Warning and Disclaimer

So this is just a blog I'm using to upload a bunch of the essays and assessment tasks I wrote for my various uni degrees. Basically I put a lot of effort into some of these and it seems a waste for them to only be read once... so I figured upload them onto the web and see if anyone looks at them.

did ok at most of my essays, some better than others so copy the ideas at your own risk... Given the slow increase in my marks over the years clearly it took me a while to get started. You can probably work out when I wrote each assessment based on the length of the reference list (and there's probably a correlation with the marks I received for that assessment too)

I had a glance over the cover sheets and don't think there's anything stopping me uploading them as I don't think the uni claims ownership over them. You sign off saying that the work has never been submitted before, not that you won't do anything with it later.

That all being said, if you do find these useful for your own uni work... DON'T copy them (not because I care about you copying them) but because you WILL get done for plagarism yourself... Take some of the main points if you want, definitely steal my reference lists, but don't copy text from the essay because you will get done...

So yeah, read on if you're interested, follow up the references... but don't copy if you know what's good for you

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interpretation of Sustainable Development for Urban Regions

Sustainable Development is a relatively new concept, especially compared with the concept of Urban Planning and Development. It has only really emerged in the last few decades, but it is one of a small collection of concepts that receives nearly universal approval; concepts like justice, equity, democracy and fairness (Hattingh, 2002). As a concept very few people are willing to challenge the precepts of Sustainability and Sustainable Development (Gunder & Hillier, 2009). In spite of this nearly universal approval however the concept of Sustainable Development remains a subject that is remarkably hard to achieve a definition that is universally approved. In essence Sustainable Development is a concept that everybody approves of even if they can’t quite agree on what exactly Sustainable Development actually means.

Our Common Future, which is more commonly known as the Bruntland report gave the first and most often repeated definition of Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development is defined in this report as;

“Sustainable Development is Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (United Nations, 1987)

This definition of Sustainable Development is quite vague and has lead to repeated attempts over the past decades to refine, redefine and expand on this concept of sustainable development. Indeed since the Bruntland report’s definition an entire industry has developed around deciphering and advocating what Sustainable Development means (Kates, Parris & Leiserowitz, 2005). Indeed despite being embraced as a basis for integrating environmental, social and economic decision making in Australia since the Brundtland report was published (Buhrs & Aplin, 1999) in 2007 the Australian government was still only in the act of (re)defining what Sustainability meant to Australia (The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2007).

Often the difficulty in defining Sustainable Development comes from the different opinions of just what needs to be sustained and what needs to be developed (Kates, Parris & Leiserowitz, 2005). It has been said that whilst in the last few decades knowledge of what needs to be sustained has increased it is the definition of what and how to develop that has become more difficult (Sneddon, Howarth & Norgaard, 2006). The large variety of viewpoints that can be seen and expressed within the Sustainable Development debate can be seen in Figure 1. On one axis you have increasing socio-economic well being concerns and on the other you have increasing environmental concerns, with the shaded area representing views in the sustainable development debate.

Figure 1 (not included here)- Different views on Sustainable development (Hopwood, Mellor and O’Brien, 2005)

The under emphasis of the natural environment in the Brundtland report’s definition is why this definition has been called a “weak” definition of sustainability, where Sustainability can be achieved with the replacement of natural capital if the overall stock of capital has been maintained over time. A “strong” definition of Sustainability is one in which the maintenance of natural capital is required (Hattingh, 2002). Natural Capital is defined as both living systems and ecosystems and the renewable and non renewable resources used by humans such as water, minerals, oil, air, soil and fish (Hawken, Loving & Loving, undated). It has taken billions of years for the Earth’s supply of natural capital to develop and much of the capital being used is irreplaceable and this is what has lead to the main divide between weak and strong definitions of sustainability. Because of this looseness of definition Sustainable Development and Sustainability are terms used and redefined constantly by environmentalists, politicians and business leaders; all in different ways and there is now the risk that there are so many definitions that the concept may be becoming increasingly empty and in fact be moving towards meaninglessness (Kates, Parris & Leiserowitz, 2005 and Hopwood, Mellor and O’Brien, 2005).

