Cities After Oil
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Following the 2008 "Re-imaging Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil symposium, Penn IUR solicited manuscripts on environmental and energy challenges and their effect on the redesign of urban ...

Following the 2008 "Re-imaging Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil symposium, Penn IUR solicited manuscripts on environmental and energy challenges and their effect on the redesign of urban environments.

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    Cities After Oil Cities After Oil Document Transcript

    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. Cities After Oil: Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability William  Rees     Introduction: The City as Biophysical Entity Accelerating  global  ecological  change  poses  unprecedented  challenges  to  the  integrity,  and  even  the  survival  of  modern  cities.  Regrettably,  most  cities  are  ill-­‐equipped  to  deal  with  the  problem  facing  them.  One  reason  for  this  lack  of  preparation  is  that,  while  cities  are  biophysical  entities  as  well  as  socio-­‐cultural  phenomena,  city-­‐dwellers  have  never   Thad  to  think  of  ‘the  city’  in  ecological  terms.  Even  urban  scholars  have  only  recently   AFacknowledged  and  begun  to  study  the  human  ecological  dimensions  of  urbanization  and  cities.     With  this  slow  awakening,  the  terms  ‘urban  ecosystem’  and  ‘eco-­‐cities’  have  become   Rfamiliar  to  those  interested  in  urban  sustainability.  The  rising  popularity  of  such  terms,  however,  belies  a  fundamental  error:  cities  are  not  functional  ecosystems  (Rees  2003).  To   Dbe  clear:  ‘the  city’  is  certainly  an  ecologically  critical  component  of  the  human  ecosystem  and  every  city  is  a  complex  system  (or,  better,  a  ‘complex  of  systems’)  but  cities  as  presently  conceived  are  not  human  ecosystems.     A  functionally  complete  ecosystem  is  a  self-­‐organizing,  self-­‐producing,  solar-­‐powered  complex  of  mutually  dependent  autotrophic  (producer)  and  heterotrophic  (consumer)  organisms.  This  biotic  community  interacts  with  its  physical  environment  such  that  the  flow  and  dissipation  of  energy  results  in  a  defined  trophic  (feeding)  structure,  the  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.emergence  of  biodiversity,  and  characteristic  material  cycles  between  the  living  and  non-­‐living  components  (Odum  1971).    By  this  definition,  no  modern  city  qualifies  as  a  complete  human  ecosystem.  Some  of  the  defining  parts—for  example,  virtually  the  entire  autotrophic  (producer)  complex—are  missing  altogether  and  others  (micro-­‐consumers)  are  insufficiently  abundant  for  functional  integrity.  As  significantly,  the  separation  of  people  from  ‘the  land’  to  the  city  prevents  the  recycling  of  phosphorus,  nitrogen,  other  nutrients  and  organic  matter  back  into  rural   T(agricultural  and  forest)  ecosystems.  Urbanization  has  effectively  transformed  local,  integrated,  cyclical,  ecological  production  systems  into  global,  horizontally  disintegrated,   AFunidirectional,  throughput  systems  (Rees  1997).       On  a  crude  but  illustratively  useful  level,  an  apt  metaphor  of  the  city  might  be  a  livestock  feedlot  (Rees  2003).  Like  feedlots,  cities  are  spatial  nodes  of  intense  consumption   Rentirely  dependent  for  their  survival  on  supportive  ecosystems  increasingly  located  at  great  distance  from  the  cities  themselves.    In  ecologically  meaningful  terms,  urbanites  don’t   Dlive  in  cities  at  all!  They  are  functionally  more  connected  to  the  hinterland.     The Ecological Footprints of Cities   A  complete  human  urban  ecosystem  includes  not  only  the  city  per  se  but  also  the  entire  extra-­‐urban  complex  of  terrestrial  and  aquatic  ecosystems  required  to  support  the  city’s  human  population.  One  way  to  determine  just  how  much  of  ‘nature’  is  thus  appropriated  by  cities  is  through  ecological  footprint  analysis  (Rees  1992,  Wackernagel  and  Rees,  1996).  