Our interdisciplinary Urban Studies list examines how the built environment shapes behaviour and how to address complex problems like urban poverty, gentrification, climate change and educational inequality.
Subjects covered include urban planning, urban geography, urban policy, local governance and community-based participation, to offer a broad understanding of how urban dynamics shape both global interdependence and local spaces.
This chapter asks the question, what does this unthinking mean for current anthropogenic climate change policies? This is answered in two ways. First, the concept of urban demand is discussed in its current manifestation as the product of a global Advertising-Big Data-Social Media complex. Second, the mechanisms behind the immensity of Chinese urban growth in recent decades are described. In their different, but intertwined, ways these two expressions of today’s modernity are pointing irrevocably towards terminal consumption. The only means to stop this happening appears to a reinvention of the city, creating an urban demand for stewarding nature for future generations, a posterity city
This chapter provides a description of Jane Jacobs’ legacy beyond her famous intervention into city planning. Five aspects of her work are highlighted. First and foremost she was a knowledge builder, harnessing a voracious curiosity to understand the complexity of the human condition. The most auspicious outcome has been her revision of economics identifying city economies as the loci of economic growth. She made further unusual forays into history – contesting power to eliminate complexity – and politics where her bottom-up approach had drawn admiration from both the right and left. She brought this altogether towards the end of her life as a new understanding of economics as ecology. The chapter concludes with a critical appraisal of her treatment of urban demand – crucial to the argument of this book – and links Jacob’s oeuvre to the work of multiple other radical scholars to aid the process of unthinking.
All international comparative urban research is complex and challenging. Hence, attempting to undertake it in countries situated in different regions, particularly bearing in mind the many structural differences and inequalities between the global North and South (as very loose and diverse categories), adds another challenge since relative priorities may differ considerably. For example, in relation to food supply and security, reducing obstacles for informal urban and peri-urban producers and retailers and dealing with the implications of supermarketisation are priority issues in the Southern countries where Mistra Urban Futures has city platforms, whereas the priority issues in the Northern countries centre on enhancing local production of healthy food and reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods, as well as cutting transportation distances and hence food miles and associated emissions.
The challenges are amplified when the global comparative research is undertaken using transdisciplinary co-production (used in this book as a short-hand term that includes co-design and co-creation) rather than conventional academic research teams that to a greater or lesser extent share epistemological and methodological understandings, despite often profound differences between disciplines and in institutional, resourcing and local contextual circumstances, practices and power relations. As reflected in the preceding chapters assessing the pioneering efforts in this regard, transdisciplinary co-production teams seeking to compare locally defined and appropriate projects and research processes within the same research theme in each participating Local Interaction Platform (LIP) face several additional internal and external challenges. Some of these reflect the locally specific nature of transdisciplinarity in each LIP, while others pertain to possible differences in the numbers of partners undertaking the co-production, the particular methods used, differences in the nature of the respective empirical projects, and both interpersonal and interinstitutional power differentials within and across the respective research teams.
This urgent book brings our cities to the fore in understanding the human input into climate change. The demands we are making on nature by living in cities has reached a crisis point and unless we make significant changes to address it, the prognosis is terminal consumption.
Providing a radical new argument that integrates global understandings of making nature and making cities, the authors move beyond current policies of mitigation and adaption and pose the challenge of urban stewardship to tackle the crisis.
Their new way of thinking re-orients possibilities for environmental policy and calls for us to reinvent our cities as spaces for activism.
Everyone with an interest in the urban will consciously or unconsciously compare earlier experiences of other urban environments with what is experienced at hand; they will be ‘thinking (cities) through elsewhere’ (Robinson, 2015: 195). It is therefore difficult to imagine any other situation where such comparative activities play out more distinctively than in urban situations induced by migration and other forms of mobility. Who is ever better set to do urban comparison than migrants constantly reminded of places left behind and trying to make sense of places of arrival? Therefore, migration is ultimately connected to comparative urbanism in what Jacobs calls ‘an everyday comparison’ (Jacobs, 2012: 910).
This chapter describes comparative knowledge production by way of bringing together already existing research financed by other means and local development projects within a defined area of research and intervention. The projects were all dealing with migration but based in different urban contexts, and they were brought together in a systematic way we call clustering. This methodology was developed through a joint venture of comparative knowledge production involving researchers, practitioners and civil society actors at the Local Interactive Platforms (LIPs) in Gothenburg (GOLIP), Skåne (SKLIP) and Kisumu (KLIP). Based within the Mistra Urban Futures agenda for comparative research and its understanding of co-produced transdisciplinary research (as discussed in Chapters One and Two), this was a natural starting point. The project originally stemmed from a need to better understand international migration, and in particular refugee reception and integration, as this developed in Gothenburg and Malmö following the so-called refugee crisis in 2015.
Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC licence. Reporting on the innovative, transdisciplinary research on sustainable urbanisation undertaken by Mistra Urban Futures, a highly influential research centre based in Sweden (2010-19), this book builds on the Policy Press title Rethinking Sustainable Cities to make a significant contribution to evolving theory about comparative urban research.
Highlighting important methodological experiences from across a variety of diverse contexts in Africa and Europe, this book surveys key experiences and summarises lessons learned from the Mistra Urban Futures' global research platforms. It demonstrates best practice for developing and deploying different forms of transdisciplinary co-production, covering topics including neighbourhood transformation and housing justice, sustainable urban and transport development, urban food security and cultural heritage.
This chapter takes the failure of current climate change policy as a given and seeks explanations and ways forward. Policy-making should be firmly grounded in the essential nature of anthropogenic climate change – a complex problem and an existential threat. It is found wanting in three fundamental aspects. International relations with its competitive preposition is found to be not fit for purpose as decision-making arena. The scientific input for decision-making underplays the ‘anthropo’ bit of climate change and therefore is found unfit for purpose. And social science contributions are found not fit for purpose because of their innate state-centric bias. To overcome the resulting impasse requires critical unthinking. The work of Jane Jacobs is chosen as guide to unthinking thereby foregrounding cities. An invitation is issued for others to provide alternate unthinking.
In terms of the logic laid out in Chapter One, this chapter moves from the locally co-produced transdisciplinary research in individual city platforms to the even more experimental approach of comparing such local research approaches across varying urban contexts.
Understanding the potential uniqueness of cities and the specificity of the local are essential for knowledge production for sustainability. Local practices stemming from a specific climate and ecology, a specific geographic setting and urban morphology, a set of cultures and traditions, and local social networks, skills and habits interact with national and global agendas to produce different and contextualised solutions from which to learn also about universal problems. This implies that urban dissimilarity and difference are interesting features for research on urban sustainability that could potentially be captured through comparison. The organisational structure of Mistra Urban Futures, as presented in Chapter One, carefully considers the differences among the partnering platforms in terms of local stakeholder participation and agreements. Nevertheless, the raison d’être for this organisational structure calls for comparison between the different cities and their respective stakeholder arrangements. Comparison is embodied in the notion of the Centre as it spans different kinds of borders at global, continental and national scales. Consequently, comparison is a constant ongoing process in which each issue is positioned and debated. To pursue comparative research across the different LIPs, to produce further knowledge on sustainable development, was therefore an underlying aspiration that found expression in the structured propositions embodied in the Centre’s Strategic Plan 2016–19 (Mistra Urban Futures, 2015).
This is the first chapter on unthinking, specifically unthinking modernity. It takes the form of 14 statements that are presented as basic modern theses, and which are countered by antitheses, alternative positions wherein urban demand is central to the argument. This thesis/antithesis device is used to broach three broad areas. First, the relationship between cities and states are considered with the former identified as constituting social development. Second, the role of cities in that social development is used to undermine modern time and spatial framings of change. Third, these contrarian ideas are brought to bear on the study of anthropogenic climate change, inserting cities as mass demand mechanisms. All this unthinking is intended to foster a fundamental mindscape break pointing towards transmodern sensibilities..
Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the dedicated urban goal SDG 11 and New Urban Agenda (NUA), represent a landmark acknowledgement by the international community of the critical role of cities and other sub-national entities in achieving sustainability. Both the SDGs and NUA will require the engagement of local governments and citizens to be successful. Mistra Urban Futures has been engaged in these processes since 2014 and in 2015 undertook a highly innovative three-month pilot project to test the then draft targets and indicators of what became SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities. This pilot proved instrumental in deepening several LIPs’ partnerships with their respective local authorities, in generating awareness in the city administrations of what would be required in terms of implementation of SDG 11 for the period 2016–30, and also fed directly into modifications to the final versions of several targets and indicators (Simon et al, 2016; Arfvidsson et al, 2017; Patel et al, 2017; Hansson et al, 2019).
The comparative project discussed here commenced in mid-2017 and was a longer sequel to the pilot, designed to follow and support the understanding, engagement and implementation of these two global agendas at the city level. It included seven cities of small to medium size, including all of Mistra Urban Futures’ LIPs (Cape Town, Gothenburg, Kisumu, Malmö and Sheffield), plus Shimla in India and Buenos Aires in Argentina through new partnerships with the social enterprise Nagrika and the New School’s Observatory on Latin America, respectively.