The concept of sustainability has been adapted to fit a variety of different challenges such as sustainable cities, sustainable livelihoods, sustainable agriculture and sustainable fishing (Kates, Parris & Leiserowitz, 2005) and all of these concepts would come underneath the banner of “Sustainable Development” for at least some of the stakeholders in this process. But despite this and the wide variety of definitions of just what Sustainable Development entails there has slowly developed a core set of values and principles. These concepts are the “three pillars” of Sustainable Development; social, environmental and economic development. Thus whilst there might be considerable debate about the exact nature of Sustainable Development, with no one definition being correct (Harding, 1998) the vast majority of interpretations of Sustainable Development, both weak and strong focus on achieving a balance between these three domains; the environment, society and the economy (with the precise balance being what differs between definitions). As such there is an incredible array of different issues that come under the banner of Sustainable Development according to different people, issues such as; climate change, peak oil, deforestation, over fishing, threats to biodiversity, equality, urbanisation, food security, alternative energy, water pollution and wealth distribution can all be expressed in a sustainable development context.

With this in mind Sustainable Development policies and programs are especially important, as for the first time in history more people live in urban settings than in rural ones, this fact means that urban regions will be a key area worldwide for Sustainable Development planning. Cities and Urban regions are clearly at the centre of the Sustainable Development debate, this is both due to the number of people living in urban regions, but the amount of resources these regions consume relative to their size and the fact they are the technological and economic centres of the modern world (Finko & Nijkamp, 2001). This is especially true for Australia due to the high urbanisation rates and low density cities. 83% of the Australian population lives within 50km of the coast and the majority of the population lives in cities of over 1 million people. Housing stocks in Australia are growing rapidly and population growth is largest in cities. Australians are generally well housed with a high level of satisfaction with their standard of housing, and this is despite housing affordability issues. The amount of travel, particularly by car is increasing in Australian cities and this can have both health and quality of life issues attached to it. Changes to urban form and growth of cities are also subjecting a greater number of people to environmental noise issues (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001). All of these above urban development issues can be viewed from a Sustainable Development perspective, so a policy to counteract one of these issues can be seen as part of a Sustainable Development strategy whether it is formally acknowledged or not. Issues in Australian occurring from the urban environment intersecting with the natural environment that are of particular importance can be summarised as
  • Growth of the “Mega Metropolitan” areas, particularly Sydney and the rest of the South Eastern growth corridor. Planning will need to take into account the disparity of growth and investment between large cities and also handle the high growth areas.
  • Urbanisation of Coastal Environments, especially on the East Coast. This will have a large affect on both the existing natural local environment and local economy.
  • The differential growth patterns of Inland urban regions. Due to economic shifts some inland urban areas are seeing a decline in population whilst some are seeing rather rapid growth.
  • Ageing urban infrastructure and the inability of new infrastructure construction to keep up with growth rates is a concern in urban areas (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001).
Attention to these issues and more is required for Australian urban regions to begin on the path to sustainability, changes are required institutionally, change in the structures and approaches of the agencies of government, the private sector and the professions, and change in the way that issues and problems are defined and their solutions are approached (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001). As such policy or planning on any of these issues can be seen as relating to the Sustainable Development of Urban Regions.

