Photo: Cyclists at Vijzelstraat – Joey Hou 2017
The UPE of a city looks beyond the simplistic annotations of the abundance of nature in its ‘raw’ form. Instead, it underlines the convergence between nature and society at all aspects of urban life and the socio-natural unevenness within the city that this creates (Heynen, 2014). UPE as a whole is bigger than its parts and is formed by the unique processes – be it political or ecological – that shape the urban in its current form (Keil, 2003)
“Few countries exist where man has exerted a greater formative influence in the shaping of the landscape than in the Netherlands
–Kahn and Plas, 1999: 371
Some cities are praised as admirable examples of urban governance, whilst others are seemingly avoided for their negative connotations. Aside from some social ’taboos’ stereotypes associated with the city, Amsterdam has a sound reputation of being amongst the best places for its environment, it’s sustainability, and the management thereof. Nonetheless, local residents are amongst the first to question why Amsterdam is praised internationally for its environmental sustainability. As one notices, view of “nature” in the city simply does not resonate when looking amongst sea of built-up spaces and cars (Trouw.nl).
MAPPING AMSTERDAM INTO ITS REGIONAL ECOLOGY
Perhaps it’s the efficient central governance of the city that has allowed residents to take for granted the complex history of interactions that Amsterdam has had with nature. The development of city has permanently stipulated the careful establishment of urban areas within its environmental setting. The development of Amsterdam in relation to its changing environmental surroundings are well depicted here:
We see from the video that since its formation that the city has had to combat rising water levels in creating its complex system of canals, catering for what was an emerging finance and trade centre. Bridging to present day developments such as in Ijburg, we see Amsterdam continuously exploring ways to accommodate urban growth whilst simultaneously liaising with various stakeholders in integrating nature into multi-use spaces. Thus, “the city combines a long tradition of social democracy and strong statehood with entrepreneurial policy trends” (Savini et. al, 2015).
Photo (2): Ijburg Boat Houses, Friso Spoelstra – Boat People of Amsterdam Lemniscaat 2013
“Amsterdam is as much planned as it is organic”
– Sustainable Amsterdam
With a history of constantly re-articulating itself amongst urban trends, changing ecologies and political fluctuations, Amsterdam highlights a successful case study of urban development in the Global North. However, the city is not without its problems and challenges. There remains a stark divide in the access of resources between those in the city’s centre and its suburb. With a changing demographic and environment, the city faces clear obstacles ahead.
Heynen, N. (2014), “Urban political ecology I: The urban century.” Progress in Human Geography, 38(4): 598-604.
Kahn, D. and G. van der Plas (1999), “City Profile: Amsterdam”, Cities, 16(5), pp. 371-381.
Keil, R. (2003), “Urban Political Ecology.” Urban Geography 24(8): 723-738
OECD (2017), The Governance of Land Use in the Netherlands: The Case of Amsterdam, OEDC Publishing, Paris http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264274648-en
Savini, F., W.R. Boterman, W.P.C. van Gent and S. Majoor (2016). ‘Amsterdam in the 21st century: Geography, housing, spatial development and politics, Cities, 52, pp.103-113.