Eco-villages to Just Cities: An assessment of Freiburg and Isle of Eigg
Cities for Us - engaging communities and citizens for sustainable development / Cidades para Nós - envolver comunidades e cidadãos no desenvolvimento sustentável, 2016
Simões, J. M.; Marques da Costa, E.; Ferreira, C.C.; Antunes Ferreira, J.; Nunes da Silva, F.; Louro, A.; Fontes, I.
In today’s globalised and interconnected world, over half of the population (54 per cent) live in urban areas. The World Urbanization Prospects published by the UN projects that by 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people will concentrate in urban centres, increasing urban populations to sixty-six per cent. As a result, urban areas world-wide are committing to major community-led urban and rural development initiatives focused on social, environmental and economic justice for their inhabitants. This paper will assess the concepts of the “just city” within two existing “eco-villages/cities:” Freiburg, Germany and Isle of Eigg in Scotland. Henri Lefebvre defined urban space as a social construction where all social groups should have a “Right to the City,” a right to better opportunities to enhance the quality of life of its people. A few decades later, Susan Feinstein redefined Lefebvre’s “Right to the City” and proposed the formation of “the Just City,” where democracy, diversity, and equity are the three governing principles for achieving urban justice. In this definition, urban policy transitions away from focusing on competitiveness, and instead towards a discourse about urban justice. Freiburg, thanks largely to policies introduced in the 1970s, is positioned as one of the most sustainable cities in the world. A top-down policy-based model consisting of socio-civic initiatives, the formation of Local Agenda 21, and the signing of the Aalborg Commitments (culminating in the creation of the Freiburg Sustainability Council) have resulted in renewable energy technologies and solar energy as its mainstream energy source. Isle of Eigg in Scotland (driven by a national commitment to reduce 40% of carbon emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050) demonstrates a community-led sustainability agenda, coinciding with the historic transition from a formal feudal aristocracy into a more equitable land-use/ownership regimen. These factors laid the foundation for a sustainability agenda resulting in the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (UK Gold Award winner), which devised a unique electricity capping system that dramatically reduced household carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent. While both cases illustrate great achievements moving towards low-carbon communities, sustainability is more than just carbon reduction. This paper will apply concepts of the “just city,” as well as cultural and urban ecology theoretical analysis to review planning strategies, policies and practices in Freiburg and Isle of Eigg, and assess key factors of social and environmental justice.