The urban environment : agendas and problems

Grierson, D. (2007) The urban environment : agendas and problems. International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, 3 (1). pp. 1-8. ISSN 1832-2077

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The United Nations estimate that by 2025 there will be around 5 billion people living in urban areas, more than the total world population 20 years ago. Currently, the developed nations are the most urbanised with, on average around three-quarters of their population living in cities, but this is changing. Increased levels of economic growth, of migration, of population expansion and, in some cases, of unprecedented industrial growth, mean that Asia and Africa will be the regions most radically affected by urban development over the next twenty years. Increasing debate on issues of urban sustainability has led to the consolidation of environmental agendas and the definition of a specific body of problems and policy issues on two levels. The first involves green agenda problems occupying the concerns of many in the developed nations such as global warming, ozone-layer depletion, loss of bio-diversity, deforestation, and the exhaustion of non-renewable resources. For the developing world, however, these global environmental problems are less immediate than the need to resolve acute problems relating to poverty and the so-called brown agenda problems of air and water pollution, inadequate waste management, the lack of basic services and green areas, declining infrastructure, and poor housing conditions, as well as issues of health, crime, violence, and social exclusion. It is now a commonly held belief that the green agenda cannot be addressed until the urgent problems of urban social deprivation and inequalities are resolved. This paper reviews the scale and character of contemporary urbanisation and the rapid growth of cities, particularly within the developing nations, and examines associated implications with respect to the physical arrangement of cities, their resource consumption and their environmental impact.