From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Global Concerns and Urban Efforts: Volume 14

Table of contents

(21 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages 3-5
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Purpose

Since the publication of the 1987 Brundtland Report, discussions about sustainable development have been nothing short of a buzz among politicians and academics. This chapter takes stock of an emerging strand of the sustainable city literature that recognizes local political dynamics, conflicts of interest, and power struggles.

Approach

The review is organized into three sections. The first section reviews how past studies have utilized sustainable urban development as an opportunity for advancing theories of urban politics, highlighting recent developments in the growth machine, regulatory state, and risk society theses. The second section examines a range of studies that place the questions of scale, unit, and boundary at the center of inquiry. The third section draws together a body of research that interrogates different meanings of sustainability.

Implications

The first section discusses the extent to which social and political processes in the sustainability age exhibit a pattern consistent with established theoretical accounts. The second section focuses on studies that address how urban sustainable development has brought challenges to existing configurations of spatial relations. These studies pose important methodological and epistemological questions for studying environmental politics. In the third section, the focus is placed on political implications of urban sustainable development, which is subject to multiple interpretations.

Originality

This chapter ends with a review of an emerging thesis – strategic urbanism, which draws attention to the patterns of change in urban politics. Much of the contributions to this thesis are based on urban sustainability politics in recent years.

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Purpose

Cities have been exposed to a variety of natural disasters such as flooding, extreme temperatures, storms, earthquakes, and other natural shocks, and have had to respond and adapt to such pressures over time. In the context of global climate change, natural disasters have increased across the globe. Apart from climate change, many urban environments in Latin America are experiencing significant transformations in land use patterns, socio-demographic change, changing labor markets, and economic growth, resulting from recent decades of globalization. Such transformations have resulted in the internal fragmentation of cities. In this context, the purpose of the present chapter is to demonstrate the importance in both theoretical and methodological terms, of integrating the concept of socio-environmental fragmentation into urban vulnerability research in order to make progress toward higher degrees of local sustainability in those areas of the city that suffer natural disasters and fragmentation.

Methodology/approach

A mixed methods approach is used in order to combine different technical issues from urban and climate change studies.

Findings

The findings are related to the importance of an integrated approach, regarding the complexity of urban life, and the relationship between the urban, the social, and the environmental phenomenon.

Social implications

This chapter relates to the revisit of the current state of preparedness and to determine whether further adaptations are required. The authors understood that these kinds of mixed approaches are necessary in order to understand the new complexity of urban processes.

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Purpose

This chapter aims to share the Dutch experiences with the transformation of urban and regional planning practices towards sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach

The chapter does so by answering the following research question: What were the main problems with the integration of environmental considerations in Dutch urban and regional planning practices, and how have these been overcome? This question is answered through a historical analysis of policy changes in the Netherlands, and through the presentation of two case studies.

Findings

The chapter shows that initial attention for sustainability resulted in the enactment of competing practices for environmental planning and water management planning, next to existing practices for urban and regional planning. The coordination of the resulting planning practices proved difficult due to opposing cultures of thought, and attempts to overcome these differences through comprehensive plans turned sour. The chapter illustrates how alternative solutions at the regional and urban level were eventually successful. In the Gelre Valley region, an open project approach translated in a sustainable regional plan. And in Schalkwijk neighbourhood in Haarlem, an environmentally sensitive conceptual framework – the Strategy of the two Networks – let to the incorporation of environmental considerations in urban planningpractices. In both cases, the insistence of the principal actor – provincial and municipal government – on sustainability issues was crucial.

Originality/value

This chapter introduces experiences with a transformation to sustainable urban and regional planning in the Netherlands. It will be interesting for practitioners and researchers of urban and regional planning practices and sustainable cities around the world.

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Purpose

Climate change is a global threat to social, economic, and environmental sustainability. In an increasingly urbanized world, homeowners play an important role in climate adaptation and environmental sustainability through decisions to landscape and manage their residential properties.

