20th Vilmer Summer Academy: Green Cities? Nature conservation in urban areas between competition for use and synergies
About 50 representatives of authorities and associations, environmental and local politicians as well as conservationists and natural scientists, social scientists and humanists accepted the invitation of the International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm (INA) of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), the University of Tübingen and the University of Kiel to the 20th Summer Academy. During lectures, moderated group work and intensive discussions, the participants exchanged views on how the perspectives of nature conservation on the city as well as the perspectives of city residents on nature and nature conservation have changed over time. Similarly, they explored the topic of "environmental justice", of how access to green space in the city can be promoted and created more equitably.
In nature conservation, cities were long considered the contrast to nature. This image has changed significantly for some time. For example, the German National Strategy on Biological Diversity, adopted in 2007, includes the protection of urban areas. At the international level, the adoption of Decision IX/28 - Promoting engagement of cities and local authorities' - at the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) confirms the importance of cities in achieving the objectives of the CBD. However, the relationship between biodiversity and urban spaces remains ambivalent. On the one hand, urban spaces provide habitat for many animal and plant species. On the other hand, land sealing and the unrestrained growth of cities are one of the main threats to biodiversity.
At the Summer Academy, the speakers examined the relationship between the city and nature and presented various projects on how biodiversity can be promoted in the city and what equitable access to nature in the city might look like. Another topic was the interplay between urban nature and health, also in the context of the Corona pandemic. In various discussion rounds, the participants exchanged ideas on how nature conservation and participation in nature can be promoted in the city by means of innovative approaches. The multifunctionality of nature in the city was emphasized again and again. For example, urban green spaces and water bodies in the city not only provide space for recreation, leisure and playing opportunities for children, but also generate a number of other benefits for society: such as temperature reduction and water retention as an adaptation to climate change, CO2 storage for climate protection, as well as reduction of air pollution and noise pollution and habitat for animals and plants.
As with all Summer Academies, the "Vilmer Theses" will be formulated based on the presentations and discussions, and are expected to be published in the journal Natur und Landschaft in 2022, inviting further engagement with the conference theme. The Vilmer Summer Academy has evolved as a fixed format over the past 20 years. The first conference was held in 2001 on the topic of "Homeland and Nature Conservation." With this annual series, INA offers interested parties the opportunity to discuss fundamental questions of nature conservation in an interdisciplinary manner from the perspectives of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and cultural studies, and to engage in an exchange with experts from politics, practice and science.