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TIPUM: Toward an Interdisciplinary Perspective on Urban Metabolism
Within a few decades the vast majority of the global population will live in cities (70% by 2050). Simultaneously, cities generate a vast proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This brings together large flows in goods, services, materials and energy in a concentrated location, while generating goods and wastes. This is called urban metabolism (UM). So far UM was largely dominated by a biophysical interpretation. However, in order to influence UM we need to have a better understanding of the relations between urban societies and mass and energy flows (production and consumption) that shape and sustain each other. In that respect we make a distinction between human “activity flows” in the urban system (such as construction of housing and infrastructures, migration, flows of people and products, money and information) and biophysical flows and their (human) drivers in the ecosystem (such as water, solid materials, gas and energy). The workshop aimed to identify the drivers of the flows in the urban and ecosystem and their interactions. The discussions in the workshop explored the dynamics in socio-demographics and lifestyles on consumption of energy, water, food and materials and production of waste. In addition patterns and flows of energy, emissions, food and waste were discussed and connected to climate change effects on urban microclimates. The potential methodological foundations of an integrated urban metabolism perspective were explored. Finally, the opportunities to link an integrated urban metabolism concept to decision support by stakeholders in urban planning and systems were discussed.
The multiday workshop generated many fruitful discussions, which really contributed to a better in-depth understanding of the dynamics, driving forces, and transitions in urban metabolism. The generated new knowledge will help to better formulate response strategies in urban areas around the world to deal with the simultaneous risks and opportunities of the changing urban metabolism and to manage the necessary transitions with and between the urban system and ecosystem. The workshop brought together a very diverse group of scientists, such as energy and waste scientists, planners, urban and transport geographers, economists and GIS-sciences experts from all over Europe, USA, and Australia that had previously not talked to each other in this form on this subject. This provided a unique environment that helped to bridge the different languages and views from various scientific communities. This alone made for new insights, and suggestions for new areas of research.
The participants of the workshop will jointly write a white paper on developing an integrated approach to a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of UM, and suggest new research areas and methods (through combining tools from different disciplines). Next to the white paper, a number of papers will be written by the participants on the various aspects of UM, such as resource and waste management, energy, urban meteorology, lifestyles, economic activities, governance and methods of UM. The combination of papers will be published in a peer reviewed journal in the course of 2015.
Martin Dijst (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Ernst Worrell (Utrecht, The Netherlands)