Methodology/approach

In this chapter, we review the potential impacts of climate change on environmental sustainability in urban ecosystems and highlight the role of urban and suburban residents in conserving biodiversity. We focus extensively on the interactions of homeowners and residential landscapes in urban coastal and desert environments.

Practical implications

Understanding how human-environment interactions are linked with a changing climate is especially relevant for coastal and desert cities in the United States, which are already experiencing visible impacts of climate change. In fact, many homeowners are already making decisions in response to environmental change, and these decisions will ultimately shape the future structure, function and sustainability of these critically important ecosystems.

Social implications

Considering the close relationship between biodiversity and the health and well-being of human societies, understanding how climate change and other social motivations affect the landscaping decisions of urban residents will be critical for predicting and enhancing sustainability in these social-ecological systems.

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Purpose

The chapter aims at representing the results of a case study with concern to the economic and environmental crisis triggered by Ilva in Taranto.

Design/methodology/approach

The case study design follows an ethnographic approach. The analysis is based on the collection of some qualitative interviews and documentation related to the environmental conflict engendered by the Ilva of Taranto, which has been the largest steel mill in Europe since the 1990s.

Findings

The analysis of the empirical data shows some interesting insights about (a) the growing contradictions in time of crisis in the relationship between the ‘the four pillars’ of sustainability (economy, social justice and society, environment, culture); (b) the importance of the social pillar in playing a key role in the management of local conflicts and in stimulating change within social and economic organizations; (c) the difficulty to promote sustainable policies through a multilevel governance approach able to synthesize the complexity of the scenarios emerging at the local, regional, national and European levels, in order to create an alternative way of development.

Originality/value

The ethnographic approach is useful to analyse in depth the core of the environmental conflict and the divergent developmental scenarios expressed by the different categories of actors.

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Purpose

This chapter examines issues of sustainability in regard to post-Soviet Central Asian urban centers via a case study of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This urban center of approximately one million people is the largest in the Kyrgyz Republic, and one of the larger cities in Central Asia. Dubbed “the Tree City” during the Soviet Era, it, like other Central Asian population centers, occupies an oasis-like environment at the foot of a major mountain range, the Ala-Too Range of the Tian Shan (Mts.). This major mountain massif, which extends across the northern part of Central Asia and on into North-West China, has numerous peaks more than 4,000 m high and many glaciers. It is these snowfields that provide most of the water used by the city of Bishkek and its suburbs.

Methodology

The findings represented herein are based on ethnographic field observations and interviews conducted in 2006–2007 and 2013–2014. A variety of documentary resources were accessed as well.

Research findings

During Soviet times, Bishkek and its environs were the location of industrial complexes focused on the processing of minerals and agricultural produce, much of which was shipped to other republics within the USSR. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of these industrial sites have fallen into disuse and disrepair. So, while Bishkek has numerous “socialist” planned parks, long-established green spaces, and a relatively large “urban forest” along major boulevards and thoroughfares, it is also dotted with abandoned factories, warehouses, and crumbling infrastructure. In parts of the city, and especially around its perimeter, urban fruit and vegetable gardens have reappeared, as many residents had to return to subsistence gardening to provide basic food needs for their households.

In the last decade, however, the local economy has begun to diversify and grow. This has brought more cars to the streets and a substantial number of new businesses and building projects, along with increasing amounts of air, water, and noise pollution. Concomitant with this new development has been the emergence of a nascent green movement, the establishment of environmental organizations, and a small but growing “green consciousness” as witnessed by the creation of new recycling programs, increased bicycle travel, and related activities pointing toward a more sustainable future.

Implications

In this chapter, the relative sustainability (social, cultural, economic, and ecological) of this Central Asian urban center are considered as it has emerged from its Soviet past to become the focal point of new enterprises, including a small but growing ecotourism industry. Bishkek, in common with other major cities of this region, which is far from the moderating influences of the sea, must adapt to the realities of what are likely to be increasingly severe climate change impacts – increased average annual temperatures, the rapid retreat of mountain glaciers and a reduction in the essential waters that they provide, and increasingly severe and numerous periods of drought. Whether or not Bishkek can successfully adapt to these changes and emerge as a more sustainable city remains to be seen.

