Sunday 22 June 2008

Everything is Connected

One of the things I said I'd be blogging about is urban issues and things to do with urban life, specifically as they relate to planning. However, I thought it would be good to do a quick post on the topic of connections and how it's really impossible to fully separate the urban from the non-urban or rural. This is a topic which a colleague of mine, Andreas Schulze Bäing explored in his PhD thesis and one which I do research on, but without so much focus on the rural dimensions. I'm also aware that I come from an area that is not exactly an exemplar urban area (the Highlands of Scotland), even though I've lived all my adult life in cities (Glasgow, Columbus (Ohio), Liverpool). So, if you're from a rural area like this...

... it doesn't mean that cities are irrelevant. In fact, given that they are now seen as the drivers of economic growth in many advanced industrial economies, we really should be aware of how things are connected. When you look at the major migration patterns in the UK, these kinds of connections are more obvious.

When you look at the patterns in even more detail, in this 3D image I created for migration patterns in the North West of England (high in-migration areas in red, out-migration areas in blue), we start to get a better understanding of the ways in which cities import people (mainly students and young people). However, they do export families who generally tend to rely on urban areas for a living but don't want to live there... But that's another matter.

So, everything is connected to everything else. This is exactly what Waldo Tobler's First Law of Geography states and I am a firm believer in it. Nothing should be studied in isolation (especially in planning) and that's why much of my work includes a spatially dynamic element. The relative importance of this connectivity may vary, but it is invariably important. We need to see the big picture if we are to understand what's going on in our own back yard, so to speak.