Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

Local Food Systems Put To The Test During QLD Floods

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 18th, 2011

Source: Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network

Photo of Rocklea Markets by Marty 1989 via flickr CC

From “Where big food fails in the floods, Food Connect connects”  Emma-Kate Rose reports from Brisbane:

“The resilience of this local food system: being small, nimble, armed with local knowledge – really showed itself up through this event.”

As we all clean up after the floods, we’re also now hearing about the difficult times ahead – rising costs, rising expenditure, inflationary pressure, higher rates, etc. One of the major shortages ahead will be food. Not only have the farms been wiped out, but it’s going to take them years to re-establish crops and plantations. We’ve all heard about the problems at the Rocklea markets, but we haven’t heard about how food supplier, Food Connect, has been faring.  Food Connect is a social business which aims as much as possible to put the face on farmers’ food, act as a facilitator between farmers and city folk, create drop off spots called City Cousins for city people to pick up fresh produce, get to know their farmer and get a connection with the land in their bioregion.

Mainstream suppliers go under but Food Connect keeps its head above the floodwaters

The Rocklea Markets were taken out during the floods, and they are the major distribution point in SEQ [South East Queensland]. Food Connect were also on tender [sic] hooks on the Thursday night because they couldn’t deliver on Thursday. But by Friday, the Produce Coordinators Reuben and Luke gave the thumbs up. They were worried because most of the farmers are located within the flood-prone areas… the farmers were ready to supply and they’d worked out alternative transport arrangements for some badly affected farmers. Food Connect went through unabated and actually ended up with excess produce and, in the process, also managed to supply 3,000 meals over the weekend and delivered ice to all the areas with no power. Over the course of the weekend, chefs and volunteers turned up to the warehouse, in non-flood affected Salisbury, to cook up all the excess produce. On the Friday many trucks turned up all through the night and it soon became clear that the humble Food Connect warehouse acted as THE transport hub, because Rocklea was completely under.  Robert Pekin, the founder of Food Connect, found that living without power at his home in West End was losing its attraction, so he, his family and a few staff took refuge at the warehouse to receive goods for many small businesses and restaurants who’d heard about them and used them as an interim pick up spot.  During the floods, Gympie’s supermarket shelves were empty but the little guys had plenty of stock. It surprised even Robert, and he’s been on about a local food system for 15 years now. He thought, “Here we go, this is the test”.  Pretty much all of SEQ was wiped out and Food Connect has about 120 farmers in that area. Astonishingly, only five farmers required help and working bees were organised to help them out with mending fences and other clean up jobs.  This shows the strength of local family farms having a direct network to their consumers and the advantages in by-passing the major supermarkets. The sheer power of the major logistics chains, owned by the big supermarkets, clearly didn’t cut it in times of emergency.

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Constantinople: An Example of Urban Resilience

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 10th, 2011

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Image: Ian W Scott via flickr CC

From “Revisiting urban resilience: Echoes from ancient Constantinople can inspire visions for modern green urbanism:

You may love it or loath it, but the contrasts of Istanbul are impossible to ignore. It is a city where history meets modernity, where palaces, mosques and cathedrals lie next to chaotic bazaars, steaming hamam baths and small shops selling things you never need. It is a city that, despite plague, war and economic regression for more than 2000 years has always stood up against the test of time. Today, it is one of the 25 largest cities in the world and the bridge (literally) between Europe and Asia.

2000 years and still relevant
In a new book on urbanism and environmental dynamics, centre researchers Stephan Barthel and Sverker Sörlin have looked at how Constantinople has succeeded to persist and develop despite regularly occurring disturbances. Their findings demonstrate that in the quest for more ecologically sound urbanisation, urban planners of today have a lot to learn from this ancient city. “Our message from having revisited the resilience history of Constantinople during more than three millennia is that the keeping of green space for tacit co-production and community-based relationships to land and water have been essential properties for long-term survival and success”, Barthel and Sörlin say.