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Purpose

Slums, in urban areas of the Global South, are often manifested as the spatial manifestation of urban poverty. In many local contexts, eviction of slums is treated as the recipe of urban development initiative, which is actually wrong and short-sighted unsustainable solution. This chapter addresses some of the interlinked issues and highlights how the megacities of the Global South can pursue a more holistic, pro-poor, and sustainable solutions by dealing this developmental challenge.

Methodology

This chapter is basically an outcome of a policy research, combining information and arguments from different secondary resources.

Findings

This chapter offers a better understanding on the causes and consequences of the slums, along with ideas for the government to tackle this issue and promote better livelihoods for the poor citizens. Even though this chapter focuses on the sustainability challenges in Dhaka, it can have policy implications in other regions with similar social, economic, and political conditions.

Research limitation

The discussion in this chapter does not include an empirical modeling or analysis technique so that the problems can be proven quantitatively. In some future research, a more quantitative approach can help to quantify the losses people are facing in terms of social value, monetary losses, and environmental cohesion.

Social implications

Without making any provisions for jobs and livelihoods for the poor slum dwellers, the process of eviction might cause the total “city management” system to collapse. Then it is no more an urban development initiative, but rather a government-initiated poverty generation process. Therefore, government can think for solutions at different levels – from local to regional scale, including long-term and short-term sustainability strategies.

Originality

Often the governments as well as the policy makers in the Global South treat the poverty problems (including slum formations) from a much narrower perspective. They should rather focus on the issue as part of a big developmental picture. The strategies can start both from macro- and micro-levels. On the macro-level, the government can initiate climate-resilient and pro-poor development strategies. On the micro-level, the government, along with nongovernmental organizations and national and international development partners, can focus on skill development opportunities and policies, so that the poor can live legally, wherever they want, with decent employment and livelihood opportunities.

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Purpose

This study applies theoretical perspectives from urban, environmental, and organization studies to examine if “smart growth” represents an ecological restructuring of the political economy of conventional urban development, long theorized as a “growth machine” (Molotch, H. (1976) The city as growth machine: Toward a political economy of place. American Journal of Sociology, 82, 309–332; Logan & Molotch, 2007); the purpose is to determine if there is a “smart growth machine.”

Design

Nine smart growth projects (SGPs) in four cities in California and Oregon were identified and semistructured interviews were held with the respective developers, architects, and civic officials involved in their implementation process. Comparative, descriptive, and grounded approaches were used to generate themes from interviews and other data sources.

Findings

The findings suggest that an ecological modernization of urban political economy occurs through the coordination of entrepreneurial action, technical expertise, and “smart” regulation. Individual and institutional entrepreneurs shift the organizational field of urban development. Technical expertise is needed to make projects sustainable and financially feasible. Finally, a “smart” regulatory framework that balances regulations and incentives is needed to forge cooperative relationships between local governments and developers. This constellation of actors and institutions represents a smart growth machine.

Originality

The author questions whether urban growth can become “smart” using an original study of nine SGPs in four cities across California and Oregon.

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Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of urban agriculture (UA) as a tool for advancing urban sustainability.

Methodology/approach

The chapter is based on participatory action case research focused on the development of an urban food policy in Edmonton, Canada from 2008 to 2013. Three data gathering techniques were employed: participant observation, semi-structured interviewing, and document analysis, and the data was analyzed using a grounded theory approach that including coding for themes and triangulation. We also draw on the work of critical sustainability scholars to outline the propensity for innovative work on local food initiatives to follow the same development path as many urban sustainability initiatives that foreclose political debate and reinforce the status quo.

Findings

The research data reveals that despite initial progressive changes in municipal policy, promising innovative food system planning, in the end Edmonton’s city council were largely driven by a development agenda.

