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Projects and ongoing research


  • I4C – Intelligence for Cities
    Project Manager
    Fünfgeld H
    Start/End of Project
    01.01.2021 until 31.12.2023
    Description
    In I4C, digital-ecological innovations in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) based methods are developed and used to help adapt cities to challenges of climate change. A process chain from data acquisition to analysis and environmental prediction to concrete adaptation measures is being tested. The project is accompanied by systematically considering ethics implications and the reciprocal transfer of knowledge among different actors as part of dealing with AI at city level . The project is geographically anchored in the Freiburg region. Its results will be demonstrated using the Green City Freiburg as an case study. Today, over 75% of the German population lives in cities. Cities are sensitive hubs of social and cultural life and commerce. Extreme weather events, such as floods, heat waves or storm events, which will occur more frequently due to climate change, are increasingly challenging for cities. Adapting to changing conditions is essential for the long-term protection of our population and economic viability. Digital-ecological innovations have the potential make a significant contribution towards building capacity for climate change adaptation. Due to the complexity of urban systems, AI methods play a special role. Through AI, complex calculations such as short-term and locally specific forecasts of extreme events, long-term projections of risks, or intelligent real-time control mechanisms can be implemented more efficiently and reliably. I4C addresses these challenges. An AI-supported process chain is being developed that will ultimately deliver measures to improve the adaptability of cities to extreme events. Meteorological process models and climate simulations are used to identify areas in cities that are vulnerable to heat, flooding and storm. The stress situations and associated impacts are simulated, quantified and visualized in a semantic 3D model at the spatial resolution of individual buildings. On the basis of the simulations, experts are able to propose concrete measures that can be systematically applied in politics, law and planning and the effects of which can be evaluated. Control elements, e.g. for building automation, are also derived. The process chain will be tested using the city of Freiburg as an example. For the realization of I4C, an interdisciplinary team from the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg and from Fraunhofer institutes in the fields of computer science, engineering, meteorology, hydrology, economics, politics, law and social sciences is joining forces with companies from the region in the field of mobile mapping, sensor manufacturing, urban planning, energy supply and consulting, public authorities as well as the Green City Freiburg. The Chair group of Geography of Global Change is involved in two sub-projects of I4C: Within the framework of a work package, ethical dimensions of AI-based modelling and prediction methods are identified and discussed in I4C. In a series of workshops and discussion forums on ethical issues, actors involved in the project will be sensitized to emerging ethical implications of the AI-based procedures developed in the project. As part of a further work package, the possibilities and limits of integrating AI-based approaches into municipal climate change adaptation processes will be examined from an institutional and planning perspective and, in cooperation with the city of Freiburg, reviewed in terms of their practical relevance and feasibility.
    Contact Person
    Fünfgeld H
    Phone: +49(0)761 203-3560
    Email: hartmut.fuenfgeld@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    BMU - KI-Leuchttürme für Umwelt, Klima, Natur und Ressourcen
  • Municipal Transformative Communities for Alternative Economies Beyond Growth (MUTUAL)
    Project Manager
    Schmid B
    Start/End of Project
    since 01.01.2021 (unlimited)
    Description
    [project proposal currently under review]. MUTUAL investigates the potential of progressive trans-institutional alliances to foster growth-independent development pathways at the municipal scale. The project builds on empirical and theoretical insights on the ambivalence of economic growth as principal socio-economic orientation in the Global North: while growth plays a key role with respect to the relative short-term stability of current provisioning systems, its negative effects on ecological integrity and bad performance with respect to social equality increasingly come to the fore. To date, however, post-growth scholars focus overwhelmingly on organizations and small groups or on large-scale institutional restructuring, predominantly aimed at national and supra-national scales. Against this background, MUTUAL explores in what ways the cooperation of progressive formal-institutional and non-institutional actors at the municipal scale can lead to institutional innovations that alleviate growth pressures and facilitate further pro-environmental and -social action. Through four specific case studies, MUTUAL traces how such ‘municipal transformative communities’ establish synergistic dynamics between framework conditions and alternative economic practices to decrease the dependency of individuals, organizations, and institutions on market competition, monetary profitability, and financial resources. MUTUAL, thus, counteracts the lack of city-centered perspectives in, and the general spatial blindness of post-growth research as well as the neglect of growth dynamics in large parts of municipalist and urban transformations literature. Learning from and with municipal transformative communities, MUTUAL, finally, aims to identify expedient post-growth-oriented development pathways and broker these insights to a selected partner community.
    Contact Person
    Dr. Benedikt Schmid
    Phone: ++49(0)761 203-3566
    Email: benedikt.schmid@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
  • Building and Researching Resilience in the Environmental Humanities.
