Explore the complex relationship between formations of human place making and community and urban sustainability.- Focus the study of urban sustainability issues on one African city’s attempts to address public resource consumption. This conference will be held in Stellenbosch from the 5th to 15th of January 2014.
Given the rapidly expanding world population and progress to predominantly urban societies, sustainability—particularly in cities—is at the forefront of many discussions. As populations grow at exponential rates and resources dwindle in response, human populations will increasingly struggle to maintain healthy, productive, enjoyable, and just cities. This cause and effect can be seen clearly throughout the African continent, and in particular, within the country of South Africa, making it an outstanding environment to explore concepts and outcomes of sustainability. Using South African and African urban issues and case studies, this interdisciplinary seminar explores our past, present, and, most importantly, future living in an urbanized world. We’ll look at many facets of the city as a measure of human settlement and explore issues that affect sustainability: natural resources, waste, the green economy, food security and agriculture, mobility, culture, and learning. We’ll also examine the related concept of community and the role “place” and “place making” have in creating liveable urban spaces.
This seminar employs an experiential and holistic learning style and consists of equal parts community engagement, field trips, case studies, presentation of research, and chat sessions with local experts, community leaders, and practitioners.
LECTURES & DISCUSSIONS
From Philanthropy to a Different Way of Doing Business
Tourism is an essential part of the economy in South Africa and especially in the Western Cape. Many argue that tourism can contribute directly to growth and sustainability imperatives, particularly in shifting from philanthropic approaches to new ways of doing business. Tourism thus forms a pivotal complex of issues surrounding the sustainability of urban and semi-urban environments.
Challenges of Informal Settlements
Informal settlements continue to be a significant challenge post-apartheid. Human dignity is reduced as millions live without adequate water, sanitation, housing, etc. Informal settlements are growing as South Africa (and Africa) hits its urban century, hence the current problems will only get worse. Already strained services will come under greater pressure and a more equitable, sustainable approach to urban planning must occur. This session will explore challenges in informal settlements, and possible interventions toward sustainability in the face of rapid urbanization.
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
Humans have steadily moved away from nature, producing ever more waste, even as we march to the drum of “economics.” Biomimicry shows that by paying attention to the way systems exist in nature, humans can create lasting, more sustainable products and economies.
Africa’s Urban Century
While Euro-America has already experienced rapid urbanization, Africa’s time has just begun. Given the expanding world population and the transition to predominantly urban life, cities are a priority for sustainable development. As populations grow in tandem with dwindling resources, human populations will increasingly struggle to maintain healthy, productive, enjoyable, and just cities.
Agriculture and Food Security
Agriculture, food security, and related subjects such as malnutrition, health and wellness link significantly with poverty and urban development. Cape Town has severe food insecurity in the poorer areas. Agriculture also depends heavily on fossil fuels both for production as well as food supply and transport. Food security will be affected by climate change and water shortages, and cities like Cape Town and Stellenbosch will have to absorb the impact. New ways of producing large amounts of nutritious foodstuffs are needed. New initiatives are being attempted to reduce non-renewable inputs and increase efficiencies by creating closed loop systems.
Decoupling Natural Resource Use from Economic Growth
The earth has finite resources. In order to sustain economic growth, and prevent resource depletion and environmental degradation, economies must learn to do more with less. UNEP has established an international research team dedicated to finding ways to do this. Emerging economies provide an attractive arena in which to explore decoupling as resource use has not yet peaked and the twin imperatives of reducing consumption and increasing development can be built into the system. South Africa is one such example.
Learning and Leadership in Sustainable Communities
Current modes of learning and leadership may prove insufficient to meet the coming problems of the world polycrisis and new ways of teaching, learning, and leading will be required to combat the coming difficulties. A vital and engaged citizenry and a transformative agenda will be essential, as will finding ways in which to reconnect with nature.
The South African school system retains many of the inadequacies of its apartheid legacy and, coupled with a poorly run state education system, leaves its students vulnerable to not meeting educational imperatives. The Lynedoch Eco Village at the Sustainability Institute proposes a new way of educating—placing children at the top of the agenda.
Developing Social Cohesion
As the Western Cape population rapidly grows, different social groups (separated by race, class, language, and religion) must co-habit increasingly smaller spaces. This multiculturalism has been envisaged in South Africa’s collective consciousness as “the Rainbow Nation” ideal. Against this notion stands the harsh reality of South Africa’s gross income inequality, unemployment, under-education, and sometimes strained relations between different groups (including xenophobic violence). Protests are all too common and usually aggregate around service delivery, wages, housing, and transportation. A sustainable city is also an equitable, just city, in which the needs of all citizens are met, and in which every society has a place to call home. In what ways does social cohesion intersect with poverty, food security, urbanization, and how do we handle that challenge in this diverse South Africa?
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