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Urban Sustainability Assessment

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URBAN Sustainability


CURRENT TRENDS IN UrbanizationAs of 2010 half of the worlds population is located in centersThis growth trend is expected to continue and shift global society to a primarily urban lifestyleWorld urban population expected to hit 6 billion by 2045Over 90% of this growth will occur in Asia and AfricaCreation of urban landscapes called megacities (population over 10 million people)Currently the West is highly urbanized (approx. 82%) while Asia and Africa remain rural (approx. 45-50%)[Source: UN World Urbanization Prospects (2014)]

MEGACITY TrendsAs of 2014 there are 28 Megacities, Tokyo is the largest (37 million people)9 out of the 10 worlds largest megacities are located outside of the Western World8 out of the 10 worlds largest megacities are in developing countriesThe majority of these cities are located in Littoral Zones (Coastal Areas )Expected population growth in developing world will push the trend to over 41 megacities by 2030

[Source: UN World Urbanization Prospects (2014)]


NATURAL DISASTERS AND CLIMATE CHANGELittoral trend of megacities makes them extremely vulnerable to Tropical weather systems (hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, monsoon patterns), Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and other natural phenomenaThese risks become even more amplified with the increasing effects of climate changeIncreased strength of storm systems and rising sea levels threaten the very existence of these citiesNotorious examples include: Indonesian Tsunami (2004), Hurricane Katrina (2005), Tohoku Earthquake (2011)

Pollution and waste disposalOver consumption in developed cities has led to large scale waste creation which cannot be effectively maintainedLack of effective infrastructure in developing cities has led to dumping practices which use rivers and natural sinks, or in-city land fills creating catastrophic effects on the local ecologyLarge scale industrial processes which have been outsourced from the global North to the South are a large creator of air and water pollution as toxic byproducts are excreted from plants.The totality of these trends has adverse health effects on the city population, creates a system of ecological degradation, and exploits the quality of life for urban residents for economic profit

Urban sprawl and land useRapid urbanization expands the use space of inhabitants often at the expense of natural ecological habitatsProcesses such as deforestation, land excavation, and habitat destruction can lead to a loss of biodiversityUrban sprawl also can displace outlying communities in the peri-urban sphereRapid urbanization has also led to the piecemeal establishment of outlying shanty towns/slums which are structurally unstable especially in the face of environmental factors (floods, earthquakes, fires etc.)

City Capacity and Urban governanceThe rate of growth and sheer population of urban centers (especially megacities) has made it increasingly difficult to govern effectivelyStreet gangs, drug cartels, terrorist organizations, criminal organizations have the capacity to disrupt the urban environmentSome even rival or have replaced local government and act as the political/economic backbone of districts in megacitiesThe creation of feral cities (areas where there is a complete absence of any formal government structure including; taxes, emergency services, utilities etc.) [Kilcullen, 2013] Examples: Sinaloa Cartel, favela gangs in Rio de Janeiro The inability (financially, politically, and structurally) for a national government to maintain basic necessities can hinder the cities metabolism

Given current trends and issues; sustainability should be focused on megacities and other urban areas which will be the epicenter of future political, social, and economic development

Habitat IIIThe United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development

Goal of Habitat III: Establish outcomes oriented towards sustainable urban development on a global scaleAdoption by the UN Secretariat on October 20th, 2016The Conference took place in Quito, EcuadorQuito put a bid in to host the event it is also the model city for the conference 30,000 participants from over 167 countries met from October 17th to the 20th

This is the 3rd implementation of the Habitat conferences: Consists of a bi-decennial cycle (1976 Vancouver, 1996 Istanbul, 2016 Quito)Representatives ranged from IGOs, local municipalities, state and national governments, companies, research institutions

Sustainability assessmentBuild an effective frame work to critically analyze policies/plans/organizations to ensure proper implementation of sustainable practices.Composed of 5 core outcomes that will produce and maintain sustainable development.Within these are 12 criteria that outline essential tenets to achieve each particular outcome with a gradient scale of 4-1.Outlined with a rubric format that scores a given policy for each criteria and passes or fails the over all plan

I) EQUITY: current policy failures have much to do with despairing gaps in social standing, economic class, gender inequality, and ethnic discrimination. By addressing these issues within communities, and ensuring healthy trends in equality for future generations, will allow a solid foundation for sustainability. primary goals should be centered on eliminating poverty, hunger, exploitation and increasing health, security, social recognition, political participation. Included in this metric Is a recognition of needing to move away from old standards of prosperity including GDP. (Jackson, Ch.1 & Ch. 3)

Intergenerational: Adopts a framework that ensures or enhances the stability of beneficial trends in equity. This will provide future generations with guaranteed opportunity and capability to live sustainably. (Thiele, Ch. 1)/ (Jackson, p. 5)

Intra-generational: Reduce dangerous gaps in equality on a local/global scale. Work to resolve social issues such as racial discrimination, gender inequality , religious conflict, and the upheaval of cultural minorities in a way that improves cohesion and cooperation. (Thiel, Ch. 2)/ (Jackson p. 3-5)

Ecological: Moving away from the commodification of essential resources including clean air, water and usable land. Understanding that these are universal rights that are essential for the survival of humans and other animals species that inhabit the planet.

