The growing Environment and Sustainability list is at the heart of our remit to publish quality scholarship that addresses global social challenges.
This list covers a broad spectrum of issues and focuses on the social justice dimensions of environmental sustainability, including in: climate change; environmental politics; developing sustainable economies; transport and sustainability; and environmentalist thought and ideology.
The new Open Access Global Social Challenges Journal incorporates these themes to facilitate critical thinking across disciplines and fields.
Environment and Sustainability
Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Digital Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) have become a common feature of the urban landscape in cities throughout Europe. An emerging body of literature suggests that Fab Labs go beyond providing access to digital fabrication tools, and function as ‘third places’ as they enhance social connectedness. Drawing on a case study of a Fab Lab in the English city of Coventry, this article utilises the concept of ‘austerity urbanism’ to understand the changing nature of third places in England since the 2008 global financial crash. In doing so, we argue that a confluence of austerity urbanism and digital advancements has influenced both the emergence of new third places (such as Fab Labs) while simultaneously undermining long-established third places (such as libraries). As a result, vital aspects of social infrastructure are being shaped and reshaped in the contemporary era. The article reflects on what these changes mean for individual and community well-being.
This study examines how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be leveraged to facilitate strategic change towards sustainability involving multiple stakeholders in a pluralistic city environment. By drawing on an exemplary case study of the localisation of the SDGs in Bristol, a medium-sized UK city, we show how the goals can operate as a boundary object. In particular, we identify a pattern in which the discursive localisation of the SDGs moved from problematisation and visioning through strategising and structuring towards embedding and performing. In addition, we elaborate on the three tensions that the SDGs help participants to understand and use productively, that is, across scale, time and different ways of valuing. Our study contributes to research on strategic change in pluralistic settings, such as cities, by offering a nuanced account of the discursive use of the SDGs by organisations involved in a city’s sustainable development. Furthermore, by proposing a framework based on the specific tensions that play an important role in the discursive localisation, our study advances research on the role of city strategising and practice more generally.
In early 2022, over 30 years after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its first report on the challenges posed by climate change and four subsequent Assessment Reports later, the word ‘colonialism’ finally entered its official lexicon. The sixth report on ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ references colonialism, not only as a historical driver of the climate crisis, but also as something that continues to exacerbate the vulnerabilities of communities to it (). As argues, this comes in the wake of long-standing arguments made by Indigenous groups and others on the frontline of climate change about the centrality of colonialism to comprehending and responding to the crisis. The last decade has also seen a significant increase in scholarly literature that draws explicit links between colonialism and climate change – much of which is referenced in the latest IPCC report. While formal acknowledgement of this relationship is long overdue, in this article we argue for caution and precision in the invocation of colonialism within these debates. Following classic article setting out why ‘decolonization is not a metaphor’, we argue relatedly that colonialism needs to be understood as more than a metaphor in climate change debates.
I began to allude to the importance of accessibility in facilitating new patterns of care in the previous chapter, and the goal of this chapter is to consider in depth how urban design can mobilize notions of access to influence care needs, relations and practices. However, I begin the discussion with a quandary since two of the major goals of accessibility as constructed in the context of urban design theory have an uneasy relationship with the ideas of care and from the ethics of care which I have presented thus far. The first of these goals is personal autonomy. The accessibility of built form is often seen to shape the autonomy that people such as those with a mobility or sensory impairment have in looking after themselves and choosing how and where to live. The second goal is universality. The goal of accessible urban design, such as within the context of ‘universal design’ discourses, is seen to be the creation of city forms and places that are navigable by all, satisfying principles of inclusivity and equity (see, for example, Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012).
