The global resources consumption has overshot the capacity of the ecosystems to produce and process what is required by our cities and hinterlands. Recent research and literature alerts us to the consideration that the future urbanisation needs of Africa will be coupled with global resource constraints, climate change impacts and extreme weather events. Thus there is a need to decouple development and growth and rethink our design parameters to address a changing world.
Regenerative systems design of cities thus seeks to create conditions to create adaptive conditions that regenerate the environmental and ecological matrix that all living beings depend on. Projects at a significant city scale provide an opportunity to stretch towards creating a new balance of ecosystem services, resilient communities and a reconnection of people to nature. Compact city making has to be balanced with ecosystem regenerating infrastructure and urban services and productivity.
The concept of regenerative city-making is a fundamental concept underlying our approach and how we apply it in an African context using the Wescape pilot project in Cape Town, as an example.
e c.n.Regenerative design and development is a body of work that addresses the opportunity to optimise the productive and regenerative potential of well managed urban ecologies. This can be achieved through closing the loops of materials and resources that flow through a city and cascading them through many more designed cycles of beneficial use, that in turn structure urban ecologies and space making. Among others, this work is demonstrated through the efforts of the Regenesis Group, the Zeri Foundation, Herbet Giradet’s work through the Cities Commission for “Regenerative Cities” for the World Future Council and HafenCity University, Hamburg (HCU) Commission on Cities and Climate Change; and many other agencies and professional practices.3
At the same time we are aware that cities in Africa are in a state of crisis at many levels. The after effects of colonisation, rampant urbanisation and the subsequent growth of informal settlements, growing inequalities, weak administration and unemployment and all the negative consequences that follow from these phenomena are creating and reproducing societies that are fractured.
The extent of social breakdown that has occurred in African urban settings is reflected in increases in; crime, family structure break down, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy increase, youth radicalisation, sexual and physical abuse and the marginalisation of the poor. Wealthy residents hide behind walls and gated enclaves, while poor inhabitants in urban areas have fewer social safety nets available to adapt to crises and disasters that may occur.
The communiTgrow approach regenerates the ecosystem services within and around the City’s boundaries. Regenerative development theory sees humans, human developments, social structures and cultural concerns as an inherent part of ecosystems. communiTgrow’s understanding of regenerative design, however, extends far beyond the biophysical realm, and addresses not just developmental and social agendas, but seeks to actualise the healing of society as fundamental to regeneration. Regeneration is about creating a context that nurtures an alternative future, one based on understanding equity, accountability, commitment and adaptation.
This is an evolutionary approach, one that evolves over time and through changing of mindsets. Regenerative development starts with the current context, but works from an understanding of place and people, whose self-organisation is the basis for evolutionary behaviour, and whose potential can be realised if avenues for development are opened up. This regeneration can be achieved through structures, controls and functions that guide the practical steps that support the transition from current conditions to the preferred reality namely cities for our common future that support communities with capacities to thrive and flourish.
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