Editor’s Preface to the Series

The first volume is part of a new series on cross-national comparative research in the fields of global climate change, coastal areas, sustainable urban development and human mobility. These factors, which arise at both the local and global level, are confronted with a conflict of interest in every possible combination between the local and the global. The volumes being published in this series attempt to provide a contribution to resolving these conflicts. This multi-national and multi-disciplinary network was set up in 2009 on the occasion of the European Commission’s call for proposals for a Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) project. The research project Solutions for Environmental Contrasts in Coastal Areas (SECOA), Global Change, Human Mobility and Sustainable Urban Development won the bid and began work in December 2009 (http://www.projectsecoa.eu/), coordinated by Sapienza Innovazione (Riccardo Carelli) with scientific coordination by Sapienza Rome University (Armando Montanari).

Global changes affect both the environment and socio-economic conditions: first the economic crisis of the 1970s and then the financial crisis of the first decade of the new millennium have had a profound impact on environmental and socio-economic conditions. SECOA examines the effects of human mobility on the growth and restructuring of urban settlements in coastal areas, where: a) the environment is particularly fragile and space is limited, b) every phenomenon is far more concentrated and c) the effects on natural and cultural resources and the environment are more acute. Being aware of these effects can be extremely useful for governments and companies – particularly in the building sector, but also in tourism – in planning their future growth. Awareness of the environmental status of the coast and the local population’s usage preferences can help to plan the development of homes, retail and leisure facilities. The problems have multiplied as a result of climate change and its influence on environmental parameters such as the sea level, sparking an increased risk of flooding, the spread of pollution and the displacement of a large number of inhabitants. The control and reduction of undesirable consequences is leading to increased conflict among stakeholders. An integrated approach to the ecosystem incorporating the social, economic and natural sciences is essential to understand the complex and dynamic problems typical of coastal towns, as the figure illustrates. The complexity of the problems and the heterogeneousness of the data required to document very diverse phenomena are being managed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). SECOA aims to: 1) identify conflicts, 2) analyse their quantitative and qualitative effects on the environment, 3) create models to synthesise the various social, economic and environmental systems and 4) compare the priorities of each type of coastal town using a taxonomic tool. Coastal areas have traditionally been considered difficult to manage because of the problem of the weather, the tides and the seasons and the overlapping of the specificities features of physical geography and hydrography, as well as overlapping jurisdictions and remits of individual government bodies and the competing needs of various civil society stakeholders. Local, regional and national administrations are often responsible for similar aspects of the same physical area and the uses of coastal zones, such as fisheries, environment, agriculture, transport (inland and marine), urban planning, the land registry and the national cartographic and hydrographic services. Many people are able to intuitively recognise a coastline, although they find it harder to determine its precise landward or seaward extent and vertical growth. For this reason, and considering the diversity of the stakeholders, managing authorities and administrative structures, there are inevitable conflicts between users of coastal zones, developers and the rest of society. Similarly, there is a conflict between human society and natural resources. Because of the complexity of the problems involved, the spatial component of data has also been taken into account through the use of GIS, which offer enhanced possibilities of contributing to coastal zone management for a number of reasons: (I) their ability to manage large databanks and integrate data relating to quite heterogeneous criteria; (II) their inherent tendency to harmonise data from different sources and thereby contribute to the exchange of information between governing bodies and research institutes; (III) the possibility they offer of using shared data banks; (IV) their inherent aptitude for modelling and simulation that allows for alternative scenarios to be built before being implemented. The basic function of information that can appropriately inform decision-makers is the ability to produce online geographical maps to illustrate the location of problems, the densification and concentration of shortcomings, the density, the content, what happens in the environs, and changes.
Together with the problems created by climate change, the SECOA project examines the spread of human mobility – an area that principally involves the social science disciplines, each with its own research framework, levels of analysis, dominant theories and hypotheses of application. The social science fields can be considered according to the dependent and independent variables they use. For example, anthropology, demography and sociology consider behaviour a dependent variable; for economics, it is microeconomic flows and impacts; for geography, it is decision-making ability; for history, it is experience; for law, it is treatment and for political science, the dependent variables are management policies and their results. Examples are always hard to agree on, but in this case they are being used to emphasise the differences that exist even between related sectors, and the obvious multiplication of variables when the ones proposed by the social sciences must include geomorphological variables (the way the coast physically changes) and environmental and cultural resources (their availability and the way they are consumed).

The SECOA project has attempted to tackle this problem by also measuring types of individual mobility and the attractiveness of the territory. For previously mentioned reasons, these data are not generally registered, so it was decided to use the GIS tool to add space and time values. Space in coastal metropolitan areas is characterised by the differences among the various spatial components, and it is not always easy to identify the coastal stretch used as the element of comparison. Time, on the other hand, is defined in terms of recurring daily, temporary and permanent mobility, with a further variant of mobility that is either production-led (blue-collar, white-collar, managers, regular and irregular workers) or consumption-led (including mobility for reasons of tourism, leisure and retirement). The prediction models, on the other hand, are an instrument to connect the past to the future, and hence to integrate the natural and cultural heritage and contribute to building prediction scenarios.

The Series editor wishes to thank the members of SECOA WP1 (of which this volume is an outcome), for their participation in the project and contributions to this volume. The Editorial Board, which played a key role, also took on the task of selecting and supervising the work of the referees – their collaboration has been invaluable in ensuring this volume is of good quality. Finally, the Series editor would like to offer warm thanks to Itay Fishhendler and other colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who set to work very competently, and with the great patience a comparative analysis project requires, to provide us with this excellent handbook.

 

 

 Armando Montanari

 

Rome, May 2012