Socio-nature Transformations in Establishing Urban Sustainability through Symbiotic and Closed-loop Models of Material Metabolism: A Critical Historical and Socio-political Exploration of Urban Symbiosis in Kawasaki, Japan
This thesis starts from the premise that planetary urbanisation is the fundamental cause for the Anthropocene. With rapid rates of resource usage and waste production, notions of ‘urban sustainability’ have become an agenda for governments globally. In doing so, studies of material metabolism have entered into the mainstream urban planning domain, promoting immunological narratives and technocratic solutions to solve an issue based on its own ecological imaginary.
However, this paper takes a critical stance in proclaiming that such solutions are apolitical, ahistorical, neither objective nor neutral. In depoliticising these conversations of urban sustainability and its associated solutions, it neglects the historical paradigms in uneven forms of development, and perpetuates a trend of injustices in environmental production. Thus, this paper first begins by charting the history of how metabolism has dominated urban development and sustainability discourse, critically examining the juxtapositions of these concepts. Secondly, this paper will then deconstruct the processes of urban symbiosis in establishing urban sustainability, uncovering the need for ontological clarity in its theorisation and conceptualisation. Through developing a framework of analysis by combining the parameters of urban symbiosis and themes with urban political ecology, this paper analyses the critical historical and socio-political processes of deploying urban symbiosis in Kawasaki, Japan. The empirical work uncovers the epistemological contradictions of Kawasaki’s urban sustainability agenda - illustrating how urban symbiosis is limited under its own pre-conditions, and contributes to pervasive socio-environmental injustices to sustain it.