Category Archives: blog

Viewpoints: Rapid urban growth in mountainous regions: The case of Nainital, India

Prakash C. Tiwari
Kumaon University, India

Bhagwati Joshi
Government Post Graduate College, India

shutterstock_362847104 (1)Mountain ecosystems, particularly in developing and underdeveloped regions, are experiencing rapid, unplanned and unregulated urban-growth. Recently, less accessible areas of the Himalaya region in India have begun to urbanize due to the extension of the road network, growth in tourism, and economic globalization. The sprawling urban growth in these fragile mountains and the resultant land use intensification have disrupted the hydrological systems of urban areas, and have consequently increased the susceptibility of anthropogenically-modified slopes to recurrent slope failures, landslides, and flash floods. Moreover, climate change has stressed urban ecosystems by increasing the frequency, severity, and intensity of extreme weather events. Continue reading

Two Positions Available at Rutgers University

Rutgers University’s Department of Geography invites applications for two Assistant Instructor positions. These two full-time, non-tenure track positions begin in Fall 2016 and are renewable annually. Both positions carry a 2/3 teaching load (5 courses per year). Both also entail assisting with advising of undergrad majors and minors in one or more of our three undergraduate degree programs (Geography, Environmental Studies, International and Global Studies). Required qualifications: PhD (or ABD with a defense date prior to September 1, 2016) in Geography or a closely related discipline, teaching experience in a college or university setting in geography, environmental studies, or a related discipline. For both positions, experience in teaching large classes (100-300 students) is desirable.   Continue reading

Viewpoints: Transforming desert playgrounds into urban oases

Jennifer Vanos
Texas Tech University, USA

Robert Brown
University of Guelph, Canada

playgroundWhen parents send their children off to school they expect them to spend their days in a safe and healthy environment. There’s plenty of evidence of how outdoor play promotes personal health and well-being, and access to a playground in an effectively designed space is a large component of being physically active. But not all playgrounds are as safe as they might appear. With canopy coverage lower than many city averages, children might be exposed to increased levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) that can lead to erythema (sunburn) and an elevated risk of skin cancer.  In addition, surfaces that might look to the human eye to be cool and inviting can be extremely hot.  These hot surfaces create two potentially dangerous conditions for children: burned skin from direct contact, and very high infrared radiation load that can increase the risk of hyperthermia.

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Viewpoints: Buea, Cameroon and the planning challenges of peri-urban settlements

Jude Ndzifon Kimengsi, Catholic University of Cameroon
Solange Akhere Gwan, University of Oslo, Norway
Elinge Lyonga Emmanuel, Buea City Council, Cameroon

10998056224_446cb7d548_oIn 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated that, “with more than half of the world’s population living in cities today, we are indeed living in an urban century.” Indeed, urbanization is occurring rapidly in the developing world, where cities gain an average of 5 million residents every month (UN-Habitat, 2009). The most visible effect of urban expansion is discernible at the peri-urban environment. In developing countries, peri-urban areas are characterized by fast population growth, a mixture of planned and unplanned settlements, inadequate service infrastructures, environmental and health problems. These present a significant challenge to planners as they struggle to ensure a harmonious development of this zone.

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Viewpoints: We need a global collection of local scenarios

Jenny Seifert & Stephen Carpenter
University of Wisconsin, USA

Global environmental change is a complex problem, which is no news to this blog’s readers. We all grapple with the near-paralyzing uncertainty that comes with studying and solving the challenges associated with a changing climate, shifting land use and fickle human demands—challenges that span time and geographic scales, and could be addressed in as many ways as there are perspectives in this world.

