On Dec. 1, UN City in Copenhagen hosted the poster exhibition “17 for 17: Worldwide” in its lobby. The campaign was conceived last year by Chora Connection, a Danish nonprofit organization established in 2015 with the vision of achieving a sustainable and resilient Denmark.
From the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015, this interesting and rewarding program created 51 different interpretations of the 17 SDGs, which provided opportunities to reflect on each of the goals and what they represent. Based on the SDG guidelines, it is necessary for people to rethink the past and future as dynamic processes connected with the present to drive environmental sustainability if they want to imagine a better future for humanity.
Indeed, the contemporary living environment confronts the issues of dramatic climate change, energy shortage, population growth and mobility, as well as urban-rural spatial interfaces. Driven by those factors, space is disappearing in formal and informal ways throughout the progress toward sustainable development.
Going back to the history of urbanization, if the logic of spatial development remains to engage in constant and massive infrastructure projects, rather than the transformation of deep-rooted concepts on the form and operation of space that lie in people’s mind, national spatial development will lead to fragmentation — a lack of integrity and smooth transition between different environments (eg, urban-rural landscape) due to unbalanced resource allocation.
Facing such serious challenges, to what extent space could demonstrate autonomy, we professional spatial planners cannot obscure what we are doing by problems we are facing.
As urban-rural spatial interfaces gradually become blurry, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, discussed the issue of sustainable development and initiated an EU research project: Peri-urban Land Use Relationships — Strategies and Sustainability Assessment Tools for Urban-Rural Linkages, or PLUREL. The study ponders how contemporary society confronts pressures caused by conflicts arising from land utilization on the fringe of spaces, as well as attempts to establish a spacing mechanism, a new “Best Practice” in sustainable governance of urban-rural interaction, taking an organic approach that is consistent with the contemporary context.
As a Taiwanese researcher based in Europe, I think Taiwan should also fight for smart-
sustainable development by crafting new approaches and collaborations across sectors. As Europe’s experience has shown, as Taiwan moves toward sustainable development, we should face the reality of space in Taiwan and reconsider the spatial meaning of urban and rural areas to the sustainable development of the territory, with the desire to regain people’s expectations of life and imaginations of the future.
Hence, on Sept. 26, I was very glad to witness the Taiwanese government launch the “UN Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council of Parliament.” The council aims to develop the first cross-party platform for discussions of SDG issues, and to develop a smarter and more sustainable environment on this beautiful island.
Notwithstanding the above, it is necessary to consider how to transform the thinking about spatial margins, avoiding urban-rural polarization caused by urbanization in the past.
In turn, facing the reality of space, perhaps we could ponder over the following two questions: 1) What is already there, 2) How can the existing situation be enhanced/fostered through a new approach, and create a new framework (which we could call Sustainable Urban-Rural Spatial Resource System) that is geared toward describing and analyzing the integrated character and possible sustainability strength of the environment, as well as to form a basis for developing or enhancing the existing situation.
The new framework should address four main societal dimensions: physical, socioeconomic, planning and governance. Strong interaction between these dimensions is needed to achieve effective and durable solutions to the multidimensional challenges of sustainable development.
Hopefully, this council could contribute to the construction of a robust urban-rural spatial linkage mechanism and prompt people to imagine spatial structures in Taiwan for the development of a sustainable future.
Chih-Wei Chen is chief advisor of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council of Parliament under the Legislative Yuan.
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