Sustainability Assessment And The Management Of Urban Environments

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Urban Environments


This book is the result of a research project funded by the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders (Belgium) that looks into strategic environmental assessment as an instrument to develop urban areas more sustainably. This research is carried out at the Environmental Impact Assessment Center, which is part of the Human Ecology Department at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). In 1975 the VUB instituted a Master of Human Ecology educational program. As the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between the human species and its environment, human ecology is distinct from traditional animal, plant, or microbial ecology in that it recognizes the…

By early in the coming decade, the majority of humankind will be living in cities. For the first time in the two-million-year history of our species, the immediate human environment will be the “built environment.” By some conventional accounts, accelerating urbanization is just another piece of evidence that the human economy is “decoupling” from the environment, that humanity is finally leaving nature and the rural countryside behind. This is a perceptual error. Even as we urbanize, human beings remain dependent on the environment, and cities become the major drivers of global ecological change. Moreover, the sustainability of our cities is…

As a concept, the notion of sustainable urban development is simple, appealing, and an essential component of global sustainability. On a technical level we already have many of the pieces that we need to construct communities that would be much more sustainable than those we inhabit today. We can even identify working examples of urban activities that are more sustainable than the typical ones. However, the incentive structure of regulations, prices, and taxes does not encourage the diffusion of these improved practices. We need to put into place the regulations—such as a tax on carbon emissions—that will create…

The pursuit of sustainable development at the local and regional level of governance has received a powerful impetus from the follow-up to Chapter 28 of Agenda 21, the “action plan” adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. “Local Agenda 21” (LA21) has become an international symbol for new initiatives for sustainable local and regional communities. With strong support from the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), and the European Commission, Local Agenda 21 is one of the major success stories from the Earth Summit. The purpose of this chapter is…

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