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How can telecoupling contribute?

In this video step Karsten Schulz introduces the concept of ‘telecoupling’.
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KARSTEN SCHULZ: Imagine you buy a product such as this bottle of milk at a local shop in your city. While you enjoy your milk, you may want to pause for a moment and think about all the steps that it takes before this particular bottle is available on the shelf of your local store. Even if we assume that the milk was produced by a farmer near the city, the farmer still has to take care of the cows that produce the milk, feed the animals, which in turn requires land to grow the fodder, and engage with a company to package and ship the goods to the city so that you can ultimately enjoy them.
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If we now think of products that are not produced in or near your city, such as exotic fruits or textiles, these interconnected processes are not bound by national borders anymore and become highly complex. Scientists have a specific term for these interconnected processes that are largely invisible to us but influence resource use as well as social and economic relations far beyond the strict administrative boundaries of a city. This phenomenon is called telecoupling. Telecoupling, in more technical terms, describes connections between human beings and natural systems, often across distant spaces. What happens in one particular place– for example, in European cities– has concrete impacts on other regions of the world.
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The increasing demand for meat or agricultural product in one country can influence rates of deforestation in tropical nations thousands of miles away. New agricultural lands will have to be developed to rear cattle and feed them or forests will disappear because of a growing demand for wood in the construction sector. Telecoupling works a bit like the well known butterfly effect. But instead of a butterfly flapping its wings in Amsterdam and creating a storm in Mexico City, it is now a person in Amsterdam eating beef that’s causing a tree to be cut down in Brazil. If we think about urban adaptation, we need to be aware of these interconnected processes across space and time.
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In other words, the city is not a container that can be seen in isolation from its wider relationships with the world, and processes in one particular city might have very concrete impacts in another country. These impacts can be negative, like in the case of deforestation. But they might also be beneficial. Consumers in one part of the world may demand change and stop buying products that are produced unsustainably. Fair trade arrangements may personalise economic relations around the globe and foster social progress in remote communities where agricultural production takes place. So in summary, we have seen that the city is never as closely bound as we may think.
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And if we are aware of this, we can start to think about urban adaptation in terms of global connections. Based on the idea of telecoupling, we may now view this bottle of milk not simply as a nice addition to my favourite coffee but as a product that is closely linked to processes that take place beyond the boundaries of the city.

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In the previous steps, we have learned how complex drivers of change shape urbanization, urban concentration, as well as the spatial configuration of cities in general. We have also explored relevant policy frameworks and their relevance for urban adaptation. However, urbanization is often dissociated from the ecosystems that sustain human life on Earth.
Telecoupling describes connections between human settlements and the natural environment, often across distant spaces: what happens in one particular place, for example in European cities, has concrete impacts on other regions of the world. If we think about urban adaptation, we need to be aware of these interconnected processes across space and time. In other words: the city is not a container that can be seen in isolation from its wider relationships with the world, and processes in one particular city might have very concrete impacts in another country.
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Sustainable Cities: Governing Urban Adaptation Under Climate Change

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