Moving towards a more sustainable urbanism

Sustainable urbanism is more than a collection of discrete green initiatives. It is about creating healthy and prosperous places. It demands a holistic approach to policy-making and policy action at international, national and local levels.

In this issue we have invited contributors to look at different aspects of ‘Sustainable Urbanism’ from a macro global view to the micro perspective, and various points in between.

Cities are responsible for 80% of global GDP but they occupy just over 3% of the world’s land area – in other words about the land area of the European Union. Yet as Herbert Girardet argues in Regenerative cities (page 14), they take resources from nature but give little back, and if humanity isto survive, the balance between urban systems and ecosystems must be restored. In short, cities need to do their bit whether it is to produce more food locallyas argued by Camilla Ween in Edible cities (page 22), or their own energy as in Bristol, or find better ways of using material resources underpinned by more sustainable business models suggested by Sue Riddlestone in Making One Planet Living our business (page 19).

However, in our interview, George Ferguson the Mayor of Bristol (page 25) argues for more autonomy from central government to help make such ambitions a reality. The government seems inclined to listen for calls for more local decision making and has just announced that Greater Manchester will have an elected mayor who will preside over policies such as transport affecting the whole region and not just the city of Manchester. Indeed George Ferguson touches on this issue as he describes how he has to work with authorities beyond the city boundary on a coherent transport strategy.

The stress on both urban and ecosystems is increased by rapid growth in populations. In the UK more than 200,000 new homes a year are needed and in his Wolfson Prize essay (page 11), David Rudlin addresses how existing cities can be the key to meeting this demand. However, in Rio de Janeiro there are 1.4 million people living in favelas, or informal housing, and Line Algoed looks at how a project inspired by work in the UK provides a model for improving neighbourhoods (page 16).

While not prompted specifically by the theme sustainable urbanism much else in this issue touches on the topic. Robert Powell recounts his experience as an expert panel member of the Farrell Review. Nicholas Falk reflects on working with the late Professor Sir Peter Hall who was an astute practitioner before the phrase green urbanism. We are all part of making a better city, a notion that both Dick Gleeson and David Porter develop.

… and finally, welcome to our new regular columnist The Urban Idiot (page 35) who I hope will not make fools of us all.

Alastair Blyth AoU



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