urban-rural linkages in the peri-urban
Urban & rural areas are highly inter-dependent, in resources, infrastructure, housing, travel, leisure, ecosystems services etc. The peri-urban adds another dimension to that mix. The aim of the ‘PURL’ is to maximize opportunities and minimize negative impacts on each kind of territory. ‘Sprawl repair’ & similar ideas aim to mobilize the local synergies wherever possible.
The Greenbelt Foundation is already promoting urban-rural linkages very successfully. The question is then how to scale up and across, to include for the great mass of suburban development, in a globalized industrialized economy and lifestyle.
Possibly there are multiple trends which may coincide and could be mobilized for this pathway:
- climatic events will force the issue
- demographic changes with growth in third age, young sustainabl-istas etc
- growth in niche food & eco-lifestyle awareness
- emerging sub-cultures in the metropolitan area with territorial aspirations
water / flood / storm adaptation
Short term: we need ways to manage rising floodwaters and extreme events, via SUDS, walls, canals, basins etc. Longer term: (in some areas) we need to rethink – where are the settlements, what kind of forms & surroundings, how can low impact eco-design manage a transformation towards a water-friendly co-existence.
The Toronto wider region shows high vulnerability to flooding under various models. The practice of integrated water management in building design, urban form, infrastructure development is just taking shape.
heat / drought / fire adaptation
Short term: arid zone water management in buildings and land: fire defence via forest breaks and natural fire cycle management. Longer term: (in some areas) we need to rethink – where are the settlements, what kind of forms & surroundings, how can low impact eco-design manage a transformation towards a drought / fire-friendly co-existence.
For extreme heat, a growing agenda for building eco-design, social welfare, health & safety, adaptation of livelihoods etc. (From recent events in Canada), heat is expected to be a quite serious problem - population and communities not as well adapted to hot climates, has gotten far less attention than flood risk.
agro-ecology & food democracy
Agro-ecology may be the most important pathway: first by challenging the chemical-intensive industrial production of global agri-business, and its disruption / depletion of ecosystems & adaptive capacity. Then it aims to rethink the relations of producers, markets and the ecosystems resilience in a changing climate. With the dimension of ‘food democracy’ it can mobilize social / cooperative enterprise on a large scale, which then fits with the adaptive pathways for landscape, soil, water, local livelihoods etc.
In the Toronto area a bio-regional agro-ecology is a powerful agenda which can draw in many different interests. The question is how far it can scale up and across, as it would involve major changes and transformations in many parts of the system. This pathway depends on building synergies across different sectors:
- local producers, with potential conflicts between small and larger scale intensive
- regional food industries so far based on a more industrialized model
- logistics which could adapt to a more localized / regionalized / seasonal model
- retail systems with a different concept of quality and value
- demand side with increased awareness of organic, low chemical, hand-grown foods
- demand side shift from meat / sugar diets towards vegetable / pulse diets
landscape diversity & resilience
A wider agenda is for sustainable / adaptive / resilient landscapes, soils, forests, water bodies & wetlands etc, both within / without formal designations. Policies for forestry, farming, infrastructure, housing, business, leisure & tourism etc, can steer towards adaptive planning & design for the surroundings of housing, industry, farming etc. These may be strengthened by eco-systems markets, green finance, carbon offsets etc.
The landscape around Toronto & the Horseshoe already shows great diversity – however – this is under increasing pressure from commercial development, globalized lifestyles etc.
circular economy & eco-livelihood
how can businesses invest and create jobs from these peri-urban ‘climate-wise’ pathways? The peri-urban can be a vital part of a city-region circular economy, with a continuous flow of re-use recycling & recovery. This may include shift from mainstream business models, towards cooperative, mutual or similar forms of social-eco business. These can then work in sectors such as food & forestry, biodiversity & ecosystems, education & health, leisure & well-being of all kinds.
In some other countries the peri-urban is seen as an essential part of the wider circular economy. This means many things to many, and Toronto is potentially a site for some leading experimentation:
- material circulation of resources, construction, industrial, consumer packaging etc
- social recirculation particularly for the young, niche cultures, differently abled, senior
- financial recirculation in ecosystem markets, forest carbon credits, inter-generational carbon finance etc.
indigenous & first people knowledge
There is growing awareness and acknowledgment of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Toronto) and the transformational role they can play in resilience
Market-led governance, finance & enterprise
Beyond the limits of formal government, market led approaches may enable innovation, forward investment, enterprise of all kinds. Ecosystems markets, green finance, impact investment, or social return on investment may bridge the gap between ecological social & economic values. Public services and public procurement can also have a powerful effect, such as local / organic food policies or ecosystems reinvestment.
Collaborative governance, civil partnerships
As the peri-urban agenda crosses many boundaries & involves many sectors, new forms of civil society partnerships, networks, forums, dialogues can emerge. These may be based on water catchments, bio-regions, or terrestrial eco-regions, as well as economic zones, commuting patterns etc. Government can enable these with round table structures, deliberative processes, core subsidies, rules for transparency & accountability.
- The Canadian / Ontario formal government system is already quite elaborate and specific: so the pathways proposed here focus on other kinds of potential.
- Market led governance is one possible option for rethinking the system. There may be potential for extending market systems to social and ecological values, which in turn can enable alternative patterns of development and stewardship.
- Collaborative governance and partnerships are already advanced, in the form of government funded organizations like the Greenbelt Foundation. How much further these can go, given the pressures of commercial development, is up for discussion.