IOER Conference 2024

Space & Transformation: Living in Harmony with Nature

25 to 27 September 2024 at Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden, Germany


1. Positive visions of a good life that inspire and motivate individual and collective actors in spatial development

Global urbanisation is a particular cause of the increasing alienation of humans from non-human nature, along with technologicalisation and digitalisation. Discourses within political debates as well as the media and environmental protection movements paint dystopian futures that will result from dwindling relationships between humans and nature where climate change and the mass extinction of animals, plants and ecosystems go hand in hand with the extinction of humankind. The question here is: How can we create positive urban and regional visions that enable us to understand the urgently required shift towards sustainability not as some kind of renunciation or a restriction in freedom but as one essential aspect of a good life? Which discourses allow us to view nature as an equal partner so that we respect her limits? Which leverage points and actors need to be addressed in order to integrate resonant human-nature relationships into our everyday actions? What role is played by inner shifts and changes in our values, beliefs and worldviews that currently divide us from nature?

2. Strategies and tools for transformative governance, planning, innovation and revitalisation

Nature is an indispensable factor to be considered if we wish cities and regions to continue to be liveable and just places in the future. It is equally crucial to adapt to climate change, to promote climate-neutral living, to enable contact with and experience of nature and ultimately to offer public open spaces that are inclusive and foster a sense of community. Yet there are various challenges to the regeneration, preservation and promotion of nature, particularly in existing urban areas: Transformative policy, planning and management approaches are needed to resolve tensions between competing forms of land use as well as ownership and land availability, to fill funding gaps and to reconcile divergent options for utilisation. How can urban nature be enhanced in the revitalization of existing urban fabrics and building stock despite demands for redensification and while observing laws to protect the built heritage and resolving conflicts of use? How can urban nature become part of a wide-ranging understanding of our civic (built) culture? What role do nature conservation and environmental protection play in promoting as well as restricting usable urban nature? Which governance models are needed to ensure and realise permanent and binding shared responsibility for urban nature between the public and private sector as well as civil society?

3. Complex spatial analyses, indicators, models and simulations

Transformation towards sustainability is closely linked to spatial structures and processes that require tools for informed decision-making such as spatial indicators, analyses, models, simulations and other techniques. Among other things, there is a need to overcome the challenge of competing forms of land use while recognising the role of property and striving to preserve the biosphere. How can diverging interests in land use and spatial structures be reconciled and what solutions are available for aligning a sustainable development of e.g. settlements, energy and food systems? How can data-driven and data-based approaches help to provide the required systems-, target- and transformation knowledge? How can they ensure to match stakeholders’ information needs and interaction forms to support collective decision making for transformative change? What are crucial gaps in data or methods to address complex interactions, goal conflicts and trade-offs regarding e.g. climate neutrality, biodiversity, circularity and resilience?

4. Circularity and resilience in building and settlement development

In view of the grand challenges that the social-ecological crisis implies for a sustainable building and settlement development the concepts of circularity and resilience have received growing attention and may offer effective responses. On the one hand, circularity is rooted in the use of existing anthropogenic materials while minimising the consumption of natural resources. On the other hand, resilience strategies and measures, are intended to address challenges such as climate change and to strengthen the robustness of places in the face of natural disasters and social challenges. What approaches are suited to assess and implement these two concepts respectively in spatial development practice? And how can circularity and resilience be achieved simultaneously? Which conflicts and synergies may arise due to the different objectives of the two concepts– for nature and with nature? What methods and concepts can help to mitigate such conflicts and strengthen synergies?

5. Regeneration of ecosystems and biodiversity as well as nature-based solutions

Around the world, landscapes, ecosystems and biodiversity are under pressure due to the spatial utilisation of land. Landscapes are facing fundamental changes as renewable energy sectors undergo expansion. Ecosystems and their services are becoming degraded. Globally, however, the burden of destruction is unevenly distributed: The Global South is disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change, especially considering its lower share of emissions compared to other regions in the world. More than one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a drastic and salutary lesson on how closely interwoven a healthy life is with healthy ecosystems. So what needs to be done to once again live in harmony with nature and recognise that our resource-intensive lifestyles and economies are not only destroying ecosystems and species but also our own livelihoods? What do balanced landscape scenarios look like? How can ecosystems be restored and protected in line with Targets 2 and 3 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity? How can we achieve a biodiversity net gain, i.e. an expansion (Nature Positive) in habitats for biological diversity in order to reverse the trend of species extinction? And how can especially nature-based solutions help in this?

6. Open Topic

Contributions aligned with the basic theme of the conference but which cannot be assigned to one of the specific topics can be submitted here.