We  formally  define  the  ecological  footprint  (EF)  of  a  specified  population  as:  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. The  area  of  land  and  water  ecosystems  required,  on  a  continuous  basis,  to  produce  the   resources  that  the  population  consumes  and  to  assimilate  the  wastes  that  the   population  produces,  wherever  on  Earth  the  relevant  land/water  is  located  (2006).i,  ii    Figure  1  shows  the  equivalence-­‐adjustediii  per  capita  EFs  and  domestic  biocapacities  for  a  selection  of  countries  from  among  the  wealthiest  to  among  the  poorest  based  on  2005  data  from  World  Wildlife  Fund  (WWF  2008).  Note  the  vastly  greater  demand  by  wealthy,  mainly  urban  consumers,  compared  to  that  of  mainly  rural  peasants.  The  citizens  of  wasteful  high-­‐ Tincome  countries  like  the  US  and  Canada  have  average  EFs  of  6  to  almost  10  hectares,  EFs  up  to  20  times  larger  than  the  EFs  of  the  citizens  of  the  world’s  poorest  countries  like   AFBangaldesh.  European  countries  and  Japan  typically  have  per  capita  EFs  in  the  4  to  6  hectare  range.  China  is  fairly  representative  of  the  emerging  economies  which  show  growing  EFs  of  1.5  to  3  hectares  per  capita.  Because  urban  industrial  society  is  very  much  a   Rproduct  of  abundant  cheap  fossil  fuel,  half  or  more  of  the  EF  of  rich  countries  and  45%  of  humanity’s  global  EF,  is  attributable  to  the  carbon  footprint  (area  of  required  carbon-­‐sink   Decosystems)  generated  by  the  burning  of  fossil  fuels.  But  it  is  crucial  to  note  that,  even  the  biofuels  utilized  in  a  post-­‐carbon  world  do  not  guarantee  its  cities  smaller  energy  eco-­‐footprints  since  the  eco-­‐footprints  of  biofules  are  larger  than  the  fossil  fuels  they  allegedly  displace.iv  Indeed,  although  we  are  familiar  with  the  environmental  degradation  associated  with  the  consumption  of  fossil  fuels,  in  another  sense  our  consumption  of  fossil  fuels  has  obscured  or  deferred  our  degradation  of  other  natural  resources.     In  this  sense,  EF  has  the  advantage  of  putting  sustainability  measures  in  a  realistic  perspective,  by  providing  a  wider  view  of  the  demands  any  city  as  currently  conceived  puts  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.on  the  hinterland.  Most  countries’  per  capita  eco-­‐footprints  exceed  their  per  capita  domestic  biocapacities.  These  countries  are  at  least  partially  dependent  on  trade  and  exploitation  of  the  global  commons  to  maintain  their  current  lifestyles.  The  Netherlands,  for  example,  uses  almost  four  times  as  much  productive  land/water  outside  its  borders  as  is  found  within  the  country.  Japan  uses  eight  times  its  domestic  supply.  Such  countries  are  in  a  state  of  ‘overshoot’  and  are  running  unsustainable  ecological  deficits  with  the  rest  of  the  world.   T   A  smaller  number  of  countries  (e.g.,  Canada,  Argentina)  have  an  apparent  surplus  of  biocapacity  and  could  theoretically  live  on  their  domestic  ‘natural  incomes.’  The  surpluses   AFof  such  nations,  however,  are  only  ‘apparent’  because  the  extra  biocapacity  is  generally  being  traded  away  to  cover  the  ecological  deficits  of  other  countries.       Ominously,  the  world  as  a  whole  is  in  overshoot  with  a  growing  ecological  deficit   R(Figure  1).  Human  demand  already  exceeds  the  earth’s  regenerative  capacity  by  at  least  30%.  We  are  living,  in  part,  by  depleting  dissipating  stocks  of  potentially  renewable  natural   Dcapital  (fish,  forests,  soils,  etc.)  that  have  accumulated  in  ecosystems.     [INSERT  FIGURE  1]    The  Global  Reach  of  Cities   Cities,  of  course,  are  virtually  all  ecological  deficit.  Urban  populations  are  almost  totally  dependent  on  rural  people,  ecosystems  and  life-­‐support  processes,  all  of  which  are  increasingly  scattered  over  the  planet.    
