adapting our cities and urban centres

It has been a busy week of conferences this week with a clear focus on adapting our cities for greater ecological (and human) health. The International Green Building Conference held in Singapore from the 1-3 September occurred simultaneously with the International Urban Design Conference 1-3 in Adelaide. Both conferences focused on adapting existing cities by introducing greater ecosystem services such as wetlands, forests and natural water flows that contribute to healthier urban systems.  

The billion-dollar Gardens by the Bay project is built on 101 hectares of land in Marina Bay, the heart of Singapore's Central Business District. Image: Craig Sheppard / Grant Associates

The billion-dollar Gardens by the Bay project is built on 101 hectares of land in Marina Bay, the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District. Image: Craig Sheppard / Grant Associates

British architect Andrew Grant, of Grant Associates and designer behind the Cloud Dome and Flower Dome in the 54 hectare Gardens by the Bay, spoke at the International Green Building Conference on how natural landscapes can make cities more liveable and sustainable. “A lot of efforts to green urban spaces do not go beyond cosmetic features such as vertical and skyrise greenery and planting trees on city streets. We need this, but more importantly, we need space to plant forest trees and manage water flows in a way that mitigates environmental damage while creating urban identity.”

Meanwhile Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority launched its third Green Building Masterplan, dedicating more than $100 million to research and adoption of green building practices with a new focus on occupant behaviour. Initiatives under the Masterplan would induce green growth, attract investors and profile Singapore’s services and expertise on green building solutions for the tropics on an international stage.

In Adelaide the conference stream of ‘Whole System Thinking’ placed an emphasis on urban forests, waterways and ecological planning for urban centres. An awareness of the constraints of current city planning is growing, particularly by regions experiencing large scale flooding, urban heating at significantly higher levels then peri-urban areas and the lack of cooling from tree canopies.

Ian Shears of the City of Melbourne presented on ‘Designing the Biophilic City’ and the ‘urban forest strategy’, Mr Sasha Ivanovich, AURA Urban & Regional Alliance spoke on The Australian City in the 21st Century, and Suzette Jackson, Innate Ecology spoke on ‘Growing City Resilience: Integrating urban agriculture in the urban ecology’. City planning from an ecological framework provides regulating and provisioning services such as cooling of cities, fresh water and habitat for humans and the native flora and fauna.

Both conferences contributed to the global discussion on adapting cities to regenerate natural environments and habitats for health. In particular the discussion on urban agriculture and access to nutritious healthy foods is seen globally as a critical issue with world population increases and climate change affecting the quality and quantity of food sources in future.

Suzette Jackson is a director of Innate Ecology, working in strategic development, research and urban activation in city regeneration.

Regional Agribusiness Scan Survey

Farm

Ravens Creek Farm, Moriac

No matter what part of the food system you participate in we are all involved. Whether you produce, distribute, process or access food it is vital to all people, not just in quantity but the nutritional value that is obtained on a regular basis.

Regional Geelong has always been an amazing source of food, from the many food producing locations known by indigenous people to the crops and livestock raised over vast grazing lands and oceans rich with seafood.

Today the region is seeing an increase in sustainable farming practices to closed loop systems that reduce waste streams and chemical use. Some farmers have invested in diversified farming practices working with the ecosystem, while others employ biodynamic, organic and permaculture principles. The level of interest in greenhouse production, hydroponic and aquaponic systems is also on the rise.

Understanding the emerging trend in agribusiness is important for agribusiness growers, industry groups and leaders. Through mapping new and developing agribusiness projects in the region we develop greater regional cohesiveness and marketing, provide better support for changing industry needs and improve programmes for changing infrastructure or distribution in the regional food system.

This week the Regional Agribusiness Scan Survey opens for a two week period and we need, food producers, distributors, processors and retailers to connect regional Geelong agribusiness. Please click here to take the survey.

The Regional Agribusiness Scan Survey by Innate Ecology is undertaken on behalf of the Committee for Geelong, G21 Agribusiness Forum and Enterprise Geelong.

Developing Food Resilience

Moments occur in time that with hindsight can appear as an alternative path or as a spark of inspiration that if pursued can lead to opportunities and connections. Recent occasions have inspired this post the first in a series of food.

While many perceive urban food as individual backyard or community garden activity, urban and peri-urban agriculture is an emerging area of importance for local council and communities. In a recent presentation at The Making Liveable Cities Conference 2014, I was pleased to find myself  in a session focussed on food and food systems thinking.

My presentation on ‘Developing Food Resilience in Cities’ was followed by a presentation on the local region of Kiama, showcasing a range of regional food projects underway. The conference highlighted the shift in understanding of the importance of local food systems in the provision of social, economic and environmental benefits. In addition to the benefits of fresh food produce grown within urban areas there is a significant reduction in food miles (in contrast to mainstream distribution channels), greenhouse gas emissions, with strong social and economic potential promoting food production as a burgeoning career opportunity.

Grow, Cook, Swap, Shop - Local Food Map

This morning was another spark. I was at a breakfast for the (soft) launch of ‘Design for Hope’ a book on international restorative approaches by colleagues Dominique Hes and Chrishna Du Plessis (available Routledge Nov 2014). Conversation was diverse yet contained within the field of restorative and regenerative approaches to life and our cities. Topics ranged from biomimicry, ecosystem services, urban ecologies, urban food and water, regional opportunities and projects occurring.Many of the attendees while working in differing fields from marine biology through to facilitation and architecture, are working towards restorative – positive systems and services.

The ‘local food system’ is both a common thread and the lens for my conversations due to current research and consultation work in developing urban food systems and ecosystem services within an urban ecology (see Conference Presentations for upcoming talks). Previous urban community activation and local food mapping projects by Innate Ecology (see image) continue to build engagement with local food. Ultimately, food is a resource reliant on ‘conditions conducive to life’, relevant across all habitats and an issue when habitat pollution occurs.

I met with Stacey Chilcott of Green Collar Productions whom spoke eloquently of her passion for documenting issues relating to community and food sources. In particular her film on the Vidamour Farm and its conversion to a local community food production facility and Farmer Incubator here on the Mornington Peninsula is inspiring. So too is her film The Future of the Riveria Maya on the aquifers of Mexico and the issues of marine and freshwater pollution and local ecosystem impacts.

Local food systems incorporating urban, peri-urban and rural production, processing, distribution and access is an emerging area in research. Follow the Innate Ecology facebook page for frequent updates on food production and systems, urban ecologies, city planning and design related information and this blog for regional updates.

I hope this provides inspiration and connections for others working in this area.

Regards

Suzette Jackson