The URBES project and Resilient Cities in Bonn

Is about to begin, during these days in Bonn, the annual Congress of ICLEI “Resilient Cities.” Anticipating the congress, for two days there were some workshops. That, on the one hand, have introduced the Participants to the conference itself, on the other hand, have illustrated the major European project’s theme: URBES.


URBES, starting a few years ago in collaboration with the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Stockolm Resilience Institute, is going to finish, bearing its important results. Essentially it concerns the renewed interest in the nature that regenerates urbanity. Thru theoretical vision of “ecosystem services” cities are made more resilient, by dialogue with nature; and then the biodiversity is protected. The workshop’s participants were asked to match a word or two versus the biodiversity’s concept.
The “Biodiversity” brings to the mind the ecosystems’ health. Without this condition, there is a vulnerability and lack of resilience, and, therefore, the need for landscape and ecological functions’ restoration that ensure the persistence itself of the nature. What are the “ecosystem services”? They are the benefits that the environment, in the form of ecosystems, gives to men. They are quantifiable from the economic theory of the Natural Capital. It follows that the “ecosystem approach” is a strategy for delivering the sustainable management of ecosystems. That balances the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use and equitable sharing of its components. So here we come to the relationship ecology- development or “conservation or territories’ development ” ? Often they seem to be in conflict, but as this project is showing on some major European cities ( Berlin, Barcelona, Brussels, etc. .. ) the biodiversity’s conservation is the basis for the resilience of the city, an essential component for the sustainability of our development, also fair to the intergenerational scale. Resilience is the opposite of vulnerability. It is the resistance that systems, such as cities, oppose to change, their ability to adapt and to self-generating. The creator of URBES, present in Bonn to explain his ideas, proposed solutions to the crisis on a global scale, which relate to the phenomenon of urbanization, in which cities are the sources of environmental impacts and at the same time centers of ecosystem services’ demand. The first solution is that resilience and sustainability are complementary each other. While the sustainability tends to standardizing ( to achieve a fair development also to future generations) the resilience is systemic. Yeah, but how do you will provide the system with this resilience’s attribute if you do not standardize before? The second solution found is therefore to extend the resilience of ecosystems on a large scale, and not only localize the cities. Therefore, considering the city’s dependence from even distant ecosystems. The next step involves recognizing that scale’s transformation at lower levels are often necessary to maintain resilience on a larger scale. So even small projects such as the restoration of canals and wetlands may contribute to resilience in the larger scale. An example is the restoration of Berlin -Tempelhof airport into an urban green area of more than 300 hectares, where recreations spaces for tourists and inhabitants result from biodiversity’s conservation. The second example is the magnificent urban park, at a short walking distance from the conference venue, that has been created where there were a number of abandoned lands.

Carolina Collaro

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