Implementing the urban food–water–energy nexus through urban laboratories: a systematic literature review

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T1 - Implementing the urban food–water–energy nexus through urban laboratories

T2 - a systematic literature review

AU - Wahl, Darin

AU - Ness, Barry

AU - Wamsler, Christine

PY - 2021

Y1 - 2021

N2 - The sustainability of complex resource systems, such as the food, water, and energy (FWE) nexus, is increasingly threatened by climate change impacts, expanding populations, urbanization, and economic instability. However, while research on the topic has burgeoned, studies focused on solution development and implementation, especially at the urban level, have lagged behind. Against this background, we review the urban FWE nexus literature. We focus on the operationalization of solutions for implementation, and seek to identify opportunities for participatory approaches. Our results suggest that operationalization would benefit from: (1) more fully integrating urban social complexity; (2) extending our understanding of the nexus to include social responses to the impacts of interventions; and (3) ensuring that projects build knowledge that is not only actionable, but also credible, salient, and legitimate. We then discuss the potential of local, transdisciplinary approaches, in the form of urban laboratories, to shift the focus of FWE nexus research towards operationalization. We conclude with five recommendations: (1) knowledge development should extend to implementation; (2) stakeholders should be engaged, and be able to align solutions with the agency to implement; (3) research should move beyond material flows, and focus on the behaviors, habits, and social patterns that underpin urban complexity; (4) FWE nexus thinking should become part of participatory/laboratory approaches; and (5) policymakers should integrate nexus research into municipal strategies and plans.

AB - The sustainability of complex resource systems, such as the food, water, and energy (FWE) nexus, is increasingly threatened by climate change impacts, expanding populations, urbanization, and economic instability. However, while research on the topic has burgeoned, studies focused on solution development and implementation, especially at the urban level, have lagged behind. Against this background, we review the urban FWE nexus literature. We focus on the operationalization of solutions for implementation, and seek to identify opportunities for participatory approaches. Our results suggest that operationalization would benefit from: (1) more fully integrating urban social complexity; (2) extending our understanding of the nexus to include social responses to the impacts of interventions; and (3) ensuring that projects build knowledge that is not only actionable, but also credible, salient, and legitimate. We then discuss the potential of local, transdisciplinary approaches, in the form of urban laboratories, to shift the focus of FWE nexus research towards operationalization. We conclude with five recommendations: (1) knowledge development should extend to implementation; (2) stakeholders should be engaged, and be able to align solutions with the agency to implement; (3) research should move beyond material flows, and focus on the behaviors, habits, and social patterns that underpin urban complexity; (4) FWE nexus thinking should become part of participatory/laboratory approaches; and (5) policymakers should integrate nexus research into municipal strategies and plans.

KW - Experimentation

KW - Food–water–energy nexus

KW - Knowledge production

KW - Living labs

KW - Participatory methods

KW - Transdisciplinary

KW - Urban

U2 - 10.1007/s11625-020-00893-9

DO - 10.1007/s11625-020-00893-9

M3 - Review article

AN - SCOPUS:85098693639

VL - 16

SP - 663

EP - 676

JO - Sustainability Science

JF - Sustainability Science

SN - 1862-4057

IS - 2

ER -