Originality/value

In discussing both the successes and remaining challenges for Edmonton, this case study offers instructive lessons for many municipalities about key factors required for moving urban sustainability forward, specifically with respect to capitalizing on the innovative integrative functions of food for organizing communities and building capacity but also in moving beyond technocratic systems of management and planning to advance a paradigm shift toward building urban food security.

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Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to present a case studio on a successful urban sustainability public policy in Mexico: Línea Verde. The main goal of Línea Verde was to improve the inhabitant’s welfare through a sustainability project.

Methodology/approach

From a theoretical discussion and empirical research methods, throughout this chapter we present the results and discuss the possible elements that explain successful sustainable public policies.

Findings

Our main findings are that complex contexts like the Mexican – budgetary impediments, weak institutions, corruption, and federal fragmentations – political abilities seem to enable the final implementation of the project.

Practical implications

This case works as a laboratory of ideas to implement easily, or more effective, environmental policies in countries as complex as, or less than Mexico. Also, this case is valuable in terms of local governments’ analysis and their limitations and opportunities to implement successful environmental projects. The above, however, cannot applied exactly as described in this chapter, since political abilities cannot be manipulated, but this chapter opens future researches on what can explain successful sustainable policies or, if people’s relations may be more important than the policy design.

Social implications

This case highlights the importance of politics in the implementation of environmental policies in local governments with budgetary limitations.

Originality/value

This case is unique per se because runs throughout an old oil pipe; also, it got enough financing and actors helping the whole project, it had a good policy design that could never succeed if it wasn’t for politics.

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Purpose

Studying Cuban urban agriculture is important because empirically investigating existing, innovative projects geared toward sustainability can illuminate the processes that facilitate and inhibit environmental reform. I assess the social costs and benefits, achievements, and ongoing challenges at one urban farm. I highlight the interconnection of societal institutions – including gender relationships and gendered economic structures – that can foster or undermine sustainability projects. My analysis of the social dimensions of environmental problems is based on Ariel Salleh’s theoretical work. She argues that women’s invisible reproductive labor mediates paid labor by maintaining the viability of such labor. My contribution is to add an empirical dimension to her work.

Methodology

To assess the challenges of urban sustainability, I spent two months conducting participant observation and semi-structured interviews with workers at an urban farm in Havana, Cuba.

Findings

I find that culturally prescribed gender divisions of labor are entrenched in Cuban urban agriculture. Women continue to do most of the important, yet unacknowledged, domestic work that maintains the health of agricultural labor. Additionally, the heavier burdens women experience during the second shift restrict their ability to participate in local democratic decision-making processes, thereby limiting their capacity to modify oppressive cultural norms and maintaining the status quo.

Implications

Socially just environmental change does not automatically happen when the barriers of capitalism are removed, even if the society bases economic progress on increasing quality of life rather than profit. Instead, socially just environmental change must be a deliberate process that is constantly negotiated, reassessed, and prioritized.

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Purpose

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, the category 3 storm’s surge caused nearly every municipal levee to break leaving 80% of the city flooded. In the aftermath of the storm, television images of stranded residents, drowned hospital patients, looted stores, and chaos in designated shelters ignited an ethical debate over the role of race and class in modern America. As debates raged over how, or whether, to rebuild New Orleans, the idea of cultural sustainability underlies these discussions.

Design/methodology

Drawing on the largest diaspora since the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s, I begin by examining the concept of a civil society through Habermas’ (1994) utopian model of an ideal speech community. I extend Habermas’ idea to the environmental justice movement with an emphasis on the utilitarian approach. This includes my discussion of Hinman’s (1998) pluralistic view of moral ethics within a multicultural society coupled with Bullard’s (1993, 1994, 2008) applied environmental social justice in low-income racial minority neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by hazardous waste sites. Then, I expand this argument into the concept of cultural sustainability in which the concept of a free speech community and environmental justice are embedded.

Findings

Drawing on a case study of New Orleans, I examine how the city’s divided racial and class cultures provide major challenges to applying cultural sustainability practices in the post-Katrina rebuilding process.

