Welcome 2021 – a fresh new start!

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Goodbye 2020, welcome 2021

Without doubt, 2020 was a challenging year for all of us. Equally, the challenges came with a silver lining. Every challenge, personal or collective, is an opportunity to become more resilient and to identify what truly matters to us as individuals and communities. Paradoxically, our hyperconnected world has reminded us how much place matters. We have seen how the covid crisis has reinforced existing spatial inequalities in the societies we live in. More than ever, spatial planning plays a tremendous role in shaping the places, spaces, communities and ecosystems that matter to us.

May 2021 be the year communities worldwide join forces to make territories more collaborative, peaceful, joyful and harmonious for both people and planet! Make this spirit of joy and collaboration touch us both individually at a deep level, and collectively at a global scale. And may you keep safe, healthy and resourceful even as social restrictions and lockdowns come and go over the coming months.

Learning to make the best of suboptimal circumstance… Impromptu balcony concert in West Leipzig, during Coronavirus pandemic (June 2020). Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

A great place to start is the recent YA webinar about ‘Early-career phase for young planning researchers‘ hosted by Rozana Darwich, with great input from Prof. Alessandro Balducci (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Dr. Beatrix Haselsberger (Ingenieurbüro für Mensch, Raum und Umwelt, Austria), and Dr. Christopher Maidment (University of Reading, UK).

As we all look forward to a more promising year, we can respond to John Forester’s recent call to embrace an ethics of kindness in spatial planning. Kindness, as a matter of profession and concern, would enable to provide a “practical response to the suffering or vulnerability of another”. A renewed focus on kindness would therefore help go beyond a sheer focus on ‘justice’, as justice alone can be colder and, ironically, less engaged, although also necessary. The more depressed or resentful we might feel about the current state of affairs, the greater the potential for solidarity and effective transformation.

Collaboration and collective efforts will be key. As Sir David Attenborough and IPCC scientists repeatedly remind us, we don’t have much time before Mother Nature reminds us who the boss really is on this precious blue planet. Given the chance, socio-ecological systems turn out to be incredibly resilient and can recover from trauma before critical tipping points are reached. The grim, extreme case of Chernobyl provides surprising evidence that, despite all odds, wilderness and wildlife are claiming back a large territory that will long remain inhabitable to humans.

The decade is still young and provides us spatial planners with a unique window of opportunity to give the Earth our very best shot. There are already plenty of initiatives to learn from. For example, one can cite the ambition of Freetown city council (Sierra Leone) to plant and nurture 1 million trees over a four year period to help restore vital ecosystems and help fight climate change locally.

The historic Cotton Tree in Freetown, Sierre Leone. This giant grandparent will soon witness 1 million young trees come to life across the city Picture by Kenny Lynch on Flickr.

Your blog in 2021

In these challenging times, the blog of the AESOP Young Academics remains yours to sustain and feed the AESOP community with your experience, thoughts and dreams about how spatial planning contributes to shaping places and spaces (for better or worse). By sharing on the YA blog, you help ensure the community thrives and flourishes. It goes without saying that you will also increase the impact and dissemination of your work with thousands of spatial planners and activists worldwide.

Particularly, as the EU Climate Pact kicks in and the UN COP 26 climate change conference is due to meet in Glasgow in November 2021, do share much-needed insight about the pivotal role of spatial planning in making our communities more resilient, inclusive and harmonious for both people and planet.

Do share your work, reflections, and dreams in the form of blog posts, artwork, podcasts, video abstracts or other engaging formats with: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net.

Here are some basic guidelines and ideas about how and what to share.

Looking forward to publishing your work on the YA blog in 2021!

Picture by Markus on Pexels

About Ian Babelon

Ian Babelon is a PhD candidate at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. His work focuses on the topic of online community engagement in urban planning. Do tweet and bounce ideas with him @IanBabelon. Actively looking to create opportunities for research collaboration and applied research in participatory spatial planning.
This entry was posted in Beyond planning, Blogging, Climate change, Community engagement, Disaster management, Ecology, Planning, city, and society, Resilience, The YA network, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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