Strategic location and smart food production
Constantinople is a city whose origin can be traced back to the establishment of Greek cities and colonies in early antiquity. Eventually it became the capital of the East Roman Empire and since then its role in the region has never really diminished. One answer to this long-term resilience is the city’s capacity to produce significant amounts of food within the urban settlement itself rather than having to rely on others. The productivity of gardening, livestock keeping and fishing proved essential to how well the city could cope in times of stress. Even in periods with population peaks such as the early 6th and 12th centuries, Constantinople was resilient in terms of food and water when trade was cut off. “The rulers of the city invested not only in military infrastructure but also in systems for supplying and storing food and water. And when sieges were efficient and supplies ran dry, there were still possibilities to cultivate food within the city walls and catch fish in the Golden Horn. Hence Constantinople had a variety of options to sustain the city with food.”

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Dispersed Cities Vs MegaCities

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on February 7th, 2011

Via Trendwatching

Image of Mumbai by Abhisek Sarda via flickr CC

As unfashionable as it might sound, what if we thought less about the benefits of urban density and more about the many possibilities for proliferating more human-scaled urban centers; what if healthy growth turns out to be best achieved through dispersion, not concentration?

Foreign Policy article Urban Legends: Why suburbs, not cities, are the answer by Joel Kotkin:

The human world is fast becoming an urban world — and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we’re heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space. Global cities, even colossal ones like Mumbai and Mexico City, represent our cosmopolitan future, we’re now told; they will be nerve centers of international commerce and technological innovation just like the great metropolises of the past — only with the Internet and smart phones.

It’s far less clear whether the extreme centralization and concentration advocated by these new urban utopians is inevitable — and it’s not at all clear that it’s desirable.

Not all Global Cities are created equal. We can hope the developing-world metropolises of the future will look a lot like the developed-world cities of today, just much, much larger — but that’s not likely to be the case. Today’s Third World megacities face basic challenges in feeding their people, getting them to and from work, and maintaining a minimum level of health. In some, like Mumbai, life expectancy is now at least seven years less than the country as a whole. And many of the world’s largest advanced cities are nestled in relatively declining economies — London, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo. All suffer growing income inequality and outward migration of middle-class families. Even in the best of circumstances, the new age of the megacity might well be an era of unparalleled human congestion and gross inequality.

Perhaps we need to consider another approach. As unfashionable as it might sound, what if we thought less about the benefits of urban density and more about the many possibilities for proliferating more human-scaled urban centers; what if healthy growth turns out to be best achieved through dispersion, not concentration? Instead of overcrowded cities rimmed by hellish new slums, imagine a world filled with vibrant smaller cities, suburbs, and towns: Which do you think is likelier to produce a higher quality of life, a cleaner environment, and a lifestyle conducive to creative thinking?

So how do we get there? First, we need to dismantle some common urban legends.


Read the rest of this article by Joel Kotkin on the Foreign Policy site for some interesting points about future suburbs (clusters of services in the places people live) and some eye-candy (if you like cities, which I do).

Resilience Thinking Seminars: Free to download

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on December 20th, 2010

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Photo of Elinor Ostrom via US Embassy Sweden –  flickr CC

Listen to more than 50 seminars with the world’s most renowned thinkers in resilience.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre website isn’t the only place you can access the latest in resilience thinking: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all provide you with the latest videos and news on social-ecological research.  Now the most important and popular seminars and presentations that have taken place at the centre are also free to download from iTunes.

The list includes presentations by Elinor Ostrom, Will Steffen, Brian Walker, Frances Westley, Johan Rockströmand many more.

Find all the centre lectures and seminars by searching for “Stockholm Resilience Centre” in the top right corner of the iTunes page.