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.   In  some  respects,  this  relationship  is  a  two-­‐way,  mutualistic  one—rural  people  benefit  from  urban  markets,  the  products  of  urban  factories,  urban-­‐based  services,  technology  transfers  from  urban  areas,  etc.  However,  while  rural  populations  have  survived  historically  without  cities  the  ecological  dependence  of  urbanites  on  ‘the  hinterland’  is  absolute.  Understanding  the  nature  of  rural-­‐urban  interdependence  is  essential  to  understanding  the  total  human  ecosystem  and  to  urban  sustainability.  There  can  be  no  urban  sustainability  without  rural  sustainability.   TSo,  just  how  great  is  a  typical  modern  city’s  biophysical  debt  to  the  global  countryside?  Despite  unavoidable  methodological  and  data-­‐quality  differences,  urban  eco-­‐footprint   AFstudies  invariably  show  that  the  EFs  of  typical  modern  high-­‐income  cities  exceed  their  geographic  or  political  areas  by  two  to  three  orders  of  magnitude.  For  example:   • Based  on  locally-­‐adjusted  per  capita  EF  estimates  (FCM  2005),  the  people  of   R Toronto  and  Vancouver,  Canada,  ‘occupy’  land  areas  outside  their  municipal   boundaries  that  are  292  and  390  times  larger  (respectively)  than  the  cities   D themselves.  Even  the  lower-­‐density  metropolitan  areas  of  these  cities  have  EFs  57   times  bigger  than  the  respective  urban  regions.   • Assuming  that  the  average  citizen  of  New  York’s  more  densely  populated  five   boroughs  is  similar  to  the  national  average  of  9.4  gha,  the  city’s  8.2  million  people   (2.7%  of  US  population  in  2006)  have  a  total  eco-­‐footprint  of  77,080,000  gha.  This  is   963  times  larger  than  the  city’s  geographic  area  of  80,000  ha  and  equivalent  to  10%   of  the  area  of  the  US.  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. • With  a  population  of  33  million  and  a  per  capita  EF  of  about  4.9  global  ha,  greater   Tokyo’s  total  eco-­‐footprint  is  161,700,000  gha.  However,  the  entire  domestic   biocapacity  of  Japan  is  only  about  76,860,000  gha.  In  short,  Tokyo,  with  only  26%  of   the  Japan’s  population,  lives  on  an  area  of  productive  ecosystems  2.1  times  larger   than  the  nation’s  entire  terrestrial  biocapacity.v   • Under  varying  management  assumptions  to  cope  with  regional  waste  management   issues,  Folke  et  al.  (1997)  estimated  that  the  29  largest  cities  of  the  Baltic  region   T require  for  resources  and  certain  categories  of  waste  assimilation,  an  area  of  forest,   agricultural,  marine,  and  wetland  ecosystems  565-­‐1130  times  larger  than  the  area   AF of  the  cities  themselves.   • An  analysis  of  “ecosystem  appropriation  by  Hong  Kong”  shows  that  this  city  of   almost  seven  million  people  has  a  total  eco-­‐footprint  of  332,150  to  478,300  km2  (the   R range  reflects  two  estimates  of  carbon  sink  land  requirements).  Hong  Kong’s  eco-­‐ footprint  is  at  least  303  times  the  total  land  area  of  the  Hong  Special  Administrative   D Region  (1097  km2)  and  3020  times  the  built-­‐up  area  of  the  city  (110  km2)  (Warren-­‐ Rhodes,  K.  and  A.  Koenig  2001).    These  data  show  clearly  that,  in  material  terms,  ‘sustainable  city’  is  an  oxymoron  (Rees  1997).  Modern  cities  are  entropic  black  holes  sweeping  up  the  productivity  of  a  vastly  larger  and  increasingly  global  resource  hinterland  and  spewing  an  equivalent  quantity  of  waste  back  into  it.  They  are  compact  nodes  of  consumption  living  quasi-­‐parasitically  on  the  productivity  and  assimilative  capacity  of  a  vastly  larger  ‘undeveloped’  area,  portions  of  which  may  be  thousands  of  kilometres  from  the  built-­‐up  area  at  the  centre.    
