Since the late 1980s, the notion of ‘sustainable development’ has transcended beyond the eminent United Nations report titled Our Common Future, to mainstream dialogue throughout the globe at all scales within government and public spheres. This form of development seeks to balance current environmental, social and economic needs of the population, “without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, 43). Used interchangeably with ‘sustainability’ (Seghezzo, 2009), the concept has been fastened to a plethora of themes, including that of cities where ‘urban sustainability’ speaks to negligent urban expansion and resource depletion. However, as the idea of urban sustainability has begun percolating into widespread discussions, so to have the obstacles and conflicts surrounding sustainable development. The following sections will examine these complexities, beginning with the ambiguity of sustainable development, followed by interpretations of urban sustainability, and finally, the political ecology of sustainable development in an urban environment.
Sustainable Cities or Cities that Contribute to Sustainable Development
Critique of the term ‘sustainable development’ has primarily surrounded its wide scope of interpretation, which is regarded as both a strength, in its ability to foster multi-stakeholder cooperation, and a weakness, in that anybody can claim they are contributing to sustainability goals (Dale, 2001; Robinson, 2009). Satterthwaite’s article entitled “Sustainable Cities or Cities that Contribute to Sustainable Development” (1997), alludes to the ambiguity of the term and explores the predicament rather than benefit th...
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Redclift, M. (2005). Sustainable Development (1987-2005): An Oxymoron Comes of Age. Sustainable Development, 13(4), 212-227.
Robbins, P. (2004). What is Political Ecology? In Political Ecology (pp. 1-15).Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
Robinson, P. (2009). Urban Sustainability in Canada: The Global-Local Connection. In C. Gore, & P. Stoett (Eds.), Environmental Challenges and Opportunities: Local-Global Perspectives on Canadian Issues (pp. 159-181). Toronto: Edmond Montgomery Publications.
Seghezzo, L. (2009). The five dimensions of sustainability. Environmental Politics, 18(4), 539 - 556.
Satterthwaite, D. (1997). Sustainable Cities or Cities that Contribute to Sustainable Development? Urban Studies, 34(1), 1667-1691.
WCED. World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press.
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