Laetitia Verhaeghe soutiendra sa thèse le 16 décembre 2021Laetitia Verhaeghe, CIFRE doctoral student at UMR Géographie-citésLaetitia Verhaeghe, CIFRE doctoral student, Soil and Civilization, CRIA team at UMR Géographie-cités, will defend her thesis:

“Renewal of city-countryside relations and socio-ecological transition: what perspectives for metabolism?”

Thursday, December 16 at 2:00 pm

Conference Center
room 100 (first floor)
Condorcet Campus
(Place Front Populaire, 93322 Aubervilliers, see attached map)


Sabine Barles, University Professor, University of Paris 1 Panthéon (thesis director),

Laurence Barthe, Associate Professor, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès (Examiner),

Antoine Brès, PhD/HDR, UMR Géographie-Cités (Thesis Director),

Nicolas Buclet, University Professor, Grenoble Alpes University (Examiner),

Yuna Chiffoleau, Research Director, INRAE (Reporter),

Guillaume Dherissard, Director, Fermes de Figeac (Guest),

Marc Dumont, University Professor, University of Lille (Rapporteur).

The defense can be followed by videoconference. Please specify in this form if you wish to attend in person or by videoconference (the link of the videoconference will be communicated to you by email).

Renewal of city-countryside relations and socio-ecological transition : what are perspectives for metabolism ?

The consequences of the industrial socio-ecological regime on the climate and biosphere have been known for many years and were recalled in the summer of 2021 in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In order to maintain the habitable conditions for humans on Earth, it is necessary to initiate a socio-ecological transition with the objective to make the functioning of society compatible with that of the biosphere. Its implementation is the subject of various scenarios. Among these, several authors outline a renewed relationship between cities and the countryside, making it possible to control material and energy flows.

If we observe a favourable development of these city-countryside relations by French local player, its effectiveness and contribution to the socio-ecological transition remain to be apprehended and is analysed in this thesis. By focusing our attention on material and energy flow and anchoring our work in the field of territorial ecology, we propose a renewed approach to the study of these relations via the notion of territorial metabolism. The analysis is split in two different scale for which different research materials have been studied. At the national level we have compiled and analysed a corpus of 2,641 documents, then defined a typology of metabolic city-countryside relations. At the local level we studied three of these relationships by conducting interviews with local player and analysing the associated project documents.

In the light of this work, metabolic city-countryside relations do not appear to be a dominant mode of action for local player in response to the challenges of the socio-ecological transition. Moreover, the majority of these relationships respond to the necessities of the cities, and few take the form of mutualism, i.e. the joint mobilisation of renewable resources from the cities and the countryside to meet their common needs. Finally, metabolic city-countryside relations contribute only marginally to the transformation of territorial metabolism. Far from observing a path towards the socio-ecological transition according to these metabolic city-countryside relations, we rather observe the resistance and permanence of the industrial socio-ecological regime.