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Environment and Urban Studies

Environment and Urban Studies

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Countering Commonsense Antiurbanism

Conventional wisdom about the environmental impact of cities holds that urbanization and environmental quality are necessarily at odds. Cities are seen to be sites of ecological disruption, consuming a disproportionate share of natural resources, producing high levels of pollution, and concentrating harmful emissions precisely where the population is most concentrated. Cities appear to be particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, to be inherently at risk from outbreaks of infectious diseases, and even to offer dysfunctional and unnatural settings for human life.

A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability

McDonald’s promises to use only beef, coffee, fish, chicken, and cooking oil obtained from sustainable sources. Coca-Cola promises to achieve water neutrality. Unilever has set a deadline of 2020 to reach 100 percent sustainable agricultural sourcing. Walmart has pledged to become carbon neutral. Today, big-brand companies seem to be making commitments that go beyond the usual “greenwashing” efforts undertaken largely for public relations purposes.

The Co-Production of Science, Politics, and Urban Nature

Although nature conservation has traditionally focused on the countryside, issues of biodiversity protection also appear on the political agendas of many cities. One of the emblematic examples of this now worldwide trend has been the German city of Berlin, where, since the 1970s, urban planning has been complemented by a systematic policy of “biotope protection”—at first only in the walled city island of West Berlin, but subsequently across the whole of the reunified capital.

Economic Development, the Environment, and Quality of Life in American Cities

Today most major cities have undertaken some form of sustainability initiative. Yet there have been few systematic comparisons across cities, or theoretically grounded considerations of what works and what does not, and why. In Taking Sustainable Cities Seriously, Kent Portney addresses this gap, offering a comprehensive overview and analysis of sustainability programs and policies in American cities.

We often enjoy the benefits of connecting with nearby, domesticated nature—a city park, a backyard garden. But this book makes the provocative case for the necessity of connecting with wild nature—untamed, unmanaged, not encompassed, self-organizing, and unencumbered and unmediated by technological artifice. We can love the wild. We can fear it. We are strengthened and nurtured by it. As a species, we came of age in a natural world far wilder than today’s, and much of the need for wildness still exists within us, body and mind.

Visions and Histories of Urban Freeways

Urban freeways often cut through the heart of a city, destroying neighborhoods, displacing residents, and reconfiguring street maps. These massive infrastructure projects, costing billions of dollars in transportation funds, have been shaped for the last half century by the ideas of highway engineers, urban planners, landscape architects, and architects—with highway engineers playing the leading role.

Reducing Fishing Capacity to Promote Sustainability

The Earth’s oceans are overfished, despite more than fifty years of cooperation among the world’s fishing nations. There are too many boats chasing too few fish. In Saving Global Fisheries, J. Samuel Barkin and Elizabeth DeSombre analyze the problem of overfishing and offer a provocative proposal for a global regulatory and policy approach.

What We Have Taken from Nature

The biosphere—the Earth’s thin layer of life—dates from nearly four billion years ago, when the first simple organisms appeared. Many species have exerted enormous influence on the biosphere’s character and productivity, but none has transformed the Earth in so many ways and on such a scale as Homo sapiens. In Harvesting the Biosphere, Vaclav Smil offers an interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere’s stores of living matter, from prehistory to the present day.

The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity has significantly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere--most dramatically since the 1970s. Yet global warming skeptics and ill-informed elected officials continue to dismiss this broad scientific consensus.

Bicycling in cities is booming, for many reasons: health and environmental benefits, time and cost savings, more and better bike lanes and paths, innovative bike sharing programs, and the sheer fun of riding. City Cycling offers a guide to this urban cycling renaissance, with the goal of promoting cycling as sustainable urban transportation available to everyone.

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