Enhancing resilience between people and nature in urban landscapes

Schaffler, Alexis (2011-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The particular global context that is fundamentally altering the world is one in which the combined resource requirements of cities are unprecedented. This thesis communicates the thoughts, ideas and research observations on contemporary urbanisation dynamics through a synthesis of various perspectives. This conceptual fusion, as an attempt to provide a holistic overview of contemporary urban dynamics, forms the basis for developing a framework from which the multiple dimensions of cities can be addressed. This theoretical framework, which includes empirical analyses on the state of cities, is then applied to Johannesburg as a case study for deepening the understanding of urban dynamics and to assess implementation of the theoretical framework in reality. Despite being guided by the general aims of investigating current urban growth trends and the conceptual frameworks with which urban systems could be better understood, the complexity of the task at hand defied a static and linear research process. The ideas that emerged through the research journey, as opposed to a process, were synthesised using a literature review from which the framework of managing complex social-ecological systems was developed. Central to this framework is the metaphor of resilience, which through the idea of systemic adaptability, prioritises the need for both social and ecological opportunity to be enhanced. This is critical in the face of cross-cutting global challenges and in terms of cities as archetypical complex social-ecological systems. In reviewing literature on contemporary urbanisation dynamics, it was found that the socio-economic, spatial and ecological tensions characterising developing country cities, require strategies to enhance urban resilience rooted in local social and ecological capabilities that differ from developed nations’ contexts. These practical concerns were the catalyst for suggesting green infrastructure as a framework in which the joint social and ecological values of green assets are valued equally. This in line with the logic of enhancing a system’s overall systemic adaptability. The theoretical frameworks included in the literature review, therefore, emerged through the weaving back and forth of thoughts, debates and practical concerns about creating resilience between people and nature in the urban landscapes of developing countries The methodological implications of a green infrastructure framework resulted in the need to determine the total economic value of ecosystem services, as the benefits that society accrues through ecosystem functioning. Valuing both the social and ecological benefits of such ecosystem derivatives, not only relates to the concept of mutual resilience building, but makes the economic case for investment in natural assets. Through experience with this methodology, it emerged that valuation exercises of ecosystem services require primary research that connects physical data on ecosystem functioning to tangible economic values. In the chosen case study, however, this original research is yet to take place and methodologies for valuing Johannesburg’s green assets had to unfold based on data availability. The development of a methodology within a methodology is a major feature of this paper, which is guided by the logic that for overall systemic resilience to be sustained, investment in natural assets needs to explicitly account for the total economic values of ecosystem services. The conclusions suggest that Johannesburg is nevertheless in a unique position to capitalise on the concept of green infrastructure, from which social and ecological opportunity can be mutually enhanced. In a paradoxical way, the city’s tree-planting boom that resulted in the construction of the world’s largest urban forest in natural savannah grassland, has created inventories of ecological and social resilience that represent the multifunctional value of green assets, if valued explicitly. Recognition of these values shows that ecological assets extend beyond publicly delineated open space and that Johannesburg’s culture of greening is potentially playing a significant role in sustaining the resilience between its people and nature. However, until the detailed base research is conducted on the connections between Johannesburg’s green assets and their associated social and ecological dividends, these assets remain potential inventories of resilience whose values are yet to be fully determined. The recommendations of this thesis are therefore largely to strengthen the research and data bases on Johannesburg’s green assets. Original research is needed so that precise valuation exercises of Johannesburg’s ecosystem services can take place. This research is also the foundation from which a more robust and empirically sound case can be made for motivating investment in Johannesburg’s strategically unique green infrastructure, in the context of social-ecological challenges and the global movement towards green economies, jobs and cities.