Environmental Challenges, Urban Solutions

2014 – 2015 New Investigator Award

At the beginning of the 20th century, approximately 10% of the world’s population lived in cities; today, more than half of the world’s dwellers live in urbanized areas. Recent studies indicate that compact cities are significantly more energy-efficient than sprawling suburbs. As societies of the so-called Global South continue to urbanize at a rapid pace, it is more than ever urgent to examine ways in which cities can present viable models for sustainable development.

Recent disasters – earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. – have served as painful reminders that human-made environments and natural forces are in constant interaction. These relationships often occur in less visible or self-evident ways: the encroachment of agriculture into rain forests in South America is tied to demands from urban markets; the water and waste management of metropolitan areas depends on intricate infrastructures that often remain opaque to urban dwellers, while they impact regional ecosystems; car dependent suburbanites living in tree-lined streets of single family houses often produce a heavier carbon footprint than residents of dense and polluted inner cities, relying on mass transportation systems.

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