The Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) thematic group on Planning Theories hosts a series of talks and discussions in their ‘Infinity Series’, inspired by the Marvel Universe. On 8th March 2022, I talked about “Planning and the Mind”. In the following, my input presentation to this discussion.
I would like to start with some of my thoughts on “Planning and the Mind”. It is hard for me to talk about the mind today, while we see how an isolated and brutal mind can cause so much pain, war, destruction, and emptiness. Nevertheless, this strengthens my belief in spatial planning in democratic societies and my ambition to talk about planners today.
To the start of the academic year 2020-21 in Groningen, I was asked to deliver a short pitch (‘Pint of Science’) on the future of the Netherlands in 2050. In my function as a a coordinator of the Master Society, Sustainability and Planning (SSP), I looked at the programme and developed my own view that I will hereby share in a few words. I have deliberately chosen a positive story here that aims to motivate, given the amount of environmental and social problems visible to us.
The future of academic work might look different than it used to be. We will not see the re-emergence of larger venues and (international) conferences before at least early 2021. While small-scale meetings become possible again, gathering with hundreds of people from different countries in one place seems to be of a distant past. Travel restrictions provide unequal opportunities to participate in academic events depending on locations. However, there is something in between going and not going. The sustainability of (large) conferences was in question long before Corona made the reduction of travels an immediate health necessity (see e.g. Wenner et al. 2019). Hybrid conferencing (digital & physical combined) and hybrid academics may be on the rise. In February 2020, without knowing about upcoming Corona restrictions, we engaged in a hybrid format in Dortmund on “Post-growth from international planning perspectives: Digital roundtable on the future of planning in a post-growth world”.
We live in an extreme situation in most countries since mid of March 2020. It can hardly be expressed with words in any of our languages. We are moved to see impacts as well as strong collective measures taken in Europe and worldwide. We all live in space and we will continue to live and plan in space. The more we get knowledge and control over COVID-19, the more we will be able to think ahead and to restart a collective debate on spatial visions, their ethical/moral foundations and ways to organize and lead them. I am active in discovering future possibilities for spatial planning, changes induced by Corona and our means to lead spatial development in times of crisis.
It sounds easy: let’s make our work online. We can discuss online, we can meet and even have social events online. We can video conference with family, friends and colleagues at any time and, so far, mostly with reliable networks. This is an amazing and sudden success of digitalization that was unforeseen and deemed impossible only a few weeks ago. It also brought people together (again), supported networks of help and support and made neighbors recognize each other’s immediate needs. However, this produces new forms of exclusion beyond general questions of access to technology and internet. There are a number of groups that get out of sight if we #stayathome and that need our special attention as spatial planners. Usually, we would see these groups outside and using our public spaces, our infrastructures and being usual part of our urban or rural life.
While we #stayathome, we experience an amazing speed in developing ways to continue spatial planning work through the digital means we have available. Digital transformation of society and of our lives is actually happening and becomes tangible for each and all of us. In an extraordinary speed do universities switch to 100 % online education, cutting off all physical contacts, excursions and field work and continuing with a diverse range of lectures, seminars and events. Some of these developments will provide role models for future global work and education. However, this is not without new questions for our profession of spatial planning.
decade starts in 2020 with intensified talks about environmental change, climate
change and a global crisis. These challenges do not only excel the global
dimension of human activity. They also exhibit the emergence and growth of
strong social movements like ‘Fridays for Future’, ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and
Die Diskussionen der letzten zwei Jahre und das Aufeinandertreffen von Postwachstum und Stadt-/Raumplanung haben wir im Frühjahr 2019 in sechs Thesen zusammenfassen können. Im April 2017 ist mir auf einer Zugfahrt im Münsterland bei der Vorbereitung unserer ersten Diskussionsreihe zu Räumen, Akteuren und Prozessen in einer Postwachstumssgesellschaft der Begriff “Postwachstumsplanung” eingefallen. Seitdem haben wir ihn im Kollektiv ausgebaut über viele Formate, unsere Facebook-Seite, eine eigene Domain und zuletzt Anfängen eines YouTube-Kanals.
Diese “Sechs Thesen einer Postwachstumsplanung” von mir und Viola Schulze Dieckhoff wurden in der vorliegenden Form am 29. Juni 2019 auf dem ARL-Kongress „Postwachstum und Transformation: Planen – Steuern – Wirtschaften“ mit einem Sonderpreis des Förderkreises für Raum- und Umweltforschung e. V. (FRU) und der Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung (ARL) ausgezeichnet.
The discussion of more than two years to bring post-growth research and spatial organisation and planning together is condensed into six propositions, awarded with a special award for spatial and environmental research in 2019.