The Sustainable Urban Systems: Developing a Convergence SUS Agenda for Redesigning the Urban-Rural Interface along the Mississippi River Watershed (SUS - RURI) Workshop provided an important forum for identifying a path forward in developing sustainable landscapes in this watershed. This workshop brought together participants from a variety of perspectives, ranging from academics to planners to artists, thereby identifying key considerations and priorities for both research and practice. Although the considerations identified through the discussion were numerous, the majority fit into several, interrelated areas of need for integration related to the Mississippi River Watershed. These areas included integrating: (1) the urban and the rural, (2) across scales, (3) multiple landscape functions and objectives, and (4) actors from a variety of communities to address sustainability. The SUS-RURI Workshop thus brought to light key needs for integration that should be the focus for the agenda for this system moving forward.
Many participants highlighted the need to integrate the urban and the rural. Participants particularly noted the current disconnect between urban areas and their rural surroundings in this system (e.g., urban food systems no longer connected to regional farms, few social/economic connections between urban and rural systems). Thus, it is critical that the agenda includes as a goal the identification of biophysical, social, and economic connections between the urban and the rural, as well as the identification of means for building these connections where they have been severed.
Presentations at the workshop focused at a variety of spatial and temporal scales ranging from short to long term and local to the full Mississippi River Watershed extent. Given the breadth of scales discussed and the importance of them all to sustainability in this system, it is critical that a goal of the agenda be identification of the means for integrating across scales in this watershed and that doing so is a key objective of the agenda for redesigning this system.
Although the bulk of the discussion focused on water, there exists a critical need to integrate multiple landscape functions and objectives in redesigning sustainable urban-rural systems in the Mississippi River Watershed. As discussed by workshop participants, landscapes in this watershed provide numerous functions and services, including those related to water quality and quantity, food and fuel production, air quality, biodiversity, aesthetics, and recreation. The need for explicitly assessing and encouraging landscape multi-functionality emerged as a critical, but little discussed (at the workshop) consideration in generating a convergence agenda for the watershed.
The need to integrate actors from a variety of communities to address sustainability emerged as a key consideration in moving forward with the development of a convergence agenda in this watershed, a consideration that is central to addressing the integration needs identified above. These communities include communities of policy, practice, and research, as well as stakeholder communities. Collectively, these needs and knowledge of these groups can be focused to identify research priorities and community and practitioner objectives that would support the development of research questions and projects to produce results that feed directly into practice. Working in concert, these communities could also shed light on the integration items discussed above. Bringing these groups together is non-trivial and may require an outside intermediary to both identify participants as well as to facilitate communication among them.
This event is supported by the National Science Foundation, Award #1929601. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.