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.  The  Vulnerability  of  Modern  Cities   “Today’s  city  is  the  most  vulnerable  social  structure  ever  conceived  by  man.”     -­‐-­‐Oppenheimer  1969   The  functional  dependence  of  cities  on  global  stability  has  implications  for  the  security  of  urban  populations  in  an  era  of  incipient  energy  scarcity,  increasingly  erratic  climate  and  other  forms  of  global  change.  Consider  the  example  of  Tokyo,  the  capital  of   TJapan  and  the  world’s  largest  metropolitan  region.  Because  Tokyo  alone  consumes  twice  the  nation’s  ecological  output,  Japan  would  have  difficulty  supporting  the  population  of  its   AFcapital  city  alone  without  massive  adjustments  to  its  prevailing  material  lifestyles  if  the  country  were  required  to  subsist  on  its  domestic  biocapacity.   The  critical  point,  here,  is  that  enormous  cities  have  evolved  not  because  greater   Rsize  confers  great  advantage  but  simply  because  they  could.  To  date,  globalization  and  trade  have  ensured  the  availability  of  the  enormous  quantities  and  uninterrupted  flows  of  energy   Dand  other  material  resources  required  to  grow  the  modern  metropolis.  But  this  raises  a  critical  question:  just  how  secure  is  any  megacity  of  millions,  or  even  a  relative  ‘town’  of  100,000,  if  resource  scarcity,  shifting  climate  or  geo-­‐political  unrest  threaten  to  cut  it  off  from  vital  sources  of  supply?   There  are  several  interrelated  reasons  to  believe  this  is  not  an  idle  question.  For  example:   1.  Reliable  food  supplies  should  be  of  increasing  concern  to  urbanizing  populations.   Global  food  production  is  levelling  off.  Yet,  just  to  keep  pace  with  UN  medium  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. population  growth  projections,  agricultural  output  will  have  to  increase  over  50%   by  2050  and  improving  the  diets  of  malnourished  people  would  push  this  toward   100%.  Achieving  increases  of  this  magnitude  will  be  increasingly  difficult.  By  1990,   562  million  hectares  (38%)  of  the  world’s  roughly  1.5  billion  hectares  of  cropland   had  become  significantly  eroded  or  otherwise  degraded;  300  million  hectares   (21%)  of  cultivated  land—enough  to  feed  almost  all  of  Europe—has  been  lost  to   production  (FAO  2000,  SDIS,  2004).    Depending  on  the  climate  and  agricultural   T practices,  we  are  still  destroying  topsoil  16  to  300  times  as  fast  as  it  is  regenerated.   So  far,  the  impact  has  been  masked  because  we  have  managed  to  substitute  fossil   AF fuel  for  depleted  soils  and  landscape  degradation—but  that  may  be  about  to   change.   2. Modern  cities  are  the  product  of  abundant  cheap  fossil  fuel.  Fossil  fuels,  especially  oil,   R currently  supply  about  85%  of  humanity’s  total  energy  demand  and  are  essential  for   electricity  generation,  transportation,  and  space  and  water  heating  in  much  of  the   D world.  They  are  also  a  major  factor  in  the  green  revolution.  Mechanization,  diesel-­‐ powered  irrigation,  the  capacity  to  double-­‐crop,  and  agro-­‐chemicals  (fertilizers  and   pesticides)  made  from  oil  and  natural  gas  account  for  79-­‐96%  of  the  increased   yields  of  wheat,  rice  and  maize  production  since  1967  (Conforti  &  Giampietro1997,   Cassman  1999).  For  all  these  reasons,  some  analysts  argue  that  the  imminent   peaking  of  global  petroleum  production  (i.e.,  extraction)  represents  a  singular  event   in  modern  history  and  poses  a  greater  challenge  to  geopolitical  stability  and  urban  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. security  than  any  other  factor  (Duncan  and  Youngquist  1999,  Campbell  1999,   Laherrere  2003).     3. Other  analysts  see  climate  change  as  the  greatest  threat  to  modern  urban   civilization,  arguing  that  it  could  bring  the  planet  to  the  edge  of  anarchy  (e.g.,   Schwartz  and  Randall  2003,  CSIS  2007).  