25 March 2013

Continuum of Urbanity AND Urban-Rural Continuum

The continuum of urbanity, also called the urban-rural continuum, is a conceptual framework that emphasizes that rural and urban areas, traditionally considered to be distinct and physically separate are now and will increasingly be integrated at scales ranging from the local to the global.  The integration of urban and rural places can exist along four dimensions: 1) livelihood, or the ways in which people support themselves materially and economically; 2) lifestyle, or how people sort themselves into social groups, and how they behave as consumers and actors in different social networks; 3) long-distance connections—also called teleconnections—expressed as economic investment, decision making, and the influences of livelihood and lifestyle along the continuum; and 4) the characteristics of place, which include the deep and persistent ecological, geological, and climatic conditions, and the cultural attributes and perceptions of specific places in the urban-rural mosaic.  Altogether, these four dimensions suggest that the degree of urbanity is not simply an expression of sophistication associated with city life, but a multifaceted melding of a number of social, biophysical, and informational fluxes between people and their immediate and distant environments.

The urban rural continuum is most visible where conditions are changing.  For example, the increasing consumption of meat in Asian diets is associated with lifestyle shifts not only in Asia, but also in Australia, which has become the piggery for Asia.  Changes in lifestyle and livelihood result in the Australian outback, as do conversion of forest to pasture.  One result of the deforestation is to cause fruit bats, also known as flying foxes, to migrate to cities where roosting and fruit resources are now more reliable than in the countryside.  The teleconnections in this example extend across multiple continents.

A familiar example of the urban rural continuum is suburbanization in the North Temperate regions.  Initially a predominant process in North America, it has long been significant in Australia, and is becoming increasingly common in Europe.  Some examples of Asian urbanization now also exhibit aspects of suburban sprawl.  Lifestyle changes along urban-rural continuum are supported by mortgage policy, facilitating the move of economically entitled classes and groups from old city cores.  Transportation policy and the resultant installation of subsidized highway infrastructure have permitted the migration of households and firms to increasingly suburban and even exurban locations.  Initially the flow of workers and the support of household functions was highly gendered, reflecting lifestyle structure and consumption choices.  Livelihood shifts have resulted as employment has shifted from industrial employment to various kinds of service positions.  Global teleconnections are increasingly influencing the regional patterns of lifestyle, livelihood, and the spatial structure of places as jobs, investment, industrialization, and the role of consumer goods imported over great distances have more and more influence.  These are some of the ways in which a continuum of urbanity is expressed in urban megaregions in North America.

Note that the continuum of urbanity is different from the urban-rural gradient (see http://besurbanlexicon.blogspot.com/search/label/Urban-rural%20Gradient ).  The urban-rural gradient is a methodological approach that orders sites for comparison in the degree of urbanization as defined by structures or social and economic processes across regions.  Urban rural gradients are abstractions that may be calculated or ordered from data taken along spatial transects.

Figure 1.  The Continuum of Urbanity.  Livelihood describes the kind, amount, and reward for production.  Lifestyle describes social status and consumption choices.  Connectivity includes the movement of things, people, and influences.  Place describes the environmental contexts and resources that exist in the various localities involved in an urban-rural continuum.  Based on discussions at the Ernst Struengmann Forum, and to appear in Boone et al. 2013.

Figure 2. A diagram of urban teleconnections, from Michail.Fragkias.net.  This diagram represents regional and global connections that urban mosaics can participate in.  Such multi-scale interactions of influence, trade, and population, for example, are a major aspect of the urban-rural continuum.  Source: http://michail.fragkias.net/?page_id=563
Why Important:
The continuum of urbanity is important because urban areas, of whatever size and spatial extent, are no longer isolated entities.  As the metropolis has given way to the megalopolis, and the megalopolis in turn, has been replaced by urban megaregions, so have the boundaries between urban, suburban, exurban, and rural sites become blurred.  Characteristics of livelihood, lifestyle, connections, and the features of place, are more and more regionally unified or linked as urbanization has morphed beyond the classical walled or center city model.  The urban-rural continuum provides a conceptual framework to describe, study, and compare the hybridity of landscapes that now globally integrate different degrees and forms of settlement, resource use, economic exchange, and social control across space.  It is no longer adequate for urban ecology to focus on discrete cities as dense, heterogeneous settlements in contradistinction with landscapes that have traditionally focused on natural resource management or wilderness conservation.  Urban values, equity, consumption, and structures increasingly suffuse all kinds of landscapes, and people move freely across these mosaics, and influences reach localities from distant locations, even those continents away.

For More Info:
·         Boone, C.G., C.L. Redman, H. Blanco, D. Haase, J. Koch, S. Lwasa, H. Nagendra, S. Pauleit, S.T.A. Pickett, K.C. Seto, and M. Yokohari. 2013. Group 4: reconceptualizing urban land use. In K.C. Seto and A. Reenberg, editors. Rethinking urban land use in a global era. MIT Press, Cambridge. In press.
·         Desakota Study Team. 2008. Re-Imagining the Urban-Rural Continuum. http://www.i-s-e-t.org/images/pdfs/Desakota%20Aug08.pdf
·         Seto, K.C., A. Reenberg, C.G. Boone, M. Fragkias, D. Haase, T. Langanke, P. Marcotullio, D.K. Munroe, B. Olah, and D. Simon. 2012. Urban land teleconnections and sustainability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109:7687-7692.



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