By Alliance, 2007

Viewing cities as complex adaptive systems, a recent workshop of the Resilience Alliance held in 2005 in Gothenburg Sweden identified four main themes that were of particular significance for the resilience of urban systems and landscapes. These interconnected themes are presented in Figure 1. Our interest is in both the general resilience of an urban system as a whole, as well as the specific resilience of components of the urban system within each of these respective themes.

What this focus provides is a multi-level understanding of the resilience of urban systems which recognises the role of metabolic flows in sustaining urban functions, human well-being and quality of life; governance networks and the ability of society to learn, adapt and reorganise to meet urban challenges; and the social dynamics of people as citizens, members of communities, users of services, consumers of products, etc, and their relationship with the built environment which defines the physical patterns of urban form and their spatial relations and interconnections.

Metabolic flows

The message that emerges is that virtually every city and its urban landscape depend for its survival on an integrated global network of production, supply and consumption. This reliance on distant zones renders cities vulnerable to ecological change and geopolitical instability as well as the tyrannies of distance.  Without massive increases in material and energy efficiency, the present consumption patterns cannot be sustained.  But that alone is not enough – efficiency on its own can lead to declines in functional diversity.  Pathways of inflow and processing need to be able to cope with a variety of shocks.  Regional self-reliance and material recycling can foster resilience.

Social dynamics

People within cities take on a wide variety of roles, as citizens, members of various communities, users of services, consumers of products, and the list goes on.  Urban individuals and their interactions with urban landscapes as groups or communities are influenced by a set of cultural patterns referred to as the social order (Force and Machlis 1997).  The social order commonly includes three main mechanisms for ordering behaviour: personal identities (such as age or gender), norms (rules for behaving) and hierarchies (for example, wealth or power). Links between social order, the functioning of social systems, and stocks of social capital are beginning to emerge with implications for social dynamics and resilience. For instance, communities with dense social networks are thought to have greater capacity for both responding and adapting to environmental change. In recent years, several social commentators have reported on the erosion of civic engagement and mutual trust in urban areas (Frumkin 2002). For instance, Putnam (2000) argues in his book Bowling Alone that more time spent commuting to and from work in urban areas means less time with family and friends, and less time for engaging in community, resulting in increasing reductions of social capital.

What we also see in urban areas is considerable social stratification and inequity. Many housing developments these days are built to specific price ranges, creating income homogeneity within neighbourhoods, and fostering income inequality across metropolitan areas.  These patterns are reinforced or broken down by the dynamics of social composition, with residential neighbourhoods becoming gentrified or ghettoized, based on preferential difference among their populations. Often for very mild preferential bias, dramatic segregation can take place. This is good example of how cities restructure themselves with the result that cities often look more segregated around race and class than the attitudes of their residents suggest (Batty et al 2004). Collectively, these trends imply that certain features of urbanisation tend toward grater social stratification and declining social capital, resulting in systems vulnerable to shocks and surprise.

Governance networks

The challenges posed by the rapid pace of urbanisation and related impacts on the environment require networks and institutions that are able to capture and share knowledge in a transparent fashion, adapt to social – ecological changes, and build the capacity for long term observation, monitoring and perspective. The role of local, regional and international networks in defining common grounds on institutions and governance systems required for sustainable management of urban landscapes need to be better understood and utilised by various levels of governments. Governance and institutional structure need to increasingly take account of collaborative participatory approaches through development of arenas and adaptive co-management and community-managed areas, including the development of transdisciplinary academic initiatives.

Cities with good governance have mechanisms for redistributing services and benefits to large proportions on their population, such as water, energy, sewer, health, education, law and order. Without equitable mechanisms for effective redistribution, the urban poor and disadvantage, often tend to miss out.

Scale mismatch is often the source of maladapted land use decisions in urban landscapes. Competing or overlapping, jurisdictional between local, regional and national levels often leads to a lack of power or financial resources where and when they are most needed. When this occurs informal institutions are often left to provide the infrastructure needs of the poor and disadvantage.

