Socio-ecological transitions of cities: Exploring spatial, ecological and governance dynamics in European cities
Paper in proceedings, 2013
Europe is in general in a good position for examining dynamics and potential for realizing a positive transition to resilient and sustainable urban areas. Compared to most other continents, the living standards are good, the decision making processes are fairly open and transparent, and the level of knowledge including environmental knowledge is relatively high. We examine five compact cities to unravel what drives their social-ecological transition to resilient urban futures. A meta-analysis of spatial, ecological and governance dynamics reveals that in the face of slow urbanization the European compact cities under study undergo a transition towards eco-city that is the result of five co-evolving drivers: (a) the presence and implantation of strong environmental policy at local and regional level that promotes the preservation of existing green spaces; (b) the capitalizing of governance capacity for urban sustainability in the form of setting urban green plans and deals; (c) the restoration and re-establishment of green urban spaces of different sizes in the cities or simply, creating more green spaces (d) the put forth of green strategies and actions from multiple policy centers and (e) the emerging social niches of community gardens and urban agriculture that restore green in the cities and take over empty or unused spaces. These drivers do not play alone but are stressed with challenges of fair distribution of green in the city and of slow responding policy and governance.