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Shaping Sustainable, HEALTHIER Cities: 

Shaping Sustainable, HEALTHIER Cities Ian Lowe 31 October, 2005

The basic premise: 

The basic premise Healthy individuals and healthy communities require healthy ecological systems to provide clean air, potable water, food and other forms of sustenance.

How could we create unsustainable futures ?: 

How could we create unsustainable futures ? Exponential population growth Growing consumption per person Base economy on consumption Deplete mineral resources, e.g. Oil Over-use fisheries, forests, water… Disrupt the global climate Widen inequality Embrace crass materialism

Discovery of large oil fields: 

Discovery of large oil fields

Oil, gas resources: 

Oil, gas resources Oil peak 2009 _+ 6 years ? Gas peak ~ 2040 ? [ no energy shortage ]


Water Humans now use half the available fresh water, directly or indirectly More than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water Hundreds of millions lack water needed for food production


Earth is overheating

Projected global warming: 

Projected global warming

Impacts on human health: 

Impacts on human health Direct impacts, e.g. heat stress Effects of vector-borne disease Severe events: storms, floods Indirect effects: balance of ecological systems WHO report

Millennium Assessment Report: 

Millennium Assessment Report Released March Experts and Review Process Prepared by 1360 experts from 95 countries 80-person independent board of review editors Review comments from 850 experts and governments Governance Called for by UN Secretary General in 2000 Authorised by governments through 4 conventions

Finding #1: 

Finding #1 Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth Millennium Assessment Report 2005

Finding #2: 

Finding #2 Changes to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being Since 1960, population doubled, economic activity increased 6-fold, food production increased 2 ½ times, water use has doubled, wood harvest tripled, hydropower doubled. Gains achieved at growing costs Millennium Assessment Report 2005

Degradation and unsustainable use of ecosystem services: 

Degradation and unsustainable use of ecosystem services Approximately 60% (15 out of 24) of the ecosystem services evaluated are being degraded or used unsustainably Millennium Assessment Report 2005

Increased likelihood of non-linear changes: 

Increased likelihood of non-linear changes established but incomplete evidence that our impacts on ecosystems are increasing the likelihood of non-linear changes (including accelerating, abrupt, and potentially irreversible changes), with important consequences for human well - being Millennium Assessment Report 2005

An example of non-linear change : 

An example of non-linear change Millennium Assessment Report 2005

Poverty, inequities growing: 

Poverty, inequities growing Economics and Human Development 1.1 billion people survive on < $1 per day, 70% in rural areas where they are highly dependent on ecosystem services Inequality has increased over the past decade Access to Ecosystem Services An estimated 852 million people were undernourished in 2000–02, up 37 million from the period 1997–99 Per capita food production declined in sub-Saharan Africa Water scarcity affects roughly 1–2 billion people worldwide Millennium Assessment Report 2005

Direct health impacts: 

Direct health impacts Up to average per capita incomes ~US$4000 pa, strong correlation between income and life expectancy Above that level, no correlation But very strong correlation [ - 0.86] between inequality and life expectancy [ R. Wilkinson 2005 ]

“Our present course is unsustainable - postponing action is no longer an option” - GEO 2000 [UNEP 1999] : 

“Our present course is unsustainable - postponing action is no longer an option” - GEO 2000 [UNEP 1999]

Three alternative responses [Richard Eckersley]: 

Three alternative responses [Richard Eckersley] Denial: Don’t change, instead try to prove that change is not necessary [John Kenneth Galbraith] Avoidance: “Don’t underestimate the power of distraction” [Woody Allen] Take responsibility for change: a small group can change the world [Margaret Mead]

The Knowledge Base: 

The Knowledge Base Much damage done by applying narrow knowledge to part of the system Develop a much better understanding of complex natural systems, including links between local and global processes Use this improved understanding to reduce the impacts of human activities on the natural world

Collapse: Diamond: 

Collapse: Diamond Societies choose to fail or survive Problems can be resolved Cultural values, social institutions determine if concerted response Signs of hope: new thinking Survival: new values, practices

The underlying drivers: 

The underlying drivers Population growth Consumption per person Societal values

New suite of values : 

New suite of values Domination of nature becomes ecological sensitivity Consumerism replaced by quality of life Individualism -> human solidarity P.Raskin, Values for Sustainability, Tellus Institute 2005


Environmental Competitive Liveable Healthy Efficient Just Sustainability Sustainability is about living within our means. It is about managing our consumption of resources and balancing environmental, economic and social outcomes. It means improving our quality of life, but making that improvement without leaving a burden on the future generations. Looking after our Environment Environmental Sustainability is about reducing our impact on the environment by protecting our air, water and land, our native flora and fauna. It means reducing the load on our natural resources, such as water and fuels for energy, and decreasing our production of waste. A Better Place to Live Liveability is about making Sydney a better place to live. It means being able to walk to your corner shop, local school, park or bus stop, as well as providing us with a choice of housing that meets our needs. Supporting our Economy Competitiveness is about supporting Sydney's role as a Global city, and ensuring our city's long term economic prosperity. It means providing quality infrastructure and services to service our jobs and the economy, and supporting urban centres Sustainable Vision for a Sustainable City



Markets give us things many of us want: 

Markets give us things many of us want Natural systems give us things we all really need



HEALTHIER futures: 

HEALTHIER futures Humane Ecocentric Approach Long Time Horizon Informed Efficient Resourced

Sustainable city will:: 

Sustainable city will: Have stabilised its population & footprint Use resources sustainably to produce a dynamic, flexible economy Be approaching a zero waste society Have drastically cut carbon emissions Require developments biodiversity +ve Be committed to improving equality Therefore serious TBL assessments Process for difficult decisions


Utopian? 1800: end slavery 1900: universal franchise 1985: Berlin Wall South Africa without apartheid lap-tops, mobile phones Practically all features of modern life


Conclusion Our decisions shape the future Aim: a sustainable future Many dimensions: resources, economic, social, environmental, health, cultural, spiritual… Our moral responsibility to other species and to future generations

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