Rethinking urban nature to promote human well-being and livelihoods
Scientific workshop, January 2018,
The benefits of green areas in urban areas are known and well documented. They provide important ecosystem services for urban dwellers. For instance, green areas in cities contribute to improve air quality when shrubs and trees filter particulates through leaves and regulate temperature, buffering effects of heat during summertime (a function belonging to regulating services), they can support food production by urban gardening (delivering provisioning services), and they offer recreational opportunities with beneficial effects on mental and physical health and well-being (giving cultural services). Across the world, green areas in cities are highly valued, often understood as public good to which all should access. They are managed by public bodies, such as municipalities, that use public resources for their maintenance and management. However, questions have been raised about how to best manage green areas when taking into account pressing environmental issues (e.g. pollution, climate change, extreme events), social issues (e.g. rampart urbanisation, urban sprawl, gentrification, social exclusion) as well as due to of the economic crises that often result in budget cuts in investments to green areas. In the view of this the role of citizens and social movements who engage with the green areas and contribute to their maintenance has become of political and academic interest. A growing academic literature is reporting about initiatives led by associations, dedicated individuals and social entrepreneurs who engage with urban green space in novel ways and contribute at generating new opportunities for employment, recreation and food production in the city.
These novel trends were at the core of a transdisciplinary gathering of academics, social entrepreneurs, garden and housing associations, and city policy makers, to encourage new visions for the use and governance of green spaces in the City of Malmö. The event was organized by Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in partnership with the City of Malmö, the University of Copenhagen and Södertörn University. The role of non-state actors such as associations, social movements and social entrepreneurs in the governance of urban green areas was of core interest to the project Environmental Governance in Context (Södertörn University). More specifically this in relation to ongoing debates about alternative governance models where non-state actors are seen to have a role and allowed to participate in the management and maintenance of green areas.
Social entrepreneurs, representatives from the City of Malmö and Copenhagen, and other public bodies about current innovative practices gave presentations during the event. Two presentations were on with urban gardening and governance of green spaces in Winnipeg, Canada. The event also included a visioning hands-on group activity, where participants discussed and visualized thematic scenarios which were centred on integrated solutions around the use and governance of green areas in Malmö. The end results of these thematic scenarios were LEGO models representing the integrated solutions discussed and identified by the groups. The transdisciplinary gathering offered opportunities for an exchange about the ways in which the City of Malmö and Copenhagen seek to promote green solutions that cater for the needs of their residents. The event offered much valuable inspiration and resulted in novel ideas. This partnerships is now pursuing in collaboration with an extended network of practitioners and academics.
This workshop was organized by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in partnership with Malmö Stadt, the University of Copenhagen and Södertörn University and has been funded by Movium.
The final report is freely available via the repository DIVA.
Summary prepared by Romina Rodela & Kari Lehtilä
Contacts at Södertörn University (co-organizer):
Prof. Kari Lehtilä
Lead organizer (PI) for the event:
Senior Researcher @ Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
Natalie Marie Gulsrud
Assistant Professor @ The Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
University of Copenhagen