of my own thoughts and interests in terms of research and things I wanted to get out of the program. It is through my Plan of Study, and the readings that I completed for my Currents of Thought, that the idea for my research grew. With that said, I think it’s equally important to go beyond school – to attend public meetings, rallies, conferences, and anything else that will supplement the things you learn in class. This is an invaluable way to learn applied knowledge while beginning to establish connections within the field. And after all, if you hope to become an RPP, that’s what this is all about!