From Township Garden to City Table: Cape Town Planters

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 22nd, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From “From the Township Garden to the City Table” by Molly Theobald:

Around 1 million people in South Africa—the majority of whom are recent arrivals from the former apartheid homelands, Transkei and Ciskei— live in the shacks that make up Khayelitsha, Nyanga and the area surrounding the Cape Flats outside Cape Town. Just under half, or 40 percent, of the population is unemployed, while the rest barely earn enough income to feed their families. In Xhosa, the most common language found in the area, the word ablalimi means “the planters”. Through partnerships with local grassroots organizations, the aptly named, Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit organization working with the people living in these informal settlements, is helping to create a community of planters who can feed the township.

Abalimi Bezekhaya is helping to transform townships into food—and income—generating green spaces in order to alleviate poverty and to protect the fragile surrounding ecosystem. Providing training and materials, Abalimi Bezekhaya helps people to turn school yards and empty plots of land into gardens. Each gardens is run by 6 to 8 farmers who, with support and time, are soon able to produce enough food to feed their families. Abalimi Bezekhaya encourages community members to plant indigenous trees and other flora in the township streets to create shade and increase awareness of the local plant life, much of which is endangered due to urban sprawl.

But while Abalimi Bezekhaya is bringing food and wild flora into the townships, it is also helping the townships to bring fresh produce into the city.  Harvest of Hope (HoH), founded in 2008, purchases the surplus crops from 14 groups of farmers working in Abalimi Bezekhaya’s community plots, packages them in boxes and delivers them to selected schools where parents can purchase them to take home.

For families in Cape Town, HoH means fresh vegetables instead of the older, and often imported, produce at the grocery store. But for families of the farmers working with Hope of Harvest, it means much more. “To grow these vegetables here for me, first, is a life,” said Christina Kaba, a farmer working with HoH in a video about the project. “Second, is how you can give to your family without asking anyone for a donation for money or food. Here you are making money, you are making food.”

Community-Grounded Optimism Live from the Oil Spill

Posted in Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on August 9th, 2010

Source: Green Cross Australia

Green Cross CEO Mara Bun interviewed Beth Galante, Director of Global Green, to discuss the prospects for a sustainable recovery in America’s climate change impact hot spot – find out more about why community-grounded optimism persists through the nightmare of mega environmental disasters.

MB – How does the oil spill feel on the ground?

It’s been a punch in the gut – earth shattering at the community and personal level.  Not a single person was untouched by Katrina. But after a few months, it was clear where the damage was done and people started to move back. Recovery began, first in discrete areas. There has been no shortage of setbacks over the past five years. But the community was truly inspired to put this magical place back together. And it’s come together so much better! With heart, with passion. There is so much to celebrate.  But then came the spill.

MB – Let’s get back to the oil spill – but first can you share your reasons for celebrating the recovery?

Sure – some great things come to mind.  New Orleans is becoming a model coastal city – resilient, designed to adjust to climate change. The community has embraced sustainability at every level. All levels of government encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy. Awareness about the need to withstand wind and water stresses is massive. We are building to prepare for future hurricanes, so sustainability goes hand in hand with resilience at the neighbourhood and policy level.

The next real accomplishment has been in the public education system. New Orleans had a very poorly performing education system when compared to other parts of the US or other developed nations. Our schools were rock bottom before Katrina. The storm destroyed the school system overnight. The rebirth has been awesome. We now have a decentralized, entrepreneurial school system with all kinds of new models emerging (some private, some traditional public, some supported by Universities). Student test scores have improved every year after Katrina.

Sustainability has been a big factor in this equation. Global Green has led a green school infrastructure project – funded by the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund – that has delivered six new LEED accredited schools [LEED accreditation is similar to Australia’s Green Star Ratings]. One of these is Louisiana’s first LEED Gold school. We are really proud of that – and now green schools are embedded in the system. By legislation, all new schools and school renovations in New Orleans must reach at least “LEED Silver” standard. That’s a nation-leading accomplishment.  And it’s no surprise that test scores have improved because worldwide studies show that students have better results if they study in places with better light, better air, and lower toxic and other environmental impacts.

