World Resources 1996-97
(A joint publication by The World Resource Institute, The United
Nations Environment Programme, The United Nations Development
Programme, and the World Bank)
(Data edited by Dr. Róbinson Rojas)
6. City and Community: Toward Environmental Sustainability
CITIES AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Many of these same ideas about citizen participation and community
mobilization are embodied in the broader concept of "sustainable cities," which
has garnered increasing attention over the past few years--especially but not exclusively
in the developed world. As yet, however, there is little agreement about what constitutes
a "sustainable city" or whether, in fact, such an entity is possible in the
narrow sense of the word. A narrow focus on sustainable cities, for instance, can lead to
the idea that cities should only draw on natural resources from within the immediate
region, which seems increasingly at odds with the globalization of the world economy.
Some commentators have argued persuasively that a more useful framework
is to focus instead on the role of cities in sustainable development (99) (100). Here,
"sustainable development" is defined as meeting the needs of the present without
undermining the resource and ecological base for future generations. This definition is in
keeping with that used in Our Common Future, the report of the World Commission on
Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Commission) (101) (102).
Cities are clearly central to meeting the goals of sustainable
development. The majority of the world's population will soon live in towns and cities.
Worldwide, city-based producers and consumers already account for most of the renewable
and nonrenewable resource consumption and waste generation (103).
Many of the priority actions called for in this report have been
focused on the first part of the equation: meeting the current needs of the urban poor. As
previous chapters have made clear, this involves not just providing physical necessities
such as food, fuel, and water but adequate livelihoods and other social, cultural, health,
and political needs as well.
In wealthier cities, the second part of the equation, sustainable
development, assumes increasing importance, and the priority actions center on reducing
both excessive consumption of natural resources and the burden of wastes on the global
environment. Such initiatives include reducing fossil fuel consumption, for example,
through energy conservation and more efficient transportation systems, and reducing the
amount of waste through pollution prevention.
These longer-term ecological concerns are relevant to cities in the
developing world as well, for as they grow and prosper, their consumption of resources and
generation of wastes will rise accordingly unless actions are taken now to promote the
efficient use of resources and the minimization of waste (104). The challenge for all
cities is to seek new management approaches that both provide for the needs of urban
residents and protect the environmental resources on which human life depends.
References and Notes
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