In Europe many of the Sustainable Development issues being faced are similar to Australia due to similar levels of urbanisation and growth, with transport, energy use and industry causing the greatest affect on the natural environment. These areas along with tourism however are listed as being the areas that stand to gain the most from planning within a Sustainable Development framework (European Communities, 1993). Figure 2 shows how regional urban development can be seen to affect the surrounding natural environment. It is shown from a European perspective but is just as valid for non European urban regions.
Figure 2 (not included here)- The affect of Urban Development on the natural environment (European Communities, 1993)

To some extent however urban growth can be seen as a positive in the Developing World. Sustained Industrial Development has been a major contributor to poverty reduction and economic growth, especially in Asia. However not all developing countries share these benefits (United Nations, 2006). Most Urban growth in the world has occurred in Developing countries and is particularly due to rural-urban migration. Despite the growth often occurring faster than services can be provided, which can affect health, it has been shown that in developing countries services are still often better in urban environments that the corresponding rural ones and that the largest number of people living in poverty are still found in rural areas (Aplin et al., 1999). Environmental stress and lack of productive lands are often blamed for this rural-urban migration but it is more than just this. Social structures which regulating access to resources thought to improve quality of life also play a very important role in this migration pattern (Morrissey, 2008).

Depopulation of the sparser inhabited areas of the country is also seen as an issue in the Swedish Strategy for Sustainable Development with a review of planning and building legislation to bring town and country planning more into line with Sustainable Development goals. Particular focus is also being paid to calculating the costs and environmental impacts of the building sector by both the Swedish national government and the European Union. More sustainable energy use is another focus of the Swedish government and improving road and rail transportation with long term Sustainable Development goals in mind are additional aspects of the built environment section of the National Strategy (Swedish Ministry of the Environment, 2004).

The United Kingdom’s national sustainability strategy, Securing the Future sees creating sustainable communities a challenging task requiring the integrated delivery of environmental, economic and social goals. The attempt is to tackle this at the local level with the sustainable communities’ agenda, especially focusing on equality and participation whilst working on equalling opportunities at the national level (HM Government, 2005). This relationship between centralised direction and localised action is particularly apparent in the English example but common throughout the world, as globally agreed goals are expressed at a national level and then attempted to be delivered at a grass roots level (Smith, Blake & Davies, 2000). It has been observed that in Australia there can be difficulties when local strategic land use plans and Local Envionmental Plans have goals not aligned with State Government agency developed regional plans (NSW Department of Local Government, 2006).

Sustainable Urban development is an incredibly important objective on the way to the goal of achieving Sustainability. This is because cities hold the majority of people on the planet and are the largest consumers of resources on the planet also and it is the balancing of the three pillars of Sustainable Development (the environment, the economy and societal needs) that provides the greatest challenge to creating Sustainable Urban Regions (Finco & Nijkamp, 2001). The planner faces the challenges of not only simultaneously growing the economy, but spreading this growth equitably whilst not degrading the natural environment (Campbell, 1996).

The reported level of success that has been had by Urban planning in delivering Sustainable Development outcomes has often depended on whom is reporting the results, but generally the levels of success have been mixed. Often results of the sustainable communities projects in the United Kingdom have been hampered by an inability to generate enough local participation, such as in Huntingdonshire (Smith, Blake & Davies, 2000) or Sutton (Local Government Management Board, 1997). More success has been reported by programs such as the Hornsby Council in Sydney’s Earthwise Community Sustainability Indicators Program (Hornsby Shire Council, 2004) although the outcomes of this program are related to creating indicators that may later be involved in council planning to indicate progress towards sustainability.

Nationally results are reported to be even more positive, despite a lack of progress by many countries towards global Sustainable Development goals such as reducing the effect of climate change. Achievements since 1999 listed in the UK government National Sustainable Development Strategy in Sustainable Communities chapter are
  • Places getting cleaner
  • Places getting safer
  • Places getting more attractive (HM Government, 2005)
Whilst these achievements would all come under the banner of Sustainable Development they hardly seem as critical for a national government when compared to Sustainable Developments intention to improving equality and quality of life for all citizens whilst minimising or eliminating natural environment degradation.

In Australia sustainable urban design has been noted as lacking. Often there are good strategies but then structures that contravene those strategies are still allowed to proceed. The failure of transferring academic research and theory into Sustainable Urban Design into practice has been singled out as a significant problem as has the length of time required to put good urban design into practice when compared to the short term political decision making cycle of Australia (Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2001).

