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Prologue

Paul Swagemakers and Joost Jongerden

This special issue on urban green infrastructure builds upon newly emerging urban needs: the call for quality of food in combination with the provision of nature landscape amenities in the metropolitan landscape. The 8 contributions result from explorative case study research on functionalities and multi-spatial connectivity of green space and natural systems as presented at the XXV Congress of the European Society for Rural Sociology held in July 2013 in Florence, Italy. Central in the contributions is green space that has been “actively protected, managed, and in some cases restored” (Benedict and McMahon, 2006:2), which make them enlighten the opportunities and innovative arrangements we might think of in order to diminish the risk and vulnerability of social groups in our industrialized society (Bock, 2013), both in urban and rural areas.

A first theoretical contribution (Swagemakers et al.) defines urban green infrastructure and identifies the roots of the rural-urban divide and new architectural orientations that bring the benefits of sustainable development to all parts of society. The second contribution (Jongerden et al.) introduces the concept of activity space, which supports analysing food provisioning practices considered as “assemblage of spatial practices” that are characterised by short or longer chains and go beyond the local-global duality. Within a historic perspective on modernization of the city and its hinterland, a third contribution (Kjeldsen and Christensen) identifies the reconstruction of a development path for the end of the road development of what had become a small, industrial city in a marginal rural area. A fourth contribution (Ortolani et al.) deepens understanding of the functionality of green space as food provisioning system by analysing how citizens integrate sustainable agriculture in an urban context. The fifth contribution (Domínguez García et al.) identifies how stakeholders organize public functions of green space while keeping governance costs for such social-ecological optimization low. The sixth contribution (Grivins and Tisenkopfs) provides empirical evidence for the importance of keeping an eye for diversity when analyzing the phenomenon of greater food awareness in cities. The seventh contribution (Koopmans et al.) builds upon such a recognition and demonstrates how the initially marginal position of such social dynamics can be interpreted in terms of an integrated framework that might help these initiatives to become mainstream. The eighth, final contribution of Reed et al. clarifies how dynamics on the integration between the rural and the urban are supported by European policy frames in which closing nutrient and water cycles is central objective.

All together, the papers bring empirical evidence of the changing character of the city: they show the diversity and dynamics of connections that represent a way out of the dead-end road of “industrialized modernity”; they inform policymakers and grassroots initiatives about food provisioning practices that contribute to solve environmental problems while simultaneously creating economic benefits and human welfare.

References
Benedict, M.A., McMahon, E.T. 2006. Green Infrastructure: Linking landscape and Communities. Island Press, Washington.
Bock, B.B. 2013. Themes. Rural resilience and vulnerability: the rural as locus of solidarity and conflict in times of crisis. Program book. XXV ESRS Congress, Florence.

Paul Swagemakers. University of Vigo

Joost Jongerden. Wageningen University