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die spesifieke globale konteks wat die wêreld ten diepste verander, is ’n konteks waarin die gekombineerde behoeftes van stede ongekend is. Deur ’n samevatting van verskeie perspektiewe bied hierdie tesis gedagtes, idees en navorsingswaarnemings oor die hedendaagse stadsdinamika. Hierdie samevoeging van konsepte, as ’n poging om ’n holistiese oorsig van hedendaagse stadsdinamika te bied, vorm die grondslag vir die ontwikkeling van ’n raamwerk van waaruit die veelvuldige dimensies van stede benader kan word. Hierdie teoretiese raamwerk, wat empiriese analises van die stand van stede insluit, word dan toegepas op Johannesburg as ’n gevallestudie om die stadsdinamika beter te verstaan en die gebruik van die teoretiese raamwerk in die praktyk te evalueer. Die gedagtes wat uit die navorsing voortgespruit het, word saamgevat deur ’n oorsig te gee van literatuur waaruit die raamwerk vir die bestuur van komplekse sosio-ekologiese sisteme ontwikkel is. Die kern van hierdie raamwerk is die metafoor van weerstandsvermoë (“resilience”) wat, deur die gebruik van die konsep sistemiese aanpasbaarheid, die behoefte aan sowel meer sosiale as ekologiese geleenthede as die belangrikste prioriteite identifiseer. Dit is deurslaggewend in die lig van deursnee- globale uitdagings en in terme van stede as argetipiese komplekse sosio-ekologiese sisteme. In die oorsig van literatuur oor die hedendaagse stadsdinamika is daar gevind dat die sosio-ekonomiese, ruimtelike en ekologiese spanning wat stede in ontwikkelende lande kenmerk, strategieë vereis wat stadsweerstand, wat uit plaaslike sosiale en ekologiese vermoëns spruit, sal verhoog. Hierdie praktiese kwessies was die katalisator om ’n groen infrastruktuur voor te stel as die raamwerk waarbinne die gesamentlike sosiale en ekologiese waardes van groen bates ewe veel waarde dra, wat in pas is met die logiese gedagte om ’n sisteem se algehele sistemiese aanpasbaarheid te verhoog. Die teoretiese raamwerk wat ingesluit is in die literatuur wat bestudeer is, het dus na vore gekom deur die uitruil van gedagtes, debatte en praktiese benaderings tot hoe weerstandigheid geskep kan word tussen mens en natuur in die stedelike landskappe van ontwikkelende lande. Die metodologiese implikasies van ’n groen infrastruktuur-raamwerk het dit noodsaaklik gemaak om die totale ekonomiese waarde van ekosisteemdienste, as die voordele wat die samelewing deur ekosisteme ontvang, te bepaal. Die belangrikste navorsing om letterlike inligting oor Johannesburg se ekosisteemdienste aan tasbare ekonomiese waardes te verbind, moet egter nog gedoen word, en metodologieë om die stad se groen bates te evalueer moet ontwikkel word afhangende van die beskikbaarheid van inligting. Die ontwikkeling van ’n metodologie binne ’n metodologie is ’n belangrike kenmerk van hierdie tesis, wat gelei word deur die logiese gedagte dat belegging in natuurlike bates baie duidelik die totale ekonomiese waarde van ekosisteemdienste moet bepaal as algehele sistemiese weerstandsvermoë gehandhaaf wil word. Die gevolgtrekkings dui daarop dat Johannesburg nietemin in ’n unieke posisie is om finansiële voordeel uit die konsep van ’n groen infrastruktuur te trek. Op ’n teenstrydige manier het die stad se grootskaalse poging om bome aan te plant, wat gelei het tot die wêreld se grootste stedelike woud in ’n natuurlike grasvlakte, inligting gebied oor ekologiese en sosiale weerstandigheid, en dit verteenwoordig die multifunksionele waarde van groen bates as daar uitdruklik waarde daaraan geheg word. ’n Erkenning van hierdie waarde wys dat ekologiese bates verder strek as ’n openbare afgebakende oop ruimte en dat Johannesburg se groen kultuur moontlik ’n deurslaggewende rol speel om die weerstandsvermoë tussen sy mense en die natuur volhoubaar te maak. Voordat noukeurige grondnavorsing oor die verband tussen Johannesburg se groen bates en hulle gepaardgaande sosiale en ekologiese voordele egter nie uitgevoer is nie, bly hierdie bates potensiële beskrywings van weerstandsvermoë waarvan die waarde nog nie ten volle bepaal is nie. Die aanbevelings van hierdie tesis is daarom hoofsaaklik dat navorsing voortgesit word, en dat die kennisgrondslag van Johannesburg se groen bates verbreed word sodat ’n presiese evaluering van ekosisteemdienste gedoen kan word as die grondslag van sterker en empiries gestaafde redes om in die stad se groen infrastruktuur te belê.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6473
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