16. Urban metabolism and territorial efficiency
Cities have been growing not only in size and density, but have also been evolving towards more complex systems. Dramatic changes in the functioning of urban systems – referring to the physical environment, the patterns of flows, and type of practices – have had a strong impact on the structure and functioning of socio-ecological systems and the services they provide. There is an urgent need for a better understanding of the consequences of these changes on the environmental, spatial and social sustainability.
One of the concepts that can help planners towards this better understanding is urban metabolism. Urban metabolism can be defined as the processing of inflows and outflows of resources and energy within the city. These flows are determined by a combination of (1) the physical needs of a city and its infrastructure, (2) the opportunities and limitations that the natural and geo-physical environment poses to the provision of these needs, and (3) the socio-economic and political processes and power structures within the city. Understanding these conditions determining both supply and demand of resources is crucial to achieve more efficient and sustainable urban systems. Issues, such as uncertainty, diversity and multiplicity are, undoubtedly, aspects that strongly characterize our societies and communities and therefore should be taken into consideration when envisioning territorial efficiency through an urban metabolism perspective.
Despite all the research and debate around issues of climate change, natural resource management and sustainability in general, there is still a knowledge gap on planning responses to the complexity of settings, problems and challenges urban systems face. In addition, different issues reflecting contemporary and future societal challenges, such as, social justice, migration, economic crises and geo-political developments, all pose new shocks to these systems and are topics that need to be addressed. Therefore, some key issues we would like to explore in this track are:
- The potential of the concept of urban metabolism; the advantages and limitations/shortcomings of this approach, as well as ways of overcoming these limitations? Understand how this integrative concept can contribute to a more systemic approach in urban management and planning?
- What are the innovative instruments (tools and methods) developed to study urban metabolism, and how they can be articulated and contribute to spatial and environmental planning? And more general, how can we achieve a more comprehensive and integrative knowledge of the city’s functioning in all its dimensions and components?
- How does the objectives of territorial efficiency and environmental justice come together, and what are the policies and strategies needed? How do local people and their knowledge contribute to environmental justice challenges, and what is their role in making spaces of dialog?
- How can we learn from new practices and experiences through bottom-up approaches to increase environmental efficiency?
This track aims to address these issues in accepting theoretically grounded papers of international research and experience, exploring the limits, as well as, the potential of urban metabolism and territorial efficiency in spatial planning.