Urban Sustainability

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As engines of capital accumulation, cities have often been viewed as environmental sacrifice zones. Some critics have argued that ‘sustainable cities’ is an oxymoron. Nonetheless, the debate over sustainable development generally, and sustainable urbanism specifically, has succeeded in reshaping and broadening discourse around cities and  attendant policies and outcomes–both in industrialized and industrializing countries. Implying that sustainable use of natural resources involves social justice and economic development as well as environmental concerns, the notion of sustainability has led away from narrower conceptions of urban environmentalism, toward more consideration for the future, greater integration of social and economic goals with environmental and ecological objectives, and hence a fundamental rethinking of how cities should be theorized, planned and managed. This course introduces students to the emerging field of urban sustainability from multiple disciplinary perspectives, primarily industrial ecology, urban political ecology, and urban planning. The course provides students with the theoretical and methodological tools in which to explore the potential for a sustainable urbanism. Approaches to foster more sustainable and resilient forms of urbanization and urban life, from localizations to dematerialization, are introduced and evaluated. Course deliverables include a mid-term exam, a group case-project, and three writing responses. A field trip to Detroit and meetings with stakeholders also form course components.



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