Sustainable Development is an incredibly important issue in the world, with Sustainable Urban Development being a critical part of this due to the size of cities in the world, the percentage of the population living in those cities and the resources they consume. Developing effective Sustainable Urban development strategies is complicated greatly due to the variety of conflicting definitions of Sustainable Development and the various groups intent on using and coopting this term to further their own interests (either status quo or transformative). There have been a large variety of strategies and programs that could be claimed to fall under the banner of Sustainable Urban Development constructed at a variety of scales and whilst some have been reported as successful and some as unsuccessful there has been relatively few large scale Urban Sustaiable Development Policies that can be regarded as true successes, especially when looked at in relation to the broad goals of Sustainable development, that is to increase the quality of life of all citizens in an equitable manner whilst maintaining or improving natural environmental quality.


Aplin, G., Beggs, P., Brierley, G., Cleugh, H., Curson, P., Mitchell, P., Pitman, A. & Rich, D. (1999) Global Environmental Crises: an Australian perspective, 2nd Ed., Oxford University Press, Melbourne

Australian State of the Environment Committee (2001) Australia State of the Environment 2001, Independent Report to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

Buhrs, T. & Aplin, G. (1999) Pathways towards sustainability: The Australian approach. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. Abingdon

Campbell, S. (1996) Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities? Urban Planning and the Contradictions of Sustainable Development. Journal of the American Planning Association, 62:3, p296-312

European Communities (1993) Towards Sustainability, Official Journal of the European Communities, No C 138/5

Finco, A. & Nijkamp, P. (2001) Pathways to Urban Sustainability, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 3 p289-302

Gunder, M. & Hillier, J. (2009) Planning in ten words or less, Ashgate, Sustainability of and for the market.

Hattingh, J. (2002) On the imperative of sustainable development A philosophical and ethical appraisal in Janse van Rensburg et. Al. 2002 Environmental Education, Ethics and Action in Southern Africa. Pretoria

Harding, R. (1998) Environmental Decision Making: the roles of scientists, engineers and the public. The federation press. Sydney

Hawken, P. Lovins, A. & Lovins, L.H. Natural Capitalism: Creating the next industrial revolution (see excerpts www.naturalcapitalism.org/)

HM Government (2005) Securing the Future; the UK government sustainable development strategy. Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Hopwood, B. Mellor, M. & O’Brien, G. (2005) Sustainable Development: Mapping different approaches. Sustainable Development, 13, 38-52

Hornsby Shire Council (2004) Case Study: Hornsby Earthwise Community Sustainability Indicators Project, Hornsby Council

Kates, R. Parris & T. Leiserowitz, A. (2005) What is sustainable development Goals, Indicators, Values and Practice. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Volume 47, Number 3 8-21

Local Government Management Board (1997) Towards a Sustainable Sutton. Local Agenda 21 UK Case Study Project

Morrissey, J. (2008) Rural Urban Migration in Ethiopia. Forced Migration Review, 31. 28-29

NSW Department of Local Government (2006) Planning a Sustainable Future: A Department of Local Government Options paper on Integrated planning and reporting for NSW Local Councils, Department of Local Government

Smith, J. Blake, J. & Davies, A. (2000) Putting Sustainability in Place: Sustainable communities projects in Huntingdonshire. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 2 211-223

Sneddon, C. Howarth & R. Norgaard, R. (2006) Sustainable development in a post Brundtland world. Ecological Economics 57 253-268

Swedish Ministry of the Environment (2004) A Swedish Strategy for Sustainable Development- Economic, Social and Environmental, Swedish Ministry of the Environment

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia (2007) Sustainability for survival: creating a climate for change Inquiry into a sustainability charter House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage Canberra: House of Representatives Publishing Unit http://www.aph.gove.au/house/committee/environ/charter/report/fullreport.pdf

United Nations (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future http://www.un-doduments.net/wced-ocf.htm

United Nations (2006) Trends in Sustainable Development. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. New York

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