Originality

This chapter uses a case study to explore the application of cultural sustainability practices highlighting the concepts implicit roots in Habermas’ utopian free speech community and underlying ties to the environmental justice movement.

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Purpose

To examine the recent popularity of the tiny house movement with a critical eye toward the growing commodification of sustainability in a market that continues to shelter economic and class privilege, despite that the movement itself emerges from a desire to consume less and contribute to community more.

Methodology/approach

Written from the position of a tiny house builder and dweller, this study reads a range of recently published accounts of the tiny house movement, informed by contemporary work in environmental sociology. Investigates current rhetoric surrounding the movement with special attention to issues of mobility, consumption, and the movement’s romanticism, with particular attention to the movement’s invocations of Henry David Thoreau.

Findings

Tiny house living can cultivate correctives to possible oversights or entitlements in environmental thought, challenge representations of the movement itself, and encourage those inside the “tiny” house movement to openly discuss the difficulties and capabilities endemic to tiny living.

Social implications

Tiny houses, while still bound to forms of privilege, hold potential to be what some social science researchers have seen as best practice. Practices that link the practicality of realism with the zeal of romanticism can contribute to what has been found to be a positive correlation between conscious consumption and political activism.

Originality/value

This critique offers a gentle corrective to unmitigated praise of the current tiny house phenomenon in order to highlight the movement’s potential for addressing more pressing social justice and environmental issues.

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Purpose

Today three out of four Europeans live in towns and cities. Urban areas are concentrated with most of the environmental challenges facing our society, but also bring together the commitment and innovation needed to resolve these challenges. The European Commission has long recognised the important role that local authorities play in improving the environment and their high level of commitment to genuine progress; in this regard, it launched the European Green Capital Award (EGCA) in 2009 as an initiative to promote and reward cities making efforts to improve the urban environment and move towards healthier and sustainable living areas. The EGCA is given each year to the city deemed to be most deserving on the basis of 10 environmental parameters: the local contribution to global climate change, local mobility and passenger transport, the availability of local public open areas, the quality of local ambient air, noise pollution, waste production and management, water consumption, waste water treatment, environmentally sustainable management of the local authority and sustainable land use.

Design/methodology

This chapter has been composed on the basis of materials found in the literature and on websites, and thanks to contacts created with some departments of the municipalities considered.

Findings

Stockholm, Hamburg and Copenhagen represent the winning cities in 2010, 2011 and 2014, respectively. This chapter focuses on the successful experiences of these cities, which show how the convergence of the environmental and economic development is important in order to reach sustainable development.

Originality/value

This chapter shows that environmental protection must not be thought of as a cost for our society. On the contrary, it illustrates how it can support economic development in urban contexts if well planned, managed and participated in at a municipal scale.

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Purpose

To look at the role of local decision-making and control in the face of a trend towards unified national and transnational disaster protocols. To look at the implications of a shifting rhetoric – from sustainability to resilience – for this issue.

Methods/approach

This chapter draws upon the author’s case studies of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in New York City and Hurricane Sandy (2013) in New York City, as well as studies of Hurricane Katrina (2006) in New Orleans, to discuss governance issues.

Findings

Empirical studies confirm the importance of locally based decision-making and control. There are tensions between national disaster protocols and local decision-making; urban governance matters given differences in political culture, leadership, and community participation.

Social implications

We need a resilient social infrastructure as well as a resilient physical environment. Strong social institutions are an essential part of this process but communities must be given material, not only symbolic benefits.

Originality/value of chapter

The conclusion that the threat of natural disasters requires more rather than less autonomy in decision-making for the locality.

Furthermore, that the shift in objectives, from sustainability to resilience (mandating redundancy and sophisticated data retrieval) requires what we might call a more empowered city.

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DOI
10.1108/S1047-0042201414
Publication date
2014-11-25
Book series
Research in Urban Sociology
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-058-2
Book series ISSN
1047-0042