The USA’s National Academy of Science’s Panel on Urban Population Dynamics has identified five key dimensions of urban governance – (1) capacity to provide adequate services, (2) ability to raise and mange sufficient financial revenue, (3) skill to deal with issues of urban diversity, fragmentation and inequality; (4) capacity to respond to rising urban security threats, and (5) the increasing complexity of authority and managing across jurisdictions (NRC 2003). Placing these dimensions within a resilience framework, our interest is how institutions and organisations are able to shift from rigid to more fluid and responsive patterns of governance.

Lessons from complex systems science suggest urban decision makers should become less concerned with prediction and control, and more concerned with organic, adaptable and flexible  urban management (Lister 1998) to be implemented in the spirit of experimentation and learning-by-doing (ICSU 2002, Felson and Pickett 2005). Unfortunately, few urban governments are equipped with the technical and managerial expertise they need to take on this new mode of governance. Urban decision-makers often have limited ability to influence the management of the foreign ecosystems on which their cities depend. Conversely some cities, especially those in developing countries, are pushing their environmental problems on others. Industrial relocation, a widely accepted strategy by Asian cities to address inner city environmental problems, is such an example.

Built Environment

Urban planning occurs within a political ideology that informs the decision making process of the time. Thus to a large extent, we live in ‘yesterday’s cities’ in the sense that many of the urban patterns we see today – roads, buildings, land ownership, etc – reflect decision making periods of the past.  As the prevailing ideology changes so does the planning of our cities.  Understanding the role of time and the way it conditions future urban options is a crucial part of urban resilience.

The spatial organisation of a city and its infrastructure is also important (Alberti et al 2003). For instance, the physical location of roads, railways, airports, etc, has a significant influence on the flow of commerce and people in and out of cities (Garmestani et al 2005). The spatial pattern of the built environment is created through both chance and necessity (Batten 2001).  Geographical endowments, transport possibilities, and economic prospects, all act to produce a locational landscape for attracting industry and employment to a city.  The amount of development required to support a given number of people will vary according to decisions on the density of housing, infrastructure requirements, and the influence of any biophysical or other constraints.

Urban planning can be thought of as an expression of hypotheses about the effects of urban planning and public health outcomes, but it would seem that in the face of the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and another so-called lifestyle diseases, that it is time to take a another look at the role of urban planning and its influence on the quality of human-environment interactions and impact on human well-being.

By analysing urban form, we suggest opportunities will arise for investigating new ways of changing the built environment in line with the changing needs and requirements of urban populations. This is not a quest to discover the utopian urban form, but rather a challenge to view urban areas as complex and dynamic spaces. Because the dynamics of cities are non-linear, their problems cannot be solved by linear planning methodologies. New innovative means of planning that deal with urban complexity are needed. The implications of such a focus are profound. Change is essential, adaptation is crucial, and the past is the past.

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Par Michel Lussault dans Territoires 2040 (2012)


En 2040, la dynamique de l’urbanisation mondiale aura abouti à la constitution d’un seul réseau « hyperpolisé » en France, caractérisé par la « coopétition » entre ses nœuds métropolitains. On définit ici la « coopétition » comme un mélange de compétition et de coopération entre les différents pôles. Ce réseau fera encore peu ou prou sens à l’échelle stato-nationale, ce qui signifie que les politiques d’État conserveront une certaine pertinence au regard des interventions des collectivités locales. Parmi celles-ci, les « métropoles », enfin dotées de véritables systèmes de gouvernance, l’emporteront sur les régions. Elles manifesteront une réelle capacité, sinon de contrôle, du moins d’orientation des grandes évolutions urbaines. Elles engageront une discussion directe avec les autorités européennes, sur les sujets relatifs notamment au développement soutenable et à la croissance économique, mais sans possibilité de court-circuiter les instances étatiques encore opérationnelles.