The other cause for optimism is governance. Before Katrina, New Orleans and the State as a whole experienced a never-ending stream of corruption enquiries. Our new Mayor has an overwhelming mandate – from black, white, rich and poor residents. We are in a new era of transparent, good local government that has not been seen for generations.  Much of this has been citizen-driven. New Orleans has some of the best local community groups in America, and now finally the government is following the community’s lead. For example, a task force including community and local business groups has out forward thirty recommendations for sustainability, and many of these wonderful citizen projects are being supported.  But the best cause for optimism – for sure – was when the Saints won the Superbowl!

MB – So bearing all of that good news in mind – lets go back to the oil spill. How is the community responding?

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Allotment Gardens: Social-ecological Resilience

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 3rd, 2010

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Image: beachcomber1954 via flickr CC

From “Urban gardens key in times of crisis“:

Allotment gardens have often been sources of local resilience during periods of crisis. During World War I the number of allotment gardens surged from 600,000 to 1,500,000 in Britain, supplying city people with food and other ecosystem services.  The gardens were planted in parks and sports fields, and even Buckingham Palace turned up the earth to grow vegetables. After declining abruptly in the 1920s and 1930s, World War II saw a new explosion in the numbers of allotment gardens in cities of Britain and other parts of Europe.

The story above is told in a new seminal article (Social–ecological memory in urban gardens—Retaining the capacity for management of ecosystem services) by centre researchers Stephan Barthel, Carl Folke and Johan Colding.

The article, which is in press in  Global Environmental Change, investigates where and how ecological practices, knowledge and experience are retained and transmitted in allotment gardens in the urban area of Stockholm. It is the first study ever to really analyse in-depth the concept of “social-ecological memory” as the carrier of ecological knowledge and practices that enable sustainable stewardship of nature.  Linking back to the story of allotment gardens during the World Wars, the specific aim of the new study has been to explore how management practices, which are linked to ecosystem services, are retained and stored among people, and modified and transmitted through time.

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Resilient Cities Conference

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on September 21st, 2009

Source: PostCarbon Institute

EcoCompact City
Image: EcoCompactCity

Three of Post Carbon’s urban experts will feature in a special PostCarbon Institute evening event at the Resilient Cities: Urban Strategies for Transition Times conference October 20-22 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The conference, featuring Paul Hawken, Majora Carter, and many other internationally-recognized speakers, will focus on how cities and urban regions in North America can prosper in the face of growing sustainability challenges. Participants will advance their thinking on three key subjects:
– best current practices for managing sustainable urban systems;
– capturing opportunities in the green economy; and
– strategies for building widespread sustainability collaborations.

The Post Carbon panel –a “shoulder event” the evening of Tuesday, October 20th–will be an honest conversation on what cities truly face in a world of growth limits, and what citizens and leaders can realistically do to cultivate local resilience. It features Bill Rees (Our Ecological Footprint), Anthony Perl (Transport Revolutions), and Warren Karlenzig (How Green is Your City?), and will be moderated by PCI Program Director Daniel Lerch (Post Carbon Cities).

“Resilient Cities” is organized by Gaining Ground in association with Smart Growth BC and the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics. Register for the conference.

Transition and Resilience: TEDGlobal 2009

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 7th, 2009

Source: PostCarbon Institute

Hopkins at TED

Post Carbon Fellow Rob Hopkins was one of the speakers at the recent TEDGlobal 2009 conference in Oxford, UK. Among the other speakers at the event was UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

From the TED blog report:

Hopkins says that our degree of oil dependency is our degree of vulnerability. We will not have oil forever. For every five barrels we consume, we only gather one. There are 98 oil producing nations but 65 have already passed their peak. “Is our brilliance and creativity going to evaporate?” he asks. The answer he gives is no, but he says that our options have to be realistic and mentions that climate change scientist have an increasingly terrified look in their eyes.

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