In  The  Age  of  Consequences,  Washington’s   Center  for  Strategic  and  International  Studies  (CSIS)  suggests  that  human-­‐induced   climate  change  driven  by  burning  fossil  fuels  could  end  peaceful  global  integration   T as  various  nations  contract  inwardly  to  conserve  what  they  need—or  expand   outwardly  to  take  what  they  need—for  survival.  In  the  event  of  “severe  climate   AF change,”  corresponding  to  an  average  increase  in  global  temperature  of  2.6°C  by   2040  (now  deemed  to  be  increasingly  likely),  major  nonlinear  changes  in   biophysical  systems  will  give  rise  to  major  nonlinear  socio-­‐political  events.  Shifting   R climate  will  force  internal  and  cross-­‐border  migrations  as  people  leave  areas  where   food  and  water  are  scarce.  Hundreds  of  millions  of  people  will  also  be  forced  to  flee   D rising  seas  and  areas  devastated  by  increasingly  frequent  droughts,  floods,  and   severe  storms.  Dramatic  increases  in  migration  combined  with  food,  energy  and   water  shortages  will  impose  great  pressure  on  the  internal  cohesion  of  nations.  War   is  likely  and  nuclear  war  is  possible  (CSIS  2007).       Even  moderate  climate  change  could  undermine  resource  flows  to  dependent  urban   areas.  For  example,  shifting  weather  patterns  will  certainly  disrupt  historic  water   availability  and  distribution  and  could  reduce  agricultural  output  in  remaining  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. globally  significant  bread-­‐baskets,  such  as  the  North  American  Great  Plains,   increasing  the  likelihood  of  food-­‐shortages  in  distant  dependent  urban  regions   (Kissinger  and  Rees  2009).   No  city  will  be  unaffected  by  global  change.  The  good  news  is  that  determined  action  to   address  climate  change  could  help  avoid  the  peak  oil  problem  and  vice  versa.  For  example,   if  the  world  were  to  take  the  action  necessary  to  reduce  CO2  emissions  by  several  percent   per  year,  the  drop  in  demand  for  oil  would  keep  pace  with  or  exceed  the  anticipated   T decline  in  extraction  rate.   AF Toward the ‘One Planet’ City   Ours  is  a  world  already  in  overshoot  yet  both  population  and  per  capita  consumption  continue  to  increase  and  material  expectations  continue  to  rise  all  over  the   Rworld.  This  is  a  fundamentally  unsustainable  situation—to  raise  just  the  present  world  population  sustainably  to  North  American  material  standards  would  require  the   Dbiocapacity  of  four  additional  Earth-­‐like  planets  (Rees  2006).  The  really  inconvenient  truth  is  that,  to  achieve  sustainability  global  energy  and  material  throughput  must  decrease,  not  grow.     Techno-­‐industrial  society  is  a  self-­‐proclaimed  science-­‐based  society  and  to  act  consistently  with  our  best  science  may  well  require  a  planned  economic  contraction.  To  avoid  severe  climate  change  the  world  will  have  to  decarbonize  by  at  least  80%  by  mid  century.  To  achieve  one  planet  living,  North  Americans  should  be  planning  now  to  reduce  their  ecological  footprints  by  almost  80%  from  the  current  level  of  9.2  gha  to  2.1  gha  per  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.capita.  (The  latter  represents  our  equitable  share  of  global  biocapacity.)  This,  in  turn,  will  require  dramatic  changes  in  prevailing  economic  beliefs,  values,  and  particularly  in  consumer  behaviour.  For  sustainability,  the  rich  may  have  to  learn  to  consume  less  in  order  to  create  the  ecological  space  necessary  for  needed  growth  in  the  developing  world  (Rees  2008).  (Fortunately,  ‘managing  without  growth’  is  technologically  and  economically  possible  and  might  well  improve  quality  of  life  [see  Victor  2008]).     Regrettably,  there  is  scant  evidence  that  any  such  cultural  shift  is  underway.  Despite   Trepeated  warnings  that  staying  our  present  course  spells  catastrophe  for  billions  of  people  (USC  1992,  MEA  2005),  the  modern  world  remains  mired  in  a  swamp  of  cognitive   AFdissonance  and  collective  denial  (Rees  2009a).  To  date,  most  mainstream  responses  to  our  ecological  conundrum  do  not  address  the  fundamental  problem  but  instead  seem  designed  to  reproduce  the  status  quo  by  other  means.  