Sustainable future scenarios for the Central Arizona–Phoenix region
Urban sustainability and resilience are increasingly important guiding visions for cities. Urban ecology can bring useful knowledge and perspectives on the future development of cities, but requires collaborative approaches to address city planning and management needs. We present a framework for co-developing scenarios to explore alternative social-ecological-technological futures. We use three scenario approaches (focused on adaptive, strategic, and transformative futures). Adaptive futures were developed in response to extreme events. Strategic futures were projected forward using existing municipal goals and targets. Transformative futures were backcasted from radically transformed visions of sustainability. The framework highlights methods to integrate plausibility-based futures (what is most likely to happen) and desirability-based futures (what we would like to happen). Through collaborative workshops with community, municipal, and academic stakeholders, we co-identified key priorities and strategies that decision makers are using to frame urban development and address climatic extreme events (i.e., flood, drought, and heat). We also identified systems and normative conflicts and trade-offs within the distinct future pathways.
We focus this presentation on insights from a series of ongoing workshops conducted in the Central Arizona–Phoenix (CAP) region, in which scenarios are co-constructed with decision makers. Co-developed strategies focused on changes to built and green infrastructure (e.g., open space, shade infrastructure, material surfaces, water storage, flood plains, and vegetation), policy-based incentives and regulations (e.g., zoning and development, technology and energy codes, and conservation initiatives), and socio-cultural shifts (e.g., environmental identity, education, water re-use perspectives, and landscaping choices). Our approach produced diverse outcomes for indicators of environmental conditions, resource use, and human livelihood and well-being. We also identified trade-offs among the different scenarios (e.g., type, density, and location of vegetation for the heat-adaptive verses drought-adaptive scenarios) and yet to be resolved conflicts within individual scenarios (e.g., agriculture, population growth, and water-use targets varied within the strategic scenario). Subsequent development and revisions of these scenarios will allow us to contrast the alternative future pathways and explore diverse and interacting strategies to urban sustainability and resilience. This pilot study will be extended to nine cities within North and South America to compare strategies among a large suite of contextual conditions. This project demonstrates how scenario construction can enhance research and decision-making capacity for long-range sustainability planning.