II) ADAPTATION: Adaptive management is necessary to ensure sustainability. Planning must be able to respond to unforeseen consequences. Policies must be designed for surprise; avoiding unnecessary risk and shortsighted gains. Allow for feedback and evaluation leading to restructuring making it "safe to fail". Develop flexible economies, political systems, and infrastructure. (Thiele, Ch.4)4. Reversal of Trends: Policy implementation must have few compromises. Accounting for the failure of current methodologies to achieve sustainable development makes it necessary to adopt policies that reverse these harmful practices. Merely stopping trends is short sighted and ensures future consequences. Adaptive management and cautious optimism are realistic endeavors. Selective implementation of new technology that will not create a new set of problems in the future. (Thiele, Ch. 4) 5. Plans for Uncertainty: There will always be inherent risk to any plan. As such, policies should have mechanisms built in to respond to unforeseen consequences even in the most well intentioned actions. Feedback and evaluation will allow for restructuring ineffective policies and adapt to future issues. Implementing agencies, whether they are governments, businesses, cities, or financial institutions, must develop flexible policy systems to account for uncertainty.

III) Integration: Plan must seek a holistic approach to integrating sustainability; paying close attention to all of the intertwined factors including: social, economic, political, ecological, and technological. It must be procedural, trans active, and normative in practice. Finally, integration must last past the implementation phase, allowing for long term evaluation and adjustment.6.Short Term Integration: Implementation must be budget friendly to the agency and the community, it must also adhere to a timely schedule that allows for structural adjustment, while not hindering progress. It should be normative; meaning it works within existing systems to implement change, unless those systems hinder integration. Finally it should be procedural. Adhering to an expectation of good practice which shows a transparent implementation process and lays out clears steps of action that should be taken.7. Long Term Integration: Have mechanisms in place to ensure the plan will survive past implementation. Allow evaluation and review of policies on a scheduled basis ( 5 years, 10 years etc.) to ensure continued longevity of plan.

IV) Maintenance: It is imperative to maintain resource bases in order to ensure long term sustainable development. Reversing over consumption in the global North and adopting a system that can help maintain resource pools while allowing equitable developments in standard of living for the global South. This will include a shift away from extraction, waste, and the pollution that consumption creates which can allow environmental sinks to recover fully. 9. Restore Sinks/Bases: Reverse the problem brought on by the extremely damaging effects of extraction of resources for industrial processes. Current trends show that over consumption has left renewable resource pools unable to regenerate fast enough to meet supply needs. Finite resources are disappearing rapidly and extraction processes have become more energy intensive all while yielding less. Heavy pollution caused by over consumption has caused immense damage to environmental sinks. Their capacity to naturally absorb pollution and waste cannot sustain current trends. There must be a total overhaul of throughput in order to restore these sinks before they are damaged beyond repair. (Wapner p. 85-86)/ (Jackson Ch. 5)8. Dematerialized Economy: Absolute decoupling and resource efficiency are necessary endeavors. However, these solutions will do little to reduce total consumption. It is necessary to change economic systems and push away from a material based economy. With this development is still possible without collapsing the resource base and will allow for natural regeneration of sinks and can maintain resources for future generations (Jackson Ch.5)/ (Speth p. 113)

V) Socio-ecological Civility: Build capacity within collective-decision making organizations to think and act sustainably. Create communities that are more aware of the issues created by unstainable trends and foster a sense of collective responsibility for the environment. Create motivation to continue a legacy of sustainability for future generations and ensure total representation in the process of creating a more sustainable environment.10. Education: Break down ideological barriers in order to teach youth and adults the importance of sustainability and the global impacts that are created by throughput processes and over consumption, and how current gaps in equity have damaging effects on socio-economic relations. Instill a understanding that collective action and good practice can lead to change on a micro and macro level. This can take place in public/private education institutions, by setting up awareness programs within decision making bodies (communities, businesses etc.), and on the public platform through government institutions. (Wapner p. 86)/ (Speth p. 163)11. Democracy: It is a vital necessity to break the hold of decision making processes away from the hands of a few powerful entities and ensure that those who have been historically exploited are heard. Enabling democratic processes within decision making bodies is essential to close the gap in inequality and will provide a voice for those who are most affected by the outcomes of unstainable policies. 12. Community Capacity: Motivate communities to participate in movements for positive change, build relationships within decision making organizations that allow for communities to collectively act. Creating a sense of civil duty to be stewards of the environment and human society creating responsible communities with the capacity for change towards sustainability

