31 October 2012 — Researchers from Deakin University say that despite the threats of encroaching urban development it is possible to protect biodiversity and our ecological system by new ways of thinking. This included use of techniques such as double loop learning and incorporating knowledge of ecology into the education system and in the planning process.

Deakin University’s research fellow Helen Meikle and Architecture and Building head of school Hisham Elkadi found that key was to integrate ecological and biodiversity knowledge into the planning process.

The pair presented their paper, Urban Ecology and the Future of Cities, at this year’s 5th Making Cities Liveable Conference earlier this year

“Urbanisation and future developments threaten to encroach further and further into the green belts and destroy urban biodiversity in the need to take more space for ever-expanding urban growth,” the paper said.

“We have the capacity and responsibility for exploring ways in which humans can live in environments without destroying them or the diversity which depends on them.

“Society operates within a complex of mixed views and values – it is not always easy to align the values placed on urban biodiversity and the environment as a whole into society and the systems that regulate it.”

The pair found that for planning to be linked to ecology and a sustainable future city there needed to be new ways of thinking.

“This could be done by using double loop learning – questioning old assumptions and allowing for an iterative process of learning. Knowledge of ecology, both urban specific and in general, needs to be incorporated fully into the education system, with proper dissemination of information in all sectors of society, but especially in the planning process.

“As a species we are intrinsically adaptable; humans have the capacity to learn and to develop, and ecology has a degree of regeneration capabilities. There are issues, and the current situation is unsustainable.

“But does this mean that all hope is lost? No. At the moment there is not enough specific data being used to assess the extent to which urban areas can drain, maintain or develop biomes.

“There is still scope for humans as a species to sit up and take note of the stress being placed on the ecosystem – and by hosting conferences such as these, bringing a variety of related

subjects to press we, as academics and practitioners, can continue to try and push for change.

“So, is the ecosystem in danger from urbanisation? Potentially. But is this a manageable situation? Almost certainly.”

The 6th Making Cities Liveable Conference will be held at the Novotel Hotel, St Kilda, Victoria from 10 June to 12 June 2013.

A call for papers for the conference is now open.

The full paper and conference details are available at http://healthycities.com.au/