05 Masterstudio: The Post-Growth City? – 16 January 2019

Lecture by Giacomo D'Alisa.

The Centre of Urban Studies of the UVA organized a masterstudio on the Post-Growth city. The concept if this studio was to get planners to ‘rethink the idea of urban prosperity beyond a paradigm of growth’. Several (international) speakers were invited such as Marisol Garcia of the University of Barcelona, Paul Chatterton of the university of Leeds, Selçuk Balamir of the Nieuwland co-housing collective, Giacomo D’Alisa of the University of Barcelona (also co-author of the book Degrowth: Vocabulary for a New Era) and Antonio Ferreira of the University of Porto. I attended some of these lectures so let me share some interesting takeaways.

Paul Chatterton discussed the contents of his book Unlocking Sustainable Cities, A Manifesto for Real Change. This book describes four fields in which we need to break with our existing patterns to get to new sustainable cities: the car-free city, the bio-city, the post carbon city and the common city. What is interesting about his approach is that he shows how and why we are ‘locked-in’ to certain unsustainable practices and what we need to do to break free. He describes an approach in which we ‘lock-down’ unsustainable practices and ‘unlock’ the better alternatives. For example as we lock-down fossil fuel based transport we need to unlock the car-free city amongst others by means of a shift in planning and zoning, eroding the need for mass, wasteful commuting from neighborhood to central work zones. Take a look at his website for a short description of all four fields.

Selçuk Balamir discussed how the collaborative housing project Nieuwland operates and how it came into being. Furthermore he gave a sneak preview of future plans for another collaborative housing project. Besides that he told us about all the other cool initiatives taking place at Nieuwland, from climate action to cloth swapping and bicycle fixing to the Black Women Collective. Check out their website here.

Giacomo D’Alisa really dived into the theory of degrowth. He defined degrowth as on the one hand a critique of the ideology of growth and on the other as an ensemble of discourses and practices aimed at societal transformation with sustainability at its core. He explained the biophysical, class related (rising inequality) and gender components underpinning the need for degrowth. Finally he discussed a theory of state for degrowth, that he based on the theories of Gramsci.

Antonio Ferreira discussed a theory of localism. He mentioned to terms; motility and immotility. Motility means mobility as capital, of people, groups and society. Immotility is low mobility or proximity as a form of capital (you don’t have to travel, all you need is to be close by). Nowadays society chases the goal of motility, but it is only for those who can afford it, the rest has low motility and is therefore more stuck to a place (such as migrants who can only afford to walk). He proposed that localism can be a solution to reduce environmental impact in a socially just way. Therefore he studies this immotility, what makes us us see proximity or low mobility as a form of capital?