How to rewild our cities through new urban and human landscapes, under discussion at the SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS FORUM, FSMS 2018
On 10 January 2018, the third Laboratory of the Environment and Sustainability Forum, FSMS, was held at the Feria de Madrid. The FSMS will provide the framework for Madrid’s third Cities Forum, to be held between 13 and 15 June 2018 at the Feria de Madrid.
The event is organised by IFEMA. These laboratories, held behind closed doors by experts focusing on a particular topic, are spaces for discussion and exchange of ideas that enable roadmaps to be shared among the various participating organisations.
The third FSMS Laboratory, linked thematically to Madrid’s Cities Forum, will address the issue of rewilding cities, green infrastructures and a new view of the contribution of natural ecosystems to citizens' quality of life and the improvement of urban environments. The 2018 Cities Forum will devote a large part of its programming to this topic. A new meeting space has been created, under the name TECMA VERDE-NATURAL CITY, for organisations, businesses and public administrations working on urban rewilding, new models of green space management and development of healthier and more habitable environments.
The event was attended by (see photo, standing from left to right): Alberto Sanz, lecturer at the Polytechnic University of Madrid’s School of Agricultural, Food and Biosystems Engineering, and Valentina Oquendo, researcher in new technologies for vegetation-based cladding and its energy performance (both representing the Centre for Innovation in Technology for Human Development, Itd-UPM); Toni Ibáñez (Urban Kitchen Garden in Alameda de Osuna, Madrid, part of the Network of Urban Kitchen Gardens); Lola González, Director of the FSMS; Núria Bautista, Technical Advisor for the Directorate-General for Water Management and Green Spaces at the Department of the Environment and Mobility of Madrid City Council; Iñaki Viñuela, member of the Executive Committee of the Spanish Association of Landscapers, AEP; Jorge Sánchez-Cruzado, from Altekio Initiatives for Sustainability; and Beatriz Perez, Commercial Manager of TECMA. Also attending were (seated, from left to right): David Alba, from Grupo Transitando; Eduardo Fisbein (40 Fanegas and Fantasma Kitchen Gardens, both in Chamartín, Madrid, part of the Network of Urban Kitchen Gardens); Ana Luengo, Vice-president of the Spanish Association of Public Parks and Gardens, AEPJP; and Francisco Javier Sigüenza, General Secretary of the Spanish Association of Parks and Gardens Companies, ASEJA.
The new outlook for the management of nature in cities goes far beyond what has to date been termed green space maintenance, and which is also often the recipient of one of the most meagre municipal budgets. Faced with the challenge of understanding and approaching urban nature from alternative perspectives, this FSMS Laboratory generated numerous ideas and approaches to the paradigm shift, addressing both critical issues (e.g. air quality and resilience to climate change) and those demanded by the public, whose engagement is essential in supporting and undertaking the green transformation of cities.
One of the most significant conclusions to emerge from the Laboratory was that, due to its complexity, urban nature needs to be understood as an investment rather than an expense, since it provides ecosystem services which are beneficial for the urban environment and the public. It also needs to be worked on (and understood) with a long-term strategic view that transcends changes in local governments or political leaders. Both new and existing urban landscapes and green infrastructures compel public managers and private companies to understand urban nature as another integral element of the city, interconnected with other elements such as mobility, energy consumption, management of critical resources such as water and the quality of public spaces and civic participation, to mention just a few. And to these, we should add the use of available technology to improve process efficiency and the benefits and impetus which rewilding can provide in the field of social innovation. While it is crucial, the perspective of engineering is not sufficient on its own to design and provide natural capital for our cities, where more than 21 types of green spaces can be identified; other complementary and supplementary viewpoints are necessary, including those from sociology, communications, environmental education, landscaping, urban agriculture and ecology.
Given this diversity of spaces and disciplines, some very different approaches to the proposed topic emerged during the FSMS Laboratory discussion. Francisco Javier Sigüenza, representing ASEJA, pointed out the value provided by companies working with municipalities to manage and maintain green spaces. In 2018, his organisation will sign a partnership agreement with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces to carry out an in-depth study on the management of urban green infrastructures, a project that will add to the joint work of the AEPJP and the Network of Local Governments for Biodiversity on the analysis of the conservation of green infrastructure in Spanish cities. Sigüenza, alongside other participants, also referred to the fact that municipal budgets for green space management tend to be the scantest. ‘All too often, green spaces are not considered a public service, which makes it difficult over the long term to make the necessary investments and create the necessary legal frameworks that enable improvement in this direction. In this regard, there will be significant changes in light of the recently approved Law on Public Sector Contracts,’ said the ASEJA representative.
The idea that we are undergoing a time of change is shared by Ana Luengo, Vice-president of AEPJP. In recent years, urban nature and landscape have played a more important role in the design of cities, and the importance of concepts such as biophilic cities, which generate life on a daily basis, has been incorporated and embraced. ‘I believe that a global vision of what we now understand as 'green' with respect to cities is beginning to coalesce, because urban design changes with the times - for example the understanding of centre and periphery and the relationship between them has changed - and because we now see that green infrastructures allow us to understand the city as a complex and living system. Investing in urban nature is investing in health and quality of life,’ said Luengo.