Sustainability CriteriaRating: Intra-generational Equity2Intergenerational Equity2Ecological Equity2Reversal of Trends2Plans for Uncertainty3Short Term Integration3Long Term Integration3Dematerialized Economy2Restores Sinks and Bases2Education2Democracy3Community Capacity2OUTCOME:FAIL

Assessment: Habitat IIISUCCESSFUL: 2/3 Criteria Rated at (4)PASSING*: 2/3 Criteria Rated at (3)

*Plan needs to be reassessed to account for lack of real implementation mechanisms

Analysis OF HABITAT IIIIntroductions: The draft outcome document lays out concise principles, goals, and declarations which orient attention towards what exactly the aims of sustainable urban development should be. The United Nations and its drafting partners show deep commitment to addressing the critical issues that are prevalent in modern urban environments. However, with such strong language for change and sustainable development it lacks critical methodology on how to actually implement and initiate policy changes that will work towards the goals and principles that are highlighted in its 175 paragraphs.METHODOLOGY:

Analysis Cont.StrengthsHabitat III is thriving with sustainable language. It addresses climate change and the necessity for cities to become proactive and resilient to natural disaster. It discusses the need to create intergenerational equity specifically for the urban poor, women and children. It also lays out principles which confront consumption, ecological degradation, and pollution. By addressing urban sprawl and the impacts cities have on the environment.

Examples:Strengthening sustainable management of resources including transitioning to a circular economyresource regeneration (para. 71)Commitment to urban resilience in face of natural disaster (para. 67/65)Reversing/containing urban sprawl fostering ecosystem-based solutions to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, so that the ecosystems regenerative capacity is not exceeded (para. 69)Empowering children and women, understanding they are the key to future sustainable development (para. 61)Adapting problems such as the informal economy by seeking to empower those involved in it (specifically migrants, working poor, unpaid domestic labor) (para. 59)Moving from reactive to proactive risk-based, all-hazards and all-of-society approaches, such as raising public awareness of risks (para. 78)Supporting medium to long-term adaptation planning processes, city level assessment of climate vulnerability (para. 80)

WeaknessesWhile Habitat III excels in principles and goals; it lacks substantive examples of effective implementation or meaningful direction towards effective development measures. Specifically, there is no plan to implement any of these principles in an unstainable city. Unfortunately, it has no teeth to enact policies it develops. It has laid out high ideals that society should live up to but until it can find mechanisms for serious implementation the draft document will not pass this assessment.Further, there is a lack of substance in understanding that a reduction or mitigation of trends will not be enough to create a sustainable future.Examples: (g) Adopt and implement disaster risk reduction and management, reduce vulnerability, build resilience and responsiveness to natural and human-made hazards, and foster mitigation of and adaptation to climate changeIn the mitigation and adaptation efforts related to climate change (para. 63)

RecommendationsHabitat III opens up a dialogue with member states, businesses, IGOs, and city/ regional municipalities about the fundamental principles of sustainable development. It absolutely recognizes unsustainable trends and addresses issues that urban centers face both now and in the future. Habitat III has built a good foundation for what should be done. What is necessary for its success is to find effective development strategies. A possibility to start on a micro level within an unstainable city (for example NYC which is the headquarters of the United Nations) and working with the city government to formalize the adoption of these protocols which can then be formulated into actual legislation.

RESOURCES and References:United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision, Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/352).United Nations, General Assembly (2015). Draft Outcome Document of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). (A/CONF.226/4*)."The New Urban Agenda - Habitat III." Habitat III. Accessed December 05, 2016. https://habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda.Kilcullen, David. Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Thiele, Leslie Paul. Sustainability. Cambridge: Polity, 2013.Jackson, Tim. Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. London: Earthscan, 2009.Wapner, Paul, and John Willoughby. "The Irony of Environmentalism: The Ecological Futility but Political Necessity of Lifestyle Change." Ethics & International Affairs 19, no. 03 (2005): 77-89. doi:10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00555.x.Speth, James Gustave. The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.