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Urban & Rural Systems and Sustainability

MESS35, 10 credits

The overall objective of the Urban and Rural course is threefold.

  • First, it aims to give students an understanding of the distinctive features of urban and rural systems and the feedbacks between these systems (systems-thinking competence).
  • Secondly, it shows the linkages between the identified urban/rural features and current sustainability challenges, such as increasing risk caused by climate change, disasters, diseases, and food or water insecurity (systems-thinking and anticipatory competence).
  • Thirdly, it focuses on how the identified urban/rural features need to be considered in the design and implementation of activities for creating more sustainable and resilient communities (normative and strategic competence). Emphasis is on providing concrete planning tools, measures, and hands-on practice, which includes a study visit to relevant sites.

The course is divided into building blocks.

  • It first presents key issues and tendencies in urban and rural development on an international scale. Topics include global land use changes, agriculture, forestry, grazing, urbanisation trends, and the differences and linkages between urban and rural systems.
  • The complex interconnections between built systems and environmental, socio-cultural, economic, and political factors are highlighted. On this basis, key sustainability challenges faced by urban and rural communities, and how they are linked to urban-rural differences, are discussed.
  • Thirdly, the course covers space-related theories, concepts and tools relevant for the planning of (more) resilient communities. The focus here is on climate-resilient and disaster-proof adaptation planning for achieving sustainable urban/rural transformation. The students are also introduced to Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
  • Finally, concrete and hands-on planning practices are studied. Predominant approaches to adaptation planning in urban and rural contexts are discussed and their differences analysed. Related topics can, for instance, include top-down and bottom-up approaches, urban-rural networks, as well as differences in approaches coming from the so-called ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’.

Literature lits

Literature list, established 2022-02-04 PDF (390 kB)

Note: From the spring of 2023, this course will be replaced by MESS23 Geographies of Sustainability, 7.5 credits.