Such  ‘innovations’  as  hybrid  cars,  green   Rbuildings,  smart  growth,  the  new  urbanism,  green  consumerism  etc.,  assume  that  we  can  achieve  sustainability  through  technological  innovation  and  greater  material  and  economic   Defficiency.  This  is  a  conceptual  error—historically  efficiency  has  actually  increased  consumption  by,  for  example,  raising  incomes  and  lowering  prices.  With  more  money  chasing  cheaper  goods  and  services,  throughput  rises.  In  effect,  improved  efficiency  simply  makes  industrial  growth-­‐bound  society  more  efficiently  unsustainable.    The  urban  sustainability  multiplier     While  some  have  interpreted  the  consumptive  and  polluting  powers  of  cities  as  an  anti-­‐urban  argument,  it  is  nothing  of  the  sort.  All  else  being  equal,  cities  actually  offer  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.several  advantages  over  more  dispersed  settlement  patterns  in  the  quest  for  sustainability.  The  very  factors  that  make  wealthy  cities  weigh  so  heavily  on  the  ecosphere—the  concentration  of  people  and  the  localized  intensity  of  energy/material  consumption  and  waste  generation—give  cities  considerable  economic  and  technical  leverage  to  address  global  change  by  shrinking  their  eco-­‐footprints  (see  Newman  &  Jennings  2008).       To  enable  society  to  take  full  advantage  of  this  leverage,  state/provincial  and  municipal  governments  must  create  the  land-­‐use  legislation  and  zoning  by-­‐laws  that  urban   Tplanners  need  to  eliminate  sprawl  and  consolidate  and  densify  existing  built-­‐up  areas.  Compact  cities—particularly  car-­‐free  compact  cities—are  vastly  less  energy-­‐  and  material-­‐ AFintensive  than  today’s  sprawling  suburban  cities.  The  economies  of  scale  and  agglomeration  economies  associated  with  high-­‐density  settlements  confer  a  substantial  ‘urban  sustainability  multiplier’  on  cities.    For  example:   R • reduced per capita demand for occupied land; • more ways to reduce (mostly fossil) energy consumption, particularly by motor vehicles, D by promoting walking, cycling, and public transit; • more opportunities for co-housing, car-sharing and other cooperative relationships that lower capital requirements (consumption) per household and individual; • lower biophysical and economic costs per capita of providing piped treated water, sewer systems, waste collection, and most other forms of infrastructure and public amenities; • greater possibilities for electricity co-generation, district heating/cooling and the use of waste process heat from industry or power plants, to reduce the per capita use of fossil fuel for water and space-heating;
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. • the potential to implement the principles of low throughput ‘industrial ecology’ (i.e., the ideal of closed-circuit industrial parks in which the waste energy or materials of some firms are essential feed-stocks for others). • a greater range of options for material recycling, re-use, re-manufacturing, and a concentration of the specialized skills and enterprises needed to make these things happen; • more ‘social contagion,’ facilitating the spread of such more nearly sustainable life-style choices (e.g., ‘voluntary simplicity’); TAs  noted,  however,  efficiency  gains  alone  will  not  achieve  ‘one-­‐planet  living’.  Sustainability   AFand  security  demand  that  cities  everywhere  become  less  consumption-­‐driven  and  more  materially  self-­‐reliant.  Indeed,  cities  may  be  forced  down  this  unfamiliar  path  either  with  the  rising  cost  of  oil-­‐based  transportation  or  the  needed  rapid  phase-­‐out  of  fossil  fuels.   RUrban  designers  must  begin  now  to  rethink  cities  so  they  function  as  complete  ecosystems.  This  is  the  ultimate  form  of  bio-­‐mimicry.   D The  least  vulnerable  and  most  resilient  urban  eco-­‐system  might  be  a  new  form  of  regional  eco-­‐city  state  (or  bioregion)  in  which  a  densely  built-­‐up  core  is  surrounded  by  essential  supportive  ecosystems  (Rees  2009b).vi  The  central  idea  is  to  consolidate  as  much  as  possible  of  the  city’s  productive  hinterland  in  close  proximity  to  its  consumptive  urban  core.  