3 Cities Contributing to Global Sustainability Review.docx

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Environment and Urban Sustainability
EUS 202
Christopher Greene

EUS 202 Component 03 – Cities Contributing to Global Sustainability Comparing Environmental Performance of Cities  Difficult to compare cities: a range of problems can be considered “environmental”  Immediate environmental hazards less of a concern in the North than in the South  In contrast, the South exhibit lower levels of energy use, resource use, waste production  North responsible for high levels of pollution and GHG production  Over the past 100 years, the Global North has achieved higher quality environmental conditions (how?) o Largely by importing ecological assets and exporting impacts of population and consumption o e.g. Improved infrastructure carries sewage and wastewater away from cities and citizens o e.g. Emission to water bodies can cause downstream issues (environmental and economic) for other regions  These differences point to a need to distinguish between categories of environmental problems  One benefit is the ability to compare performance of smaller cities  Danger is a reliance on indices that are easy to measure but omit potentially more relevant data  Satterthwaite argues the following example related to air pollution  Sulphur Dioxide (e.g. burning coal): o Frequently easier to obtain data regarding sulfur dioxide emissions o More difficult to gain accurate data related to access to clean water and sanitation o Ease of access to the air quality data (while useful) may take more prominence than the larger issue of sanitation o Risk of exposure to the air pollution marginal when compared to risk of infectious disease  Satterthwaite argues there is a need for better definition of environmental problems  Should not exclude those problems that may present difficulties in obtaining data  Also important: once defined, attempts to improve one category should not proceed at the expense of others  He suggests five broad categories of environmental action as a framework for comparison Categories of Environmental Action  Category 1: Controlling infectious and parasitic diseases  Category 2: Reducing chemical and physical hazards within the home, workplace, and wider city  Category 3: Achieving a high-quality urban environment  Category 4: Minimizing the transfer of environmental costs to the inhabitants and ecosystems surrounding a city  Category 5: Sustainable consumption  Categorization: o Provides a framework for comparison of similarities and differences and how priorities can differ  Framework: o Also helps clarify how priorities change and evolve over time o Population growth and increased affluence  Note an expanding scale of environmental hazard or cost o Personal o Neighbourhood o City o Region o National (or International)  Priorities in the North o Reducing resource and energy use, GHG production o Improving environmental quality o Cannot neglect other categories (e.g. threats of emerging diseases, reducing industrial pollution)  Priorities in the South o Tend to be focused on the first two categories Category 01: Controlling Infectious and Parasitic Diseases  What is the relationship between concentrations of people and disease?  Advantages of concentrated over dispersed population: o Cost of most infrastructure per capita is decreased (better sanitation and water supply) o Cost of most services per capita also reduced (specifically provision of health care, emergency services, solid waste management) o With adequate resources, cities can be a very safe and healthy place to live  Cities with inadequate resources o Poor sanitation, water quality issues, inadequate waste management, health services o Increases the probability and incidence of parasites and disease vectors o Concentration of people increases likelihood of disease transfer o These cities are some of the most hazardous places to reside  Emerging diseases o Not “new” per se, but new in distribution o May have existed in nature or isolated communities o e.g. HIV/AIDS  Re-emergence of diseases previously believed to be under control o Tuberculosis a top causes of adult death  Though lack of resources devoted to public health is a complicating factor  Rapid urbanization and movements of large numbers of people also important o Becomes more difficult to control disease transmission  Control of disease complicated by: o Resistance of insects to pesticides o Resistance of diseases to treatment  In cities of the Global South o Common for low-income groups to settle in lower lying areas (lower value, less chance of eviction) o Frequently near areas where potential insect vectors breed (swamps, wetlands, prone to flooding) o Increased disease risk  Obviously not a technical issue – these problems largely diminished in cities of the Global North Category 02: Reducing Chemical and Physical Hazards Within the Home, Workplace, Wider City  Scale of physical and chemical hazards correlate with o Industrial production o Road hazards  Action to address category 1 depends on improving infrastructure  Action in this category requires improving regulation (not only industry but individuals)  Reducing health hazards: reducing occupational hazards (exposure to dust, chemicals, noise)  Reducing chemical hazards: o Addressing indoor air pollution (especially Global South) o Particularly important where coal and biomass used as household fuel (can also lead to physical hazards)  Physical hazards: o Household accidents (temporary materials, open flame) o Areas prone to natural disasters (tens of millions at risk to floods, landslides, mudslides) o Low income households especially prone to physical hazards (land availability, proximity to employment)  Regulatory approach – a mechanism to address some of these issues o Standards for employers, penalties when standards not met o Traffic control can lead to reduced physical hazards from automobiles o Green-space allotments provide safe space for children  Ambient air and water quality o As cities grow, industrialize, and become wealthier, a need for pollution control also emerges o In 1996 WHO (World Health Organization) estimated 1.5 billion people exposed to air pollution above maximum acceptable o Once industrial pollution has been addressed, automobiles tend to become primary source of urban air pollution Category 03: Achieving a High Quality Urban Environment  Different qualitatively from the first two categories  Focus on making urban environments pleased, safe, valued  Includes: o A focus on open space (parks, plazas, recreation) o Protection of natural landscapes (ecological value, aesthetics) o Protection and promotion of cultural heritage  Category 3 provides an opportunity to combine urban livability with functionality o Wetlands and wastewater treatment o Urban forestry and ecological services (reducing stormwater runoff, air quality, aesthetics) o Urban agriculture can provide open space and reuse or some wastewater  Provision for green space is often low priority in rapidly growing cities, especially in Global South  From a planning perspective, what is an issue if no provision for public space? o Land developed almost exclusively for urban land uses o Once developed (i.e. built environment) it is difficult to reclaim land for public space o Especially difficult if that public space is to be green space or reclaimed as natural areas  Socioeconomics can complicate – why? o Middle and high income groups have means to pay for better access to green space o Includes access to public space and more exclusive forms (e.g. golf clubs, country clubs, private beaches) o These groups have more political weight than lower income groups o Having the means to pay for access reduces pressure on local authorities to provide more available public space Category 04: Minimizing the Transfer of Environmental Costs to the Inhabitants and Ecosystems Surrounding the City  Concerns the transfer of environmental costs to people and ecosystems outside the city o Transfer to the city-region (this category) o Longer distances outside the city-region or further in the future (fifth and sixth category)  Important to note o Improved performance at the city-region level often at the expense of regions farther away  Early city development has a transformative effect on surrounding regions o Land surfaces reshaped o Infilling of swamps and valleys o Extraction of materials for construction (clay, sand, gravel, crushed rock) o Accessing freshwater sources  Generalized result is a modification of the ecology of previously pristine systems  Effect of addressing sanitation o Improving infrastructure o Sewage moved away from neighbourhoods to freshwater sources (streams, lakes, estuaries)
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