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30 October 2012
The Sustainable Places Research Institute, recently played host to the first Cardiff International Conference on Sustainable Place making. Bringing together leading scholars and active researchers around the theme of sustainable place making, it focused on the problem of sustainable place-making; and how integrated thinking can be developed and applied in different places and spaces so as to adapt systems of production and consumption and bring about transformative change.
Welcoming delegates to the Conference, Professor Terry Marsden said: "Coping with the adaptive changes necessary as a result of climate change and resource depletion becomes one of the main challenges facing the world in the second decade of the 21st century. Sustainability science has grown rapidly as an engaging interdisciplinary field in which to scientifically address these issues."
The keynote speakers over the two days included:
The conference focused on the following themes:
A sustainable community needs to support the quality of life of its existing and future members. The recent literatures on 'sustainable place-making', 'sustainable communities' and community-led sustainability initiatives, have put a renewed emphasis upon problematising space and place as part of progressing real adaptations towards the integration of ecological, economic and social forms of sustainability. Such works, in turn raise new sets of questions about the degree and strength of the sustainability dynamic itself in and through places. For example, how can new forms of connectivity within and between communities and their broader environments (both physical and social environment) help sustain the health of the local population? How does the physical environment complement the distinct social character of a community in creating a sense of a place? How do we foster 'real' or 'strong' forms of sustainability practice? Why do so many community-led sustainability initiatives remain fragmented, marginal and disconnected; how can they become more joined and scaled up such that they add significantly to a denser matrix and cluster of sustainable place-making? What are the rights, roles and responsibilities of each set of stakeholders involved (individually and collectively)? Given the increasingly recognised peculiar nature of real sustainability practice - in that it is highly embedded in places and community on the one hand and therefore highly resistant to generic and aggregated progression, either at the empirical or conceptual levels on the other - these questions challenge theory-building as well as our empirical analyses. Nevertheless, exploring such questions and issues remains central to progressing and mainstreaming sustainability practice at the local level, and for delivering the wider goals of sustainable adaptation.
Ensuring sustainable environments, in a world where the climate and other conditions are changing, requires a new understanding of how physical, ecological and social processes are inter-related.
Services delivered by our ecosystems have globally been undervalued largely through lack of understanding of the interactions between these processes across different scales. Understanding their coupled relationship is vital for adaptive systems of management and governance that can ensure sustainability despite increased pressure on natural resources stemming from climate change, food security, water scarcity…
This theme is aimed at ecologists, earth scientists, economists and social scientists, and we aim to explore questions related to
- What combinations of ecosystems and social systems are sustainable? How can these relationships be strengthened to foster higher resilience
- What ecosystem services are most under threat, and what are the trade-offs we will need to address?
- What scales are relevant to the sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem functions, and how can findings be translated from one scale to another?
- What tools and measures best assess current interactions between societies and their natural environments, and can also be used for predictive purposes?
Sustainability impacts related to 'place' are to a large extent determined by the flows that occur within and between places including flows of people, money, energy, water, soil, species, natural resources, produce, manufactured goods, waste and vehicles. There is therefore a need to understand the dynamics of sustainable places, by considering the relationships within and between places in terms of these flows of resources, human mobilities and natural migrations. This theme will focus on how mobilities, flows and migrations impact the sustainability of particular places in terms of: protection of environmental quality; promotion of social justice and; provision of sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing. Key streams include: Natural Flows within (and between) ecosystems (e.g. species migrations, ecosystem services, water, air flows); People Flows (e.g. migrations at different scales, commuting, tourism); Resource Flows (e.g. international resource transfer, energy, food and mineral flows); Economic Flows (e.g. international trade deficits, investment flows, regional economic flows, rural-urban economic flows). We also encourage submissions related to other areas such as information or knowledge flows, ideas and policy flows. This theme aims to include different aspects of sustainability science to inform a future dynamic interdisciplinary flow-based research agenda.
Risk remains the dominant logic for governing environmental threats, yet its emphasis on universality, prediction and control seems to make it ill-suited to deal with the often unruly features of particular places. Is the logic of risk incompatible with place-based governance, or can it be tinkered with to better accommodate local knowledge, spatial variation, and meaningful public participation? Or do we need to look elsewhere for alternative logics of governing places – e.g. precautionary, or adaptive management – and what sort of ontologies and institutional designs might they entail?
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