An approach to reining in this complexity is the co-development of scenarios by researchers and stakeholders. These provocative yet plausible stories about the future are valuable tools for resilience planning because they synthesize complex information accessibly, lean into the uncertainty, create public engagement opportunities, and provide a credible and relevant foundation for quantitative analyses and modeling efforts. Continue reading

Viewpoints: Challenges in assessing and measuring urban resilience

Susie Moloney, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University, Australia
Marta Olazabal, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Spain
Lilia Yumagulova, The University of British Columbia, Canada
Lorenzo Chelleri, Gran Sasso Science Institute, Italy

shutterstock_359518463 (1)The Global Carbon Project (GCP), in collaboration with RMIT University, the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project, the Urban Climate Change Research (UCCRN) Network and IR3S, organized a workshop on “Tools and Indicators for assessing urban resilience”, on December 7-10, 2015 at the University of Tokyo. The workshop aimed to utilize resilience thinking as a guiding principle and bring together scholars from different disciplines to develop an integrated framework for assessing urban community resilience.  Building on existing studies the framework or ‘assessment toolkit’ is intended to use bottom up indicators suitable for local needs particularly for use by planners and decision makers to mainstream resilience thinking into the planning system and increase the response capacity of cities. Continue reading

Webcast on Urban Sustainability Transitions

Dr. Patricia Romero-Lankao, head of NCAR’s Urban Futures group, will be giving a presentation entitled, “Leading Interdisciplinary Scientific Efforts to Inform Urban Sustainability Transitions” on February 4, 2016, 2:00 pm (GMT-7) at the NCAR Foothills Laboratory Main Auditorium (FL2-1022) in Boulder, Colorado, USA. She will present highlights of her past scientific research and leadership, as well as the current and future directions of her innovative research program.

You can watch the webcast here:

Viewpoints: Setting priorities in a new era for climate adaptation

Meghan Doherty
Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), USA

climate change adaptationIt’s a new era for climate adaptation: Four out of the five most concerning global risks for the next 10 years are directly linked to the need to adapt to the changing climate (World Economic Forum, 2016). Though these are global problems often discussed at the national scale, urban areas are increasingly seen as having a critical role in the adaptation agenda. The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) highlighted the need to establish a global goal on adaptation of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.” In addition, the agreement calls out cities as relevant actors by acknowledging the need for non-Party stakeholders “to address and respond to climate change” (UNFCCC, 2015).

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Symposium: A Decade of Urbanization & Global Environmental Change

urbanization global environmental change symposiumThe Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Project is proud to announce “A Decade of Urbanization and Global Environmental Change: A UGEC Symposium” on Thursday, February 18, 2016 at the Arizona State University Memorial Union in the Pima Auditorium.  The event starts at 10:00.  It is part of the Sustainability Solutions Festival.

Panelists will draw from their own research and practical expertise to offer insight into the needs and directions of future UGEC research and science-policy-practice linkages, particularly addressing the role of young scholars and students interested in urbanization and sustainability issues.

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Christopher Boone, Arizona State University, USA


Shuaib Lwasa, Makerere University, Uganda
Patricia Romero-Lankao, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA
Karen Seto, Yale University, USA
David Simon, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK & Mistra Urban Futures, Sweden

Viewpoints: The lucky country? Social space and community gardens in Australian cities

Alec Thornton
The University of New South Wales, Australia

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’
Donald Horne, 1964

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Community garden under threat of council closure in Erskineville, Sydney, Australia.  Image Credit: Author

In 1964, Donald Horne ironically described Australia as a ‘lucky country’, having exceptional opportunities for wealth creation, largely due to its natural resource-base and vast spaces for expansive development. He was being critical of what he perceived to be a ‘lack of innovation’, compared to other modern societies, and challenged decision-makers to be more ‘proactive’ and ‘clever’ (Horne, 1964). Horne’s concerns are relevant to contemporary issues in Australian cities, in an era of urbanization (internal and international migration) and backlash against the global food system. Unlike many other western cities, these concerns have yet to unleash the potential for city-community partnerships in Australia, for advancing social equity and local food production through urban agriculture (UA). Based on recent research, this article will highlight ideas in critical urban theory within the context of UA in Australian cities, where urban densities are, globally, comparatively low. In doing so, it will highlight the structural and actual experiences and outcomes of social movements in producing urban food spaces, independent of—or despite—city involvement.

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