Re-Natured Economy

From pollutants to productive landscapes

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In the light of climate change, ecosystem derangement and debasement of local economies in the name of globalisation and free trade, capitalism has almost exhausted its source of nourishment: Nature. Within today’s globalised urbanisation, cities seem to be better linked to the planetary system of production and trade than to their surrounding context. However, going beyond the widespread –and very popular- myth that humans act as destructive agents of the pure and delicate nature, instrumentalising the landscape to support various production models has always been the way to build human economies and societies. Today’s rupture with nature is still manifested in the antithesis between Economy and Ecology, as two opposing notions. The concept of placing humanity within natural processes [or, in the other way around, defining humans as custodians of nature’s ecological heritage] has strong supporters in the field of urbanism and landscape, and strict critics in practice. That being the case, the question is this: which are the new ecologies of the Anthropocene that could transform negative outputs of our current economic model [pollutants, waste flows] into inputs of new productive landscapes? The Dutch-Flemish Delta is used as the test bed for a new projective ecology, where pollutants causing eutrophication (nitrogen, phosphorus, CO2, algae) are captured in order to facilitate processes that generate value out of them (food production, energy) and trigger a shift in economy that will both reshape the deltaic landscape as well as set the foundations for a bio-based economy in the future. A flexible synergy between diverse components [pollution, water, existing infrastructure] is unveiled, enhancing the adaptive capacity of local economies, ecosystems and socio-spatial constructs. In the end, as pollution becomes historical, nature becomes a landscape of flows and fluids that co-exist and co-evolve.