Summary - Lecture 10: Urban Metabolism: Conceptualizing the City as an Organism
ProSPER.NET Arlene GONZALES
Young Researchers’ School 2018 Hongru HONG
Lecture #10 by Dr. Gasparatos
Urban Metabolism and the Environmental Impact of Activities
Urban metabolism refers to the family of methodology to understand
impacts of material consumption. It is also used to frame and to understand
urban capacity by examining the materials flow input and output. This
concept actually views cities as a living being that consumes materials
(energy, resources), some are circulated within the city itself, and wastes
are produced as end-products.
Urban metabolism and cities are based on industrial ecology and traces the
consumption and the emission that can be accounted using different
techniques. It quantifies the mass of the resources consumed by a
population. Among the popular measures used are the Material Flow
Analysis (MFA) that uses the approach of resource accounting. The second
technique is through emergy, where it assesses the relationships between
human-dominated systems, and uses system ecology which looks into the
different processes in the city along the materials and of fundamental
energy transfer. The third approach is through exergy to improve the
efficiency analysis and avoid wasting of input flows.
The methodology of looking into the impact of cities can be relatively easily
done even without field data, which have an implication in policy making
and implementation. This could actually lessen the period devoted for field
collection since it makes use of available secondary data as references for
the development of accounting and models.
In the second part of the lecture, Dr. Gasparatos made use of a research on
Tokyo’s meat consumption trend to illustrate how the concept of a city as a
living organism could be understood. The results reveal that as the
population of Tokyo and people’s appetite for meat increased, coupled with
the decrease of available lands, this leads to an increase in industrialised
husbandry and import. In view of the needs to reduce ecological footprint,
there are implications for the government to promote short distance
transportation of domestically produced meat for megacities like Tokyo.
Having shown a practical application of material and energy flow, Dr.
Gasparatos went to talk about the uncertainties, challenges, and limitations
of this kind of research, but also potential for future research. For example,
the dependency on data and inconsistency of data are among the
uncertainties and challenges. This kind of secondary data analysis often
gives us impacts and trend with variables rather than the actual situation
of, for example, geophysical or biodiversity changes.