Conference paper

Transforming cities towards an ecological worldview: applying sustainability transition theories and resilience thinking to urban planning

12 Jul 2015

Cities are complex and dynamic social-ecological systems; both human and ecological systems are in mutual interaction. As a social-ecological system, a city’s form and structure can change over time. The transcendence and durability of cities is in fact due to their continuous change. Major transformations are often viewed as technological or socio-technological transitions, such as how transport, communication, and housing are fulfilled, and include changes to user practices, regulations, networks, infrastructure, and symbolic meaning. Theories of sustainability transitions investigate the processes by which innovations in socio-technical systems, arising in niches, displace existing dominant or mainstream technologies. Research to date has focused on applying the theories to sustainability transitions in energy systems, water systems, and zero emission housing. These systems all fit easily within a ‘socio-technical’ conceptual framework. How can theories of sustainability transitions apply to innovations in social-ecological systems?
The purpose of this paper is to propose viewing transitions and transformations through the perspective of an ecological worldview. An ecological worldview sees humans as active participants in the co-creation of the living systems we inhabit, and understands that living systems are characterized by change, and therefore by uncertainty and unpredictability. A resilience thinking epistemology, one that is marked by complex relationships, along with transitions and transformations, is used to guide the research. Here, resilience thinking helps us to understand that the world is not mechanical and reasonably predictable, helping us to further grasp the concept of an ecological worldview.
This paper develops a new framework for analysing the transition process of policy innovations that links sustainability transitions and an ecological worldview. This framework is applied to San Francisco, Oakland, and Vancouver using live/work policies to explore new ways of theorizing innovations in complex and dynamic social-ecological systems.

Source Title: 
The Tipping Point: Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity. Proceedings of the 21st Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference, Deakin University, Geelong, 10-12 July 2015
License Type: 
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