Toward Ecologically Stable Urban Environments

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Thesis: As the global population increases and becomes more urbanized the urban pressures of pollution, sprawl and decay degrade the environment and the quality of life for city dwellers. Introduction: In his book, "The History of the City," Leonardo Benevolo comes to the conclusion that the world’s best urban model has been that of the ancient Greek city, or polis. He speaks of the polis as being, "dynamic but stable, in balance with nature, and growing manageably even after reaching a large size." While Benevolo may have been looking at these ancient Greek cities with slightly rose colored glasses, none-the-less the polis does set out an ideal for us to strive for in the planning and management of today’s cities. In comparison to the polis the majority of urban environments in the world fall pitifully short. The world is becoming more urban at a rate that has never been seen in history. The pressures this has put on cities increasing stress not only on the city but its surrounding hinterland as well. The problems of the city range from the pollution of the air and water ways to crime and tensions between racial groups within the urban setting. While all of these issues are fundamentally related it is not possible to deal with them all here. I will keep an interdisciplarian view point but will focus this paper on the areas of increasing the environmental sustainability of the city. It must be realized that there are many socio-economic issues that can not be ignored and that the problems of urban settings are very complex. Urban Sustainability: What are the environmental problems then that face the world’s cities today? As will be shown they are many and diverse. The sprawling city of Bangkok incorporates 3,200 hectares of farmland into its limits every year (Lowe, 1991). This increases the city’s footprint and population while at the same time destroying food producing area’s for the city. Bangkok in this way is hit with a double edged sword. Las Vegas and other western and west coast cities in the US struggle with dwindling water reserves. They have been forced into considering such solutions as piping in water or diverting rivers or some have even suggested pulling ice bergs down from the polar cap. In Adelaide, a city of 1 million in South Australia, the average rain fall in a year is 451mm while the average water consumption per house hold is 265 dL for a year (Australia Department of Statistics).

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