Feb.7th Sustain Cafe with Prof.Thomas Elmqvist

Site Administrator Sustain Cafe February 7, 2017


Urban areas as complex social-ecological-technological systems:

How do we address resilience and sustainability?

GPSS-GLI welcomed Thomas Elmqvist, a visiting professor at IR3S from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, for a memorable Sustain Cafe on February 7th, 2017.

Thomas began the session with the fact that 60% of urban infrastructures is yet to be built. Moreover, the 11th of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,” is one through which all of the other SDGs could be addressed. The emerging conceptualization of urban areas as social-ecological-technological systems integrates built and living systems in the city and has the potential to address these needs with nature-based approaches and more holistic, socially inclusive, and ecologically sound urban development.

The latter part of the lecture delved into his ongoing conceptual discussions of resilience and sustainability. Though often used interchangeably, “resilience” is a descriptive term, while “sustainability” is generally normative. Thomas made clear distinctions between these terms and shared his proposal of a new conceptualization of resilience more fitting for urban contexts. As both terms have been central to discussion in GPSS-GLI, the subsequent discussion was rich in thought-provoking questions, and sure to influence many of our thinking within our respective research projects.