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Spatial metabolism modeling of sustainability, resilience, and justice tradeoffs: The case of urban agriculture

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
December 12, 2022

Human experience of social-ecological changes is governed by interdependent infrastructures that regulate food, energy, and water flows, among others. Yet, research and practice struggle to integrate these multi-sectoral dynamics of infrastructures and their governing institutions. In this work, we apply a novel spatial metabolism modeling framework to urban agriculture (UA) as a case study for the sorts of resource provisioning ripple effects we can expect to see in infrastructures adapting to climate change and urbanization. UA is widely discussed as a key intervention for urban sustainability, resilience, and justice, however its multi-sectoral effects - food provision, community cohesion, water consumption, and more - have proven difficult to assess at city-wide scales. Furthermore, many UA services (e.g., mental health benefits) and disservices (e.g., green gentrification) are localized to neighborhoods which host UA sites, making equitable distribution particularly important. Research to-date has largely struggled to characterize the spatialized effects of UA expansion on urban material and social flows (i.e., spatial metabolism). In this work, we address this limitation by combining UA citizen-science data from a cohort of cities across the US and Europe using a spatial multi-criteria analysis framework. Results indicate that sustainability, resilience, and justice effects of UA will vary by context, as the scaling potential of UA is highly dependent on the existing social and biophysical environment of each city. This work is the first to apply a spatial metabolism lens to UA in a multi-country context and demonstrates the importance of accounting for multi-sectoral dynamics in local food system planning as well as the utility of a metabolism lens for understanding multi-sectoral benefits and tradeoffs in the context of infrastructure adaptation.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Publication Type
Conference Proceeding
Full Citation

Hawes, J., Gounaridis, D., Newell, J., Goldstein, B. P., and Limerick, S., “Spatial metabolism modeling of sustainability, resilience, and justice tradeoffs: The case of urban agriculture”, vol. 2022, 2022. CSS22-39