En 2040, on constatera en France une différentialisation territoriale forte (donc un maintien voire une accentuation des polarités) dans le cadre de la constitution de méga-régions polarisées par l’urbanisation métropolisante, appelées régiopoles. Ce mouvement puissant conduira à une recomposition du découpage régional national actuel. L’échelle stato-nationale deviendra une référence plus faible en matière de contrôle territorial (dotée, outre les activités de justice, de défense et de police, de fonction de régulation, d’évaluation et de production de normes législatives compatibles avec les règles européennes et mondiales). On constatera la constitution de quelques régions à dimension européenne (toutes avec des interfaces transfrontalières ou/et des façades maritimes), appuyées sur leur potentiel métropolitain et dotées d’instances fortes de gouvernement. Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nancy-Metz-Luxembourg seront les capitales de ces régiopoles. Toutes celles-ci s’appuient sur un réseau urbain métropolisé, centré sur leur capitale. Une réforme fiscale profonde donnera aux métropoles et aux régions de véritables capacités de collecte des ressources nécessaires aux politiques publiques. Ces régions puissantes seront dotées de véritables capacités d’intervention en matière de trans-port, de santé, d’enseignement, y compris supérieur, d’économie et de développement technologique et de gestion durable des territoires et de l’environnement. En cette dernière matière, les régions devront assurer la soutenabilité des modes d’organisation territoriale et assumer une fonction de régulateur de l’usage des ressources environnementales. C’est donc à cette échelle que se traitera politiquement la question de la vulnérabilité des espaces de vie.


En 2040, l’urbanisation et la mondialisation auront infusé l’intégralité du territoire national et les manifestations s’en feront sentir par-tout, sous la forme d’une périurbanisation généralisée. Il s’agit donc du scénario qui signe la « victoire » de la périphérisation la moins dense sur la centration et la généralisation du principe de la diffusion, conçue à la fois comme un principe d’évolution et une forme urbaine, valable à toutes les échelles en même temps.

Toutefois, la centralité sera maintenue a minima comme système spatial fonctionnel (doté d’une certaine capacité de fixer des images urbaines et des imaginaires sociaux positifs), mais ses géographies évolueront (périphérisation et spécialisation sociale et fonctionnelle des centres). Des effets d’agrégations continueront d’exister, mais seront atténués par les logiques d’étalement accentuées et de différentiation désormais focalisées sur les micro-échelles. Il existera donc encore un gradient de métropolisation (0=>max), la valeur maximale restant méta-stable par rapport à la situation actuelle et la moyenne tendant à diminuer du fait de la diffusion.

Des politiques très ciblées d’affirmation de quelques lieux de centralité principaux ainsi que des effets d’organisation des grands servi-ces collectifs régulés par la puissance publique seront conservés, mais celle-ci contribuera aussi à nourrir la diffusion et à légitimer les logiques de séparation spatiale des groupes sociaux qui se cristallisent notamment dans la géographie du logement, le pavillonnaire restant le modèle dominant, bien que modifié dans ses formes par les exigences environnementales.

Dans l’ensemble, la ségrégation s’accentuera, à mesure que les processus de postpolisation s’affirmeront, qui conduiront à une focalisation des sociétés sur les territoires infra-locaux de résidence et de voisinage. Les quartiers résidentiels des secteurs les plus denses connaîtront souvent un mouvement de dégradation, voire de paupérisation. On notera néanmoins le maintien de quelques secteurs emblématiques : ceux de l’entre-soi de groupes sociaux dominants, ceux de la gentrification qui restent prisés par les catégories moyennes supérieures à forts capitaux culturels.


En 2040, l’évolution urbaine (évolution démographique, choix des individus, arbitrages des politiques publiques, évolution des systèmes de production, etc.) tendra à affaiblir significativement les effets de la polarisation des territoires au profit d’une organisation spatiale très peu hiérarchisée distribuant les réalités selon un principe généralisé de faible densité. Dans ce cadre, et contrairement au scénario 3, les centralités ne seront plus fonctionnellement importantes, ni référentielles des pratiques sociales, des imaginaires territoriaux et des actions politiques.

On assistera ainsi à de véritables déprises de centralités et de périmètres denses. Il pourra néanmoins toujours exister des effets d’agrégation – parfois répulsifs, comme dans le cas de la concentration en un même espace des groupes sociaux démunis – et subsisteront des commutateurs mobilitaires. Ceux-ci tendront à devenir des hyper-lieux paradoxaux ; paradoxaux dans la mesure où ils drainent individus, données et marchandises, mais qui ne passent là que pour mieux esquiver les autres contraintes quotidiennes de l’agrégation métropolitaine.

