Tag Archives: ugec viewpoints

Viewpoints: Nature-based solutions for cities: A new tool for sustainable urban land development?

shutterstock_287030588 (1)Dagmar Haase
Humboldt University, Germany

Nature-based Solutions (NBS) are living solutions inspired and supported by the use of natural processes and structures, and are designed to address various environmental challenges in an efficient and adaptable manner, while simultaneously providing economic, social, and environmental benefits (European Commission, 2015). The core idea of NBS is to use the benefits of ecosystem services to prevent a system from crossing a certain threshold/tipping point, such as critical air temperatures, water shortages. or water levels that could lead to dangerous flooding. Continue reading

Viewpoints: The informal as the “city” in urban Africa: Experience from Kampala

Shuaib Lwasa
Makerere University, Uganda

shutterstock_129730406 (1)Cities in developing countries have grappled with spatial planning, infrastructure, housing and, more recently, fragmented and “runaway” development. Spatial plans largely remain at a strategic level and less at the neighborhood scale, where there is a disjuncture between the envisioned urban layout and the actual development (Lwasa, 2013). The coupling of these multiple challenges has rendered planning a failure, resulting in a continued organic development of “informal” cities with diverse infrastructure and services that contrast with centralized systems used as the benchmark for measuring progress of a formal city. In this article, I postulate that the “informal city” is actually the city. Continue reading

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

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

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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Viewpoints: An examination of China’s New Urbanization Strategy

1430433167_f50bdaaaab_oJun Yang
Tsinghua University, China

In the last three decades, urbanization in China moved ahead at an unprecedented speed. Between 1978 and 2014, the urbanization rate increased from 17.9% to 53.7% (Chinese Government Network, 2015 [In Chinese]). During that time, more than five hundred million people moved from rural areas into cities. Rapid urbanization, along with industrialization, has propelled social and economic development not only in China, but globally as well.

However, the prospect of continuing at such high levels of urban development is dimming for three reasons. First, urbanization in China in the last three decades was driven externally by international industry transfer associated with the de-industrialization of developed countries. China’s status as “the world’s factory” provided funding and a workforce for urbanization. Internally, policies and regulations favoring urbanization, especially land use policy, paved the way for rapid urbanization. Nevertheless, as China’s economy has begun to slow due to the drop of the global market, the sustainability of this rapid urbanization has become a great challenge.

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Viewpoints: Structure and agency: The seeds of sustainability for 21st century cities

shutterstock_141250204 (1)Andrew Rudd
UN Habitat, USA

The recently UN-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out a globally unprecedented aspiration for cities. Among other aims (including inclusion, safety and resilience), SDG-11 aspires to ‘make cities and human settlements…sustainable…’ The implication, of course, is that cities are currently not very sustainable (see Figure 1). By many measures this is true; scholars have shown how many cities are exceeding the carrying and regenerative capacity of the planet. Seto et al. show that cities on average are using land less and less efficiently. While global material extraction has slowed relative to GDP, 80% of which is produced in cities, cement production is accelerating even faster than GDP. As an outcome, the IEA and UN-Habitat estimate that cities are responsible for 60-80% of energy use and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, respectively.

Yet none of this is a fatal flaw inherent to the urban condition. Merely critiquing cities’ unsustainable throughputs is not enough, and mistaking them as parasites is even worse because it usually precipitates highly ineffective solutions (e.g., making cities less city-like). We must not retreat from the city. Cities contain within them the seeds for overcoming their negative externalities. Catalyzing such a transformation requires harnessing agglomeration advantages and tapping into the variety that compact, mixed-use cities offer.

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