    Project Manager
    Fünfgeld H
    Start/End of Project
    01.10.2020 until 30.09.2021
    Description
    The “Environmental Humanities” is a new buzzword being used to signal the effort of the traditional humanities to seek new ways to unite and collaborate in a time when the natural sciences have taken the lead in fighting the global ecological crisis. This research focus has a twofold goal: first, we will assess the humanities’ chances of becoming resilient against the threats they are facing due to the changes in academic values and university policies since the dawn of the 21st century. Convinced that their chances lie in interdisciplinary collaboration with the environmental sciences, we will explore in which ways this collaboration can be strengthened. Second, believing that resilience research is one of the fields in which such collaboration can be most fruitful, our research projects tackle the challenges of resilience from different disciplinary angles and at the same time test interdisciplinary approaches. Since spreading from ecology to sociology and psychology, the concept of resilience has only been discovered by a few humanities fields; however, the concept holds promise for other humanities as well, as it facilitates debates about the ability of individual and collective capacities to persist.
    Contact Person
    Fünfgeld H
    Email: hartmut.fuenfgeld@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies
  • Local capacity development for climate change adaptation in small and medium-sized municipalities and districts
    Project Manager
    Fünfgeld H, Glaser R, Lorenz S, Fila D, Riach N (Team)
    Start/End of Project
    01.01.2020 until 31.12.2022
    Description
    Municipalities and districts (“Landkreise”) in Baden-Württemberg are increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change. Severe damage caused by heavy rain, floods, heat waves and droughts, such as those in 2018, testify to this development and the increasing relevance of climate change adaptation. While climate change adaptation is increasingly integrated into administrative structures and processes in large cities, small and medium-sized municipalities usually do not have the necessary capacity or resources to tackle the effects of climate change with strategically-oriented, yet at the same time efficient adaptation planning and decision-making processes. The aim of the project is to support municipal institutions and actors in the planning and implementation of locally-specific adaptation processes. For this purpose, practical instruments for tangible development and expansion of competencies and capacities for adaptation to climate change will be developed, specifically focusing on the needs of small and medium-sized municipalities and districts in the state of Baden-Württemberg. In this way, municipal institutions and actors will be supported and enabled in the planning and implementation of local-specific adaptation processes – especially those operating in a small and medium sized municipal context.
    Contact Person
    Stefanie Lorenz
    Phone: +49(0)177 158-4913
    Email: stefanie.lorenz@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit (BMU) aufgrund eines Beschlusses des Deutschen Bundestages, Beteiligte Projektpartner (Kommunen und Landkreise)
  • Geographies of resettlement in the context of multi-scale global environmental change and degradation processes – a case study of coastal resettlement in the Volta River Delta in Ghana
    Project Manager
    Fünfgeld H, Neu F (Team)
    Start/End of Project
    01.12.2019 until 30.11.2022
    Description
    During the last five decades, state-led resettlement has accompanied many construction projects of dams – especially in the Global South – and has been framed as a side effect that needs to be accepted in order to foster development (see Rogers/Wilmsen 2019). However, resettlement is nowadays increasingly taking place in response to extreme weather events that become more frequent and intense, also due to climate change (see e.g. Arnall 2014). On a global level, low-lying coastal regions which often have a high population density and are threatened by flooding and coastal erosion due to global sea level rise are particularly vulnerable. For instance, in some areas of the Volta River Delta in southeast Ghana, the coastline has been shifted inland by up to three kilometers, an incremental process that was triggered by a combination of rising sea levels and sediments of the Volta River being retained by the Akosombo Dam. As a result, entire villages literally were swallowed by the erosion processes of the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, from 2017 onwards, state institutions set up a resettlement village for several hundreds of affected households on a piece of reclaimed land in the lagoon of Keta, east of the mouth of the Volta River. Unsatisfyingly, resettlement so far has been scientifically examined mostly in the context of dam projects and not so much against the background of climate change. In addition, those studies often aimed at optimizing the resettlement process without questioning resettlement and the logics behind in the first place. Thence, Rogers and Wilmsen (2019) called for a critical geography of resettlement, i.e. studies in the field of geography that critically and profoundly examine resettlement projects. The research project will make a contribution to this new field of research and therefore analyzes the Ghanaian example described above as part of a case study. Abstracted from the case study, it deals with geographies of resettlement in the context of multi-scale processes of environmental change and degradation, which are examined from the standpoint of political ecology. The corresponding analytical framework is based on theories of power (e.g. Foucault), violence (e.g. Watts, Nixon) and justice (e.g. Rawls, Sen). The research project focuses on three key elements within the resettlement processes: actors, power and interests. Buildung on this, three research questions are pursued: 1) How did different actors use their respective power to shape the resettlement process in a way that serves their own or others’ interests? 2) How was resettlement legitimized and by whom? 3) Which social, political and economic effects on resettled people can be identified and to what extent can they be linked to certain resettlement practices applied? As part of the research project, several phases of field research are be necessary to collect primary data in the Volta River Delta. The methodological toolbox used during these stages contains qualitative and ethnographic research methods of geography.
    Contact Person
    Friedrich Neu
    Phone: +49(0)761 203-54233
    Email: friedrich.neu@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    - Kurzstipendium für Doktorand*innen des Deutschen Akademischen Austauschdienstes (DAAD) zur Finanzierung der Feldforschung 2020 (nicht in Anspruch genommen wegen Reisebeschränkungen nach Ghana aufgrund von Covid-19), - Promotionsstipendium des Evangelischen Studienwerks Villigst, finanziert aus Mitteln des Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), inkl. Förderung von Feldforschung (seit August 2020)