Les acteurs sociaux tendront à privilégier les stratégies de décrochage et de rupture avec les espaces et les services collectifs, au profit de nouvelles régulations infra-locales et d’une focalisation sur la cellule domestique, qui dans l’idéal se conçoit comme quasi autosuffisante. Un phénomène qui sera accompagné au départ par des politiques publiques et des acteurs institutionnels qui seront ensuite marginalisés et court-circuités par l’évolution qu’ils avaient contribué à justifier. La dépolisation sera susceptible d’aller de pair avec l’insertion dans des réseaux mondiaux car l’économie permettra d’en jouir et d’y participer sans mettre en avant les appartenances territoriales, mais en privilégiant les liens labiles des réseaux sociaux médiatisés par les instruments communicationnels. Ce mouvement pourra conduire à des attachements identitaires des individus à un réseau et/ou des ressaisissements des espaces communautaires et/ou des replis et des « insularisations ».

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By EC. Collaborative project integrated by European Centre for Nature Conservation, Landbouw-Economisch Instituut, Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung e.V (ZALF), Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde e.V (IfL) and Central European University (CEU), 2006

Baseline scenario

This scenario is based on the continuation of the trends in exogenous drivers, and assumes the development of agricultural and rural policy according to current policy objectives, including the successful outcome of the Doha Round negotiations.

Regionalisation scenario

Regionalisation is a policy framework which refers to the possibility that, in the absence of a successful conclusion of the Doha Round, then not only will further bilateral and multi-lateral negotiations will continue but also at the same time more encouragement will be given to promoting the production of commodities in the internal market. 

Liberalisation scenario

Liberalisation – also a policy framework – implies that the current context of moving towards more open markets at the international level will be strengthened. In this scenario, all forms of market and trade policies and income support – that are related to agricultural commodity production – will be  abolished in the EU and the rest of the world.

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By Peter H. Verburg, Derek B. van Berkel , Anne M. van Doorn, Michiel van Eupen,Harm A. R. M. van den Heiligenberg, 2008

Global Economy scenario

The Global Economy scenario (A1) describes a world with less government intervention and fewer borders in comparison with today. Trade barriers are removed and there is an open flow of capital, people and goods, leading to rapid economic growth. Strong technological development will increase agricultural productivity. The role of the government is very limited and nature/environmental problems are not seen as a priority for legislation. Therefore, no targets are specified for biofuel production/consumption. Urbanisation is highest in the Global Economy scenario but concentrated in a small number of regions. Despite these overall trends it is clear that large regional differences occur.

Continental Markets scenario

The Continental Markets scenario (A2) depicts a world of divided regional blocks in which each block is striving for self sufficiency, in order to be less reliant on other blocks. Agricultural trade barriers and support mechanisms continue to exist. A minimum of government intervention is preferred, resulting in loosely interpreted directives and regulations. Also in this scenario no assumptions are made with respect to policies concerning biofuels.The Continental Market scenario shows large areas with expansion of agricultural area in order to meet the food, feed and fuel demands under conditions of high border protection combined with strong economic growth in Europe.

Global Cooperation scenario

The Global Cooperation scenario (B1) represents different dynamics of land use. This scenario depicts a world of successful international cooperation aimed at reducing poverty and environmental problems. Trade barriers will be removed while governance aims at protecting the cultural and natural heritage values. A 5.75% blending obligation on the share of biofuels in the transport sector is assumed from 2010 onward.

Regional Communities scenario

People are assumed to have a strong focus on their local and regional community and prefer locally produced food in the Regional Communities scenario (B2). Agricultural policy is assumed to aim at self sufficiency and ecological stewardship is important. Strong government interventions through restrictions, spatial planning and incentives to maintain small scale agriculture are characteristic for this scenario. At the same time a 5.75% blending obligation on  the share of biofuels in the transport sector is assumed.The Continental Market scenario shows large areas with expansion of agricultural area in order to meet the food, feed and fuel demands under conditions of high border protection combined with strong economic growth in Europe.

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