As the Brundtland report summarizes: “Thus today’s environmental challenges arise both from the lack of development and from the unintended consequences of some forms of economic growth” (WCED 354). In urban design, it means converting agricultural areas to manufacturing/commercial/residential/entertainment sites and creating high-rise cities where population is more compact and where resources are swiftly consumed. Furthermore, the free-market philosophy is not without its negative repercussions as it promoted fast-paced growth without minding its ecological effects. Robert Riddell describes this free-market-thinking-turned-global-practice as “money-based energy-fired and technologically inspired ‘resource exploitation’ and ‘consumer discard’ syndrome” (9). The emphasis on money and growth has an effect on modern culture where people also prioritize wealth and materialism over environmentalism. At present, many cities are filled with commercial buildings and enterprises that produce pollution at an alarming rate, while some suburban communities reflect middle-class and upper-class thinking that tend to border on environmental apathy as they buy products frequently regardless of sustainability measures. These are only two of the factors that help explain why sustainability is now a problem for urban planners.Because the environment is ailing from humanity’s activities and because a number of international organizations are already calling for global consensus on promoting sustainability, one of the most pressing problems facing urban planners today is how to construct sustainable urban communities and to bring existing non-sustainable communities to the path of sustainability. On the one hand, sustainability is about striking a balance between present and future generations’ needs. On the other hand, sustainability is also about world’s most marginalized sectors, the poor and those who have little power and/or resources to pursue sustainability (WCED 351). Urban planners face the difficulty of considering, not only their main clients, who might be the middle-class and/or upper-class, but also the poor who are the literally and figuratively on the fringes of society. These social classes have different conditions and basic needs, while the higher classes tend to have more wants, which complicates the
Beatley, Timothy. “Planning for Sustainability in European Cities: A Review of Practice in Leading Cities.” The City Reader. 5th ed. Eds. Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout. New York: Routledge, 2011. 446-457. Print.
Newman, Lenore, and Levi Waldron. “Towards Walkable Urban Neighborhoods.” Urban Sustainability: Reconnecting Space and Place. Eds. William Terrance Dushenko, Ann Dale, and Pamela J. Robinson. London: U of Toronto P, 2012.106-126. Print.
Riddell, Robert. Sustainable Urban Planning: Tipping the Balance. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Print.
World Commission on Environment and Development. “Towards Sustainable Development” from Our Common Future. 1987. The City Reader. 5th ed. Eds. Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout. New York: Routledge, 2011. 351-355. Print.
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