In the same vein as Luengo’s comment, one of the most notable elements of education, discovery and rewilding in Spanish cities is the growth of urban kitchen gardens. ‘Urban kitchen gardens are not so much the physical space they occupy as the people who work on them and make them possible, because these spaces spark neighbourly conversation and social responsibility about the city. And this does not hold for all rewilding actions in cities; there are cases where action is taken in the physical space, but there is no corresponding impact on people nor social transformation,’ said Eduardo Fisbein, from Madrid’s Network of Urban Kitchen Gardens.
Due to these new demands for greener cities, landscapers are finally taking a leading role in urban projects. Iñaki Viñuela, representing the ASP, underlined this fact, pointing out that landscapers provide a more comprehensive viewpoint, because they do not approach their work solely from the standpoint of sustainability, but also consider the relationship of each project with its environment, with mobility, with water requirements, with public spaces, with street furniture, with lighting and so on. ‘The work of urban landscapers should always be included in projects undertaken by both public administrations and private companies, in order to update techniques that should be changed but are still being used today, including pruning and irrigation systems and species planting. Landscapers need to be incorporated into the management of cities, but at the same time, we also need to make our work more understandable and approachable to the public, so that they can understand what we do and why our vision is always needed,’ said Viñuela.
One specific example of how the viewpoint on urban nature can be shifted was shared with the FSMS Laboratory by Nuria Bautista, from Madrid City Council, focusing on the development of the new Strategic Plan for Green Spaces, Street Trees and Biodiversity, whose purpose is to provide a roadmap over the long term, including legal provisions and new approaches to managing urban nature in the capital. ‘The new Plan takes a comprehensive view of nature in the city of Madrid as an urban ecosystem and aims to promote the value of green infrastructures, providing suitable budgetary allocations, encouraging citizen participation, and treating them as a basic service that is as necessary as cleanliness and sanitation,’ said Nuria Bautista, who also emphasised the need to update regulations in line with the real demands of today’s cities, as well as the advisability of incorporating professionals from other disciplines, such as sociologists, ecologists and communicators, into these processes of change.
Knowledge management and the opening up of universities to society were the approaches taken by the two representatives of Itd-UPM. While Alberto Sanz suggested that urban nature and agriculture are ideal ways to generate communication and debate while social innovation and technology are being applied and processes for measuring solutions are being developed (climate change, energy, environmental benefits, etc.), Valentina Oquendo outlined a specific project under development, called ‘Lugo + biodynamic’. The project involves an area on the peripheries of Galicia’s capital city, using a model of urban resilience to create a multi-ecological neighbourhood.
Today’s broken relationship between city and land was one of the points made by Jorge Sánchez-Cruzado, from Altekio, who also suggested that insufficient value is assigned to the services provided to cities by natural ecosystems, which provide everything necessary for survival. ‘We need to connect urban services to natural cycles, learning from biomimetics and analysing consumption in the city and its impacts on the environment. This is not bringing the city to nature, but bringing nature to the city, putting an end to 'nature deficit syndrome' through a collective transformation in our way of understanding urban greening (involving public administrations, local communities, companies and non-profit entities) and restoring public spaces and their ecosystems and uses,’ said Sánchez-Cruzado.
David Alba, from Grupo Transitando, rounded out Sánchez-Cruzado’s vision, maintaining that it is necessary to have an overview whose ultimate goal is human development in line with the principles of urban ecology. ‘It is important to understand the city as a living ecosystem that needs to increase its self-sufficiency, as well as to truly value green infrastructures and their contributions to aspects such as human health, quality of life and human relations within cities. For this reason, it is crucial to work from the ground up, leaving behind traditional models and developing new formulas, like the ‘superblocks’ project in Barcelona and the urban kitchen garden networks,’ said Alba.
To date, there have been three FSMS Laboratories: ‘Corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability in organisations’, ‘The circular economy: 20 years of waste management’ and ‘Rewilding cities and new management for green infrastructures’. Overall, 22 organisations have participated in these events.
Madrid’s third Cities Forum in 2018 will have a specific space for discussion on the future of rewilding cities and new management for green infrastructures, which will include the participation of the entities involved in this Laboratory, as well as representatives of a dozen Spanish and Latin American cities, and other organisations working in this field.
The third ENVIRONMENTAL AND SUSTAINABILITY FORUM, FSMS, organised by IFEMA, to be held between 13 and 15 June 2018 at Feria de Madrid, will host more than 15 events including fairs, exhibitions, conferences, forums and seminars. FSMS has already established itself as a benchmark in the field of environmental sustainability, innovation and eco-efficiency for the various sectors involved, which include urban environmental services, waste recovery and recycling, city management, professional cleaning services and environmental quality, and all of which are integrated into the green, circular economy.
FSMS 2018 includes: the 19th International Town Planning and Environment Trade Fair, TECMA; Madrid’s 3rd Cities Forum; the 6th International Recovery and Recycling Trade Fair, SRR; and the 3rd Conference on Professional Hygiene and Cleaning, ESCLEAN.
TECMA; #TECMA; Website: http://www.ifema.es/tecma_01
ESCLEAN; #ESCLEAN; Website: http://www.ifema.es/esclean_01
FORO DE LAS CIUDADES MADRID; #FOROCIUDADESMADRID