How Green Is the City? Sustainability Assessment and the Management of Urban Environments

How Green Is the City? Sustainability Assessment and the Management of Urban Environments

How Green Is the City? Sustainability Assessment and the Management of Urban Environments

How Green Is the City? Sustainability Assessment and the Management of Urban Environments

Synopsis

Urban lifestyles characterized by high consumption levels, exuberant use of natural resources, excessive production of waste, a widening gap between rich and poor, and rapid growth of the global human population pose a major problem for the future survival of our species. Urban development must therefore meet the needs of the present generations without compromising the needs of future generations. Putting this goal into practice remains a major challenge. This book introduces "sustainability assessment," a new concept that aims to help in steering societies in a more sustainable direction, and applies this concept to cities. It deals with practical ways to reach a more sustainable state in urban areas through such tools as strategic environmental assessment, sustainability assessment, direction analysis, baseline setting and progress measurement, sustainability targets, and ecological footprint analysis. With these tools, humans can maintain or improve the health, productivity, and quality of their lives in harmony with nature.

Excerpt

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 important role played by culture in shaping human society and behavior. In the course of evolution, humans have invented new methods for storing and transmitting accumulated knowledge, giving rise to an exclusive system of non-genetic transmission of acquired and stored information. While early humans became a dominant species in local ecosystems, modern technological society is now part of a global system of production and consumption, and an agent of worldwide dispersion of animals, plants, and microorganisms. The human species has been responsible for profound changes on the earth, comparable to that of no other species. But while humans are not the only animal capable of changing the physical and biotic environments, it is the only one capable of understanding and preserving the biosphere. Over the past decades there has been considerable evolution in thinking about human ecology. The increasing interest in the concept of sustainable development has shown a need for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental management. Clearly, human ecology has an essential role to play in defining what is meant by “sustainable development” and developing instruments for environmental management that can be used in the sustainable development of human societies. This is the goal of the Human Ecology Department and the Environmental Impact Assessment Center at VUB, and its international partners. As a result, this book aims to examine and develop so-called “sustainability assessment instruments,” tools that can predict or estimate the impact of human activities on the sustainability of societies and measure progress made toward sustainable development. This book brings together contributions from an international group of European and North American . . .

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