Agglomeration Landscapes and Operational Landscapes
Towards a new conceptualization of the Planetary Urbanization Fabric
Urbanization is a universal condition. But this does not imply the existence of a homogeneous, symmetrical landscape. Quite the contrary: Contemporary urbanization incorporates very different and very asymmetrical geographies and patterns of both socially and ecologically uneven development. On the one hand, the concentration of population and infrastructure is advantageous for certain social and economic activities. These activities has been widely recognized to belong mostly to the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy (like manufacturing and services), and are those that can benefit the most from the externalities associated with agglomeration economies: Benefits from proximity, access to material inputs, labor pools and consumption markets, information exchange, as well as innovation through spillover effects, etc. On the other hand, the same concentration is not beneficial and in some cases prohibits certain other activities. These activities belong mostly to the primary sectors of the economy (agriculture and resource extraction) that are extremely land extensive. It is suggested that urbanization structures the human occupation of the earth through the conjuncture of ‘agglomeration landscapes’ with ‘operational landscapes’: Agglomeration landscapes are the geographies where agglomeration economies, and in general agglomeration externalities and dynamics can unfold. Accordingly, ‘operational landscapes’ are the geographies that are connected to land extensive and / or geographically bound and specific operations that are either not susceptible to, or impossible to cluster. These geographies include areas of agricultural production, resource extraction, forestry, as well as circulation infrastructures, energy production systems and grids and in general types of equipment of the earth’s surface that are largely point, or area bound.
The Agglomeration Landscapes – Operational Landscapes composite classified gradient index combines intensities of land use associated with ‘operational landscapes’ (agriculture, pastures, forestry), with gradients of the global distribution of ambient population densities. The extremes of the accompanying maps (orange and light blue) constitute drivers for the recognition of ‘operational landscapes’ and ‘agglomeration’ landscapes, as well as their hybrid combinations.