Searching for spatial sustainability: one goal, multiple paths

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Sustainability " has been a prominent goal in environmental planning over the past 30 years, especially in rural regions. Planning scholars and practitioners have contributed to this trend by proposing, developing and implementing frameworks for spatial development that aim to facilitate human economic and social development, while mitigating or even reversing the environmental damage associated to development. A broad diversity of frameworks has been developed, and they have both unique and overlapping features. This work explores the myriad ways in which planners understand sustainability and how they implement it at various spatial scales. Drawing from the theoretical and professional literature and from case studies around the world, we develop a classification system for spatial sustainability frameworks based on three scales of aggregation: typologies (the most general category), models and individual case studies. We develop five axes that define the prominent differences in characteristics of spatial sustainability framework typologies. These are: 1) the " top-down – bottom-up " axis, defining who initiates and maintains the initiative; 2) the " ecology – socioeconomic " axis, defining the disciplinary approach that determines relative importance of the various priorities; 3) the " subject-specific – holistic " axis, defining the focal object/s of the initiative; 4) the " local – regional " axis, defining the spatial scale of the initiative; and 5) Urban or open space orientation. We suggest that the axes of comparison can assist communities to define and implement their spatial planning goals, while addressing diverse and sometimes competing interests, and conclude by discussing implications for planners. In particular, sustainability planning can be tailored according to the particularities of the socio-ecological system.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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