I would like to award the prize for the best contribution to environmental sustainability for 2012 to Hurricane Sandy. Sandy single-handedly managed to convert more American citizens to the threats posed by climate change than any number of scientists, scientific publications or politicians. By dumping extreme weather on the US eastern seaboard, massively disrupting transport and business, and above all by providing great TV pictures, it made a strong case in many different ways.
Last week in Cyprus, I was able to get some insights into the development challenges facing this part of Europe. In a snapshot, Mediterranean islands like Cyprus were early cradles of urbanisation and often have a rich archaeological legacy. They were poor agricultural areas until mass tourism began in the 1970s. The boom saw the spread of urban uses along the coasts and around the villages, often undermining of the quality of the places that people were attracted to. Now these places face austerity and threats from climate change.
What are the issues that planners across the globe are grappling with? This week I attended a meeting in London of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP). Representatives from Africa, the Caribbean and Americas, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific, and Europe gave fascinating presentations. In the space of an hour we were given a kaleidoscope of planners’ work and concerns – from post-earthquake Christchurch to crime and sprawl in Caribbean islands, from the “jobs and growth” agenda in Europe to the forced removal of people to make way for major infrastructure projects in dynamic African countries. Where does planning go from here?
This blog provides a front line report from Tuvalu, a small island state in the Pacific. Tuvalu is going through urbanization on a scale it has never experienced before, and is also struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This remote and tiny place, so far removed from the global cities which are shaping its future, provides a laboratory specimen of the fate of a small island state in today’s world.
Resilience of cities is the theme of the latest issue of the French publication of Villes en Développement edited by my old friend Marcel Belliot. As the preface notes, resilience is now central to "approaches and strategies of governments partnering urban development and of funders." It brings a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing urban development. There are articles about simulation of crises and responses to an earthquake disaster in Lima; efforts by Algiers to adapt to the consequences of climate change; emergency responses in South Sudan, a country particularly fragile and vulnerable to the risk of flooding; and how the French Development Agency (AFD) is bolstering the resilience of vulnerable neighbourhoods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 24 April 2012.
Scenario planning tools are increasingly being used in North America as means of community engagement. The state of the art is reviewed in a new publication that attracted attention at the recent American Planning Association conference in Los Angeles. The development of web-based GIS and mobile phone technologies opens the prospect of a rapid emergence of new techniques that could fundamentally change the way we do planning.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 20 February 2012.
In June the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held. Few will place much confidence in the capacity of national governments to drive forward an inclusive and environmental agenda for the world, as happened at Rio in 1992. Rather, the leaders of change today more and more seem to be the mayors of cities in Latin America. For example, Mexico City is at the forefront of planning and implementing strategies for environmental improvement and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 13 February 2012.
Last week’s forced departure of the President of The Maldives has brought global attention to this small country. It is one of 29 small island developing states (SIDS) listed by the UN Commission on Trade and Development, though there is no official definition of a SIDS. These small countries face a range of sustainable development challenges, as I discussed in a recent article in Small States Digest. For example, many have to deal with debt and economic volatility, a particular problem for countries economically dependent on the export of a few natural resources. Energy dependency, HIV/AIDS and youth unemployment can be added to the list. While there has been some recognition of the threats from climate change to small islands, the urban growth dimension of all these issues has attracted little attention, yet is critical to the future of these places.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 7 December 2011.
We are facing a “deadly collision between urbanization and climate change”. This is the warning given in the 2011 Global Report on Human Settlements published by UN-Habitat. It comes at a time when expectation is rock bottom that governments will achieve a positive outcome at the climate summit in Durban. The UN-Habitat report recognises that many local authorities are implementing adaptation and mitigation measures. However, it says that climate change is still seen as a “marginal issue” by most policy makers. Furthermore, the connections between urbanisation and climate change are often overlooked, though they are crucially important.