The epistemological and methodological implications of complexity theory for understanding urban sprawl are discussed. It is argued that urban spatial forms, such as sprawl, emerge from nonlinear, self-organizational, and dynamic urban processes. Because of this, there cannot be a universal theory of sprawl and each case should be investigated within its context. The micro—macro problem provides the conceptual grounding for these investigations. Agent-based simulations can be used to investigate the micro—macro transformations in urban systems. Implications of complexity theory for understanding the role of urban policies are discussed.
Until recently, Rio de Janeiro was one of the most violent cities on the planet. Many of Rio’s hundreds of shanty towns were controlled by heavily armed drug gangs taking advantage of the absence of the state. However, since 2008, a policy of pacifying some of the city’s most strategically important and violent shanty towns through community policing overseen by so-called ‘Unidades Policicias Pacificadoras’ (Pacifying Police Units, UPPs) has led to a significant reduction in violence. This article argues that this success is down to the fact that this policy treats the issue of violent crime as Complex Adaptive Systems. As a consequence, it seeks to facilitate a process of self-organization balanced between order, flexibility, rules and freedom. The article will show how Complexity has been applied, what benefits it has brought, what problems remain and what broader lessons can be learned from this experience for public policy-makers elsewhere.
This paper explores the question of whether people involved with a successful watershed policy initiative embraced and/or negated the complexity with which they worked. The setting was Lake Simcoe, in central Canada: an area important for fisheries, agriculture, tourism, recreation and citizens’ identities. Human activities had impacted water quality, and planned development posed further threats. Although government had supported considerable scientific data collection, citizens became frustrated by what they saw as a lack of regulatory and enforcement work. Citizens embarked on a range of creative pressure tactics for change. In early stages, citizens felt marginalized, but over time they were included in increasingly meaningful ways. This paper explores several complex system themes in interview transcripts, including initial starting conditions, attractors, and boundaries. A key finding is that citizens used scientific data as an attractor to enable their inclusion for a more complex range of agendas and benefits.
I hate being reminded that I’m older than I feel. My friend and colleague, Pat Conaty, did just that recently when I broached the topic of Building Healthy Economies with him. Pat is a brilliant economic social innovator, author, and a person who puts his actions where his ideas are. As he explained “The problem […]