In  effect,  this  would  internalize  the  currently  widely  scattered  external  eco-­‐footprints  of  our  cities  into  more  compact  and  manageable  city-­‐centred  regions  that  could  function  as  complete  human  ecosystems.  Such  a  transformed  homeplace,  “rather  than  being  merely  the  site  of  consumption,  [would],  through  its  very  design,  produce  some  of  its  own  food  and  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability of Twenty-FirstCentury Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Cities in Transition: NewDirections in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press.energy,  as  well  as  become  the  locus  of  work  for  its  residents”  (Van  der  Ryn  &  Calthorpe  1986).  Eco-­‐city  states  would  be  less  of  a  burden  on,  and  more  of  a  contributor  to,  the  life-­‐support  functions  of  the  ecosphere  than  contemporary  cities.   Significantly,  too,  the  bioregional  city  would  reconnect  urban  populations  both  physically  and  psychologically  to  ‘the  land.’  Because  inhabitants  would  be  more  directly  dependent  on  local  ecosystems,  they  would  have  a  powerful  incentive—currently  absent—to  manage  their  land  and  water  resources  sustainably  in  the  face  of  global  change.  (Ideally,   Tpolitical  control  over  the  productive  land  and  resource  base  of  the  consolidated  region  would  pass  to  the  eco-­‐city  state  governments.)  Less  reliant  on  imports,  their  populations   AFwould  be  partially  insulated  from  climate  vagaries,  resource  shortages,  and  distant  violent  conflicts.    Most  importantly,  if  the  world  were  organized  into  a  system  of  bioregions  that  managed  to   Rbecome  sustainable  (no  net  loss  of  natural  capital  on  a  per  capita  basis)  the  aggregate  effect  would  be  global  sustainability—which  is,  after  all,  the  purpose  of  the  exercise.     D                                                                                                                i    For   full  details   of  the   method,   including   inclusions,  e xceptions   and  l imitations,  s ee   Rees  (2003,  2006)  W WF   (2008)  and  various  links  at  http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/    ii    EFA  o bviously  does  n ot  c apture  the  e ntire  human   impact  on  Earth,  o nly  those  dimensions   for  which  the   ecosphere  has  regenerative  capacity.  For  example,  various  wastes  such  as  ozone  depleting  chemicals  or  the   toxic  chemical  residues  accumulating  in  our  food  chain  cannot  be  converted  into  a  corresponding   ecosystem  area.    iii    To   enable  fair  comparisons  a mong  countries,  the  data   in  Figure  1  are  presented  in  terms  o f  ‘ global  hectares’   (gha),  i.e.,  the  eco-­‐footprints  and  biocapacities  of  each  country  are  represented  in  terms  of  an  equivalent   area  of  global  average  productivity.  iv  This  does  not  necessarily   mean  that  a   post-­‐carbon  world   will  have   a  s maller   energy  e co-­‐footprint.  For  example,  biofuels  have  an  even  larger  eco-­‐footprint  than  the  fossil  fuels  they  allegedly  d isplace.  v    The  area  o f  Japan  is  only   a bout  37,770,000  ha   but  Japan’s  terrestrial  e cosystems  are  considerably   more  productive  than  the  world  average.  This  increases  the  country’s  biocapacity  to  almost  77,000,000  gha.    vivi  For  a  history  and  philosophy  o f  the  bioregional  movement,  see  Carr  (2005).  
    • Much of the content in this paper has been edited, expanded, and recently published as:Rees, W.E. 2011. Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability: Eco-Footprints and the Vulnerability ofTwenty-First Century Cities. Chap 5 in: Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion and Ryan Walker(eds). Canadian Citiesin Transition: New Directions in the Twenty-First Century, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. Cities After Oil: Getting Serious about Urban Sustainability William  Rees     Figure   T AF R D  Figure  1.  Per  Capita  Biocapacities  and  Ecological  Footprints  of  Selected  Countries  Compared  to  the  World  Averages.  Source:  2005  data  extracted  from  WWF  2008  
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