Lunch Discussions with the Experts on Urban Sustainability
Lunch Discussions with the Experts on Urban Sustainability
Urbanization has been a primary concern of the social scientists and environmental researchers for years. Urban developments started with the early civilization, and social scientists found out that it was a major issue in our ecological interactions. Man’s activities affect the environment in varied ways, both positively and negatively. One of the major undertakings of man is the development of urban centers for human settlement and business operations. As humans settle in their modern cities, they engage in activities that involve land use, extraction of resources and production of wastes that affect the ecosystem in one way or another. There are numerous choices on what to manufacture and on what to use for human consumption. All these bring about ecological changes that are so evident in today’s modern world (Alberti, 2008). The planners of our modern cities take into consideration various issues. Major scholars have also aided in this work through their persistent research. This discussion will point out the various factors that these social scientists have studied. It will also highlight how our architects have responded to these or where they have failed entirely.As for the purpose of this paper, I chose LA’s grand Park as the location for the discussion. I have engaged Marina Alberti _author of ‘Ecological Resilience in Urban Ecosystem‘(Linking urban centers to human and ecological functions). The other author is Herbert Girardet_ the author of ‘The Metabolism of Cities for Creating Sustainable Cities’.Student: Thank you all for having agreed to respond positively to my invitation. I commend you for your scholarly contributions in ecological issues that affect our world today. Your work has been of great help me. I am looking forward to a very fruitful interactive session with you. To start us off, what is the magnitude of this topic ‘Urban Sustainability?’Alberti: This is a crucial topic of discussion since it raises a serious debate across the world. In fact, it encompasses life. Various world agencies that advocate a peaceful co-existence between man and its environment are numerous. The fact that these bodies are international shows the magnitude of this matter. So many scholars have also contributed to this by carrying out researches and designing models for studying urban sustainability.Herbert: It is arguable that this is a serious matter. It entails human lives as well as that of the animals in the ecosystem. Treating our urban centers as ecosystems helps us understand the whole issue, and this is what most scholars have done in their various studies to show the Importance of creating sustainable or ecological friendly cities.Student: Thank you; you have put forward a wonderful introduction to this discussion. What do you scholars mean when you talk about a self-sufficient city?Alberti: When we speak about a ‘self-sufficient city’, we are simply referring to a sustainable city. The design of such a city is in a way that meets all the environmental factors. Here, we look at factors that might have negative repercussions on the environment. As such, we have waste disposal, water pollution, air pollution and land use. When designers make decisions on urban planning, they must consider the well-being of every group, well-designed systems of energy flow, resource management, and economic advancement and support for each. These factors work towards achieving resilience that modern cities require (Alberti, 2008).Herbert: In addition, most of our urban cities need to undergo some changes to meet these standards. Therefore, a self-sufficient city is that in which designers have quantified the energy flow and other valuable resources within it (Girardet, 2014).Student: That is very interesting. So what are the distinctive characteristics of a sustainable city?Herbert: A self-sufficient or a sustainable city is one that can supply its energy needs from sources that are renewable for instance wind power and solar power. These sources of energy do not cause serious pollution to the environment as compared to other sources. Secondly, a sustainable city is one that has a well-defined system of waste disposal. Wastes can be recycled so to minimize land pollution. This is one area where city managers have failed miserably. Major cities in the world face this challenge, and it is a grave concern although some still lack solution to it. Another key trait is the use of environmental friendly fuels that are free from carbon. This has been and will be a major challenge for our cities. Public transport system should have these types of fuels, or if this can be unachievable, citizens can minimize the count of cars on roads by turning to cycling. Cities like Copenhagen have significantly embraced this move (Girardet, 2014).Student: Just from your comment Mr. Herbert, what are some of the most evident challenges that bar the progress of urban sustainability in most of our cities or the in the world at large?Herbert: Many cities face various challenges as far as city planning and architecture are concerned. These challenges include constant changing political regimes, economic constraint and lack of enough land for a strategic location of new cities.Student: This takes us to the conclusion that most of our major cities have not met all the requirements of urban sustainability. In fact, our cities face various challenges but most of them have the potential. As scholars who have deeply studied ‘Urban Sustainability’, what are some of the indicators of a possible sustainable city? Is our city, Los Angeles, showing any signs of a possible Self-sufficient city?Alberti: First, let me agree with you that most of our towns have potential, and many of them are considering a move to creating self-sufficiency. There are key indicators that researchers have studied based on their scientific models for the city metabolism. Cities should embrace modern agriculture. City agriculture is a critical aspect of self-sufficiency. Some countries in the world reclaim unused land surrounding cities into farms. In some cities in Freiburg, Germany, there is introduction of solar panels on roofs or purely solar roofs for harvesting solar energy (Girardet, 1999). Most of these factors are evident in Los Angeles. For example, the city has embraced improved waste disposal mechanism, there is urban gardening and markets for farmers and new energy consumption measures like tree planting and use of 78F thermostat in work areas.Herbert: Yes, it may be evident that most cities show potential but as I have indicated before, there are still challenges to these. One of the problems that our city developers face is coming from the political governments. If the government does not complete its new projects, these may stall in case a new government fails to approve of them. A new government may not see the need for a certain project or may just fail to support it based on their manifesto. Economic constraints may also arise with time since different countries face various challenges in their economies. Therefore, this can lead to diversion of funds for a project in city development to other more important uses, leading to postponement or cancelation of the latter.Student: I see you have contrasting opinions hereHerbert: It may not be purely contrasting. I call upon and urge you to consider the situation from both sides because you are a student. In as much as we would say that the city has potential for developing into a ‘sustainable city’, we should also look at some challenges it might face. To be specific, these developments are gradual in Los Angeles. Seventeen percent of its inhabitants live below the poverty line. The city lacks enough funds to run its projects, tax and fees increase is probable, and there is also a growing divide. These challenges may make it a probable sustainable town in the long term (Association of American Geographers, AAG).Student: You have elaborated to me so much about urban sustainability. As a conclusion remark from the knowledge you have shared, every government must ensure that it works towards designing or improving urban ecosystems that meet resilience required for their future well-being. Since if our ecosystems would lack this, then it means that they would be more susceptible to any future stochastic occurrence that may cause changes in their stability.
Alberti, M. (2008). Advances in urban ecology : integrating humans and ecological processes in urban ecosystems. New York: New York, Springer.
Girardet, H. (2014). Creating Regenerative Cities. Routledge.
Herbert, G. (1999). Creating sustainable cities. Totnes Green Books for the Schumacher Society.
Association of American Geographers (AAG) website