Scientific Seminar 14.10


The Scientific Seminar will facilitate an international science-policy-practice dialogue on the potential of forests, forestry and forest-based solutions to build sustainable and resilient cities as well as rural-urban sustainable interfaces. 

The Seminar will focus on the following key topics:

  • Holistic views on the future of cities and their role in leading sustainable change
  • Urban forests and trees in cities: environmental, social and human wellbeing
  • Wood based solutions for sustainable cities
  • Forests and forestry in the rural-urban interface
  • Challenges and opportunities in building a forest narrative for urbanised societies

 

For the first time in human history, globally, we have more people living in cities than in rural areas. Cities already account for more than 80% of global economic output, consume close to two-thirds of the world’s energy, and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every day our cities add around two hundred thousand people more, which explains that by 2050 more than two thirds of the global population will live in urban areas. Rural out-migration to urban areas and the urbanisation of lifestyles also beyond city borders is happening at record speed and on a scale the world has never experienced before, giving birth to what some scientists start calling the era of Urbanocene. This also means that cities represent at the same time our greatest challenges but also the greatest opportunities to transform our existing non-sustainable fossil based economy system towards a new economic paradigm where prosperity takes place within the renewable boundaries of our planet.  Such a new economic paradigm needs therefore to be based on the sustainable use of renewable energy but also renewable materials. It also needs to urgently address the past failure of our economy to value nature and recognise our natural capital as basis for economic prosperity. This require a new and synergistic relationship between economy and biology, as well as new and fair partnerships connecting rural and urban areas.

In this context, forests, forestry and forest based solutions have immense potential to become a key pillar for sustainable and resilient cities as well as key for connecting rural and urban areas through green infrastructures, the full spectrum of ecosystem services they can provide for urban societies, and sustainable value chains. The use of trees and forests in urban areas does not only support human health and wellbeing and are critical for urban biodiversity. They also reduce the energy needs for cooling and heating in buildings as well as the urban heat island effect. In addition, wood based solutions are key to replace in urban areas, non-renewable materials like plastics, steel or concrete by renewable bio-based solutions that reduce the urban carbon foot print.

However, forest managers are facing a growing paradox, when their work is becoming of unprecedented relevance to catalyse a paradigmatic economic transformation towards a circular bioeconomy that replaces the existing fossil economy, they are also experiencing an increasing social distrust to operate. The root causes are manifold, but the situation clearly requires new forest management approaches to integrate the increasing multiple demands on forests but also pro-active communication efforts by foresters, forest scientists and forestry authorities as basis for building an informed dialogue with relevant scientific communities, city policy-makers, urban planners, architects, NGOs, etc to build a better understanding of the role of forestry in the Urbanocene. Finally, a fluent science-media interface is crucial to create narratives that connect our rural and urban societies towards making possible the new circular bioeconomy paradigm.