As outlined in the introductory chapter, care is a word that has evolved substantially over time, gathering different meanings and associations. These subtly vary depending on whether care is used as noun, a verb or an adjective. Adding complexity, care can denote a disposition, as in ‘caring about’ something, someone or an issue. But care also denotes a wider set of activities, as in ‘caring for’ a person, collective or thing in a practical sense (Noddings, 1984; Fine, 2006). Both meanings of care can of course be, and often are, interlinked within single uses of the word. In the early days of writing this chapter, I was reading to my young son The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971). It is a story of a tree species being exploited almost to extinction, with those involved in deriving economic benefit from it failing to comprehend its crucial importance for the health of a biodiverse ecosystem. Finally, at the end, once that ecosystem has been all but destroyed and the economy is on its knees too, a little boy who learns the story from former industrialist the Once-Ler and is given the last remaining seeds of the tree is motivated to plant them and take care of the emerging seedlings. The recovery of the landscape will depend, the Once-Ler tells him, melancholy with hindsight, on people like him caring ‘a whole awful lot,’ with the word care denoting both a disposition of deep concern about the damaged state of the world and the vast labour of care that would be required to make it a better place again. In an age when children across the world, inspired by Greta Thunberg, are taking on these sorts of labours of care for the environment for the sake of their own and their children’s futures, the story is no longer prophetic as it would have been in the early 1970s but rather reads as a commentary on the state of contemporary action against climate change.
Urban design has often been depicted by urban scholars as the antithesis of care as characterized in Chapter 1. Though urban forms and places are hugely varied, they have often been depicted as poorly attuned to the needs and capabilities of inhabitants. Such criticism can be detected, for example, in literature linking urban form to health outcomes, such as the extensive research exploring the relationship between urban sprawl and socio-medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease (see, for example, Frumkin, 2002). It can be found in studies of the atmospheric qualities of urban form such as noise from streets, poor air quality and light pollution that have been connected to issues of physical health but also identified as stressors affecting mental health and wellbeing (see, for example, Tuan, 1974; Park and Evans, 2016). It can be found in the growing literature connecting urban design with the availability of such vital resources as water, including research on the impacts of public space design on the depletion or replenishment of the groundwater aquifers that healthy and resilient ecosystems depend on (for example, Lerner, 1990; Pickett et al, 2013). It can also be seen in critical assessments of the generic nature of much urban form and building leading to a sense of placelessness and social exclusions of diverse kinds. Generic design has often been seen to reflect universalizing conceptions and/or imaginary norms of human behaviour, anatomy and ability, and as ‘disabling’ (Hall and Imrie, 1999) to those who fail to adhere to them, who may include people with specific health conditions, mobility issues, learning difficulties or sensory impairments (see, for example, Burton and Mitchell, 2006).
In this important contribution to urban studies, Juliet Davis makes the case for a more ethical and humane approach to city development and management.
With a range of illustrative case studies, the book challenges the conventional and neoliberal thinking of urban planners and academics, and explores new ways to correct problems of inequality and exclusion. It shows how a philosophy of caring can improve both city environments and communities.
This is an original and powerful theory of urban care that can promote the wellbeing of our cities’ many inhabitants.
Throughout this book, I have shown that urban design offers a valuable lens for understanding how societies place and organize care. But I have also shown how urban design is key to addressing issues of care in contemporary cities worldwide, issues that span the changing place of care in contemporary society, the impacts of urban change on wellbeing and flourishing and the degradation of environments in the Anthropocene. To briefly recap, across the book’s substantive chapters, I have focussed on the potential for urban design to perform care through the placing and staging of care relations, the making of accessible urban places, the shaping of atmospheres both affective and aerographic, strategies enabling ongoing attunement through materiality to the changing contexts and contingencies of caringscapes, the cultivation of positive place-attachments and through care for the resources of a common world shared across the generations. Between them, these chapters and themes embrace all the dimensions of urban design that Carmona (2021) identifies, from the social to the perceptual, morphological, functional and temporal. These dimensions, though not always picked out explicitly, weave through all the chapters. The case study analyses have also explored the significance of design governance for care relations and practices.
These powerful words were spoken as part of an interview in a 2018 documentary called In the Shadow of the Shard, by the filmmaker and writer John Rogers. The film looks at how residents experience development pressure and urban change in a formerly industrial, Central London neighbourhood – Bermondsey. Traditionally a working-class, production-oriented district of London, Bermondsey lies just to the south of the River Thames, outside of the old twin cities of Westminster and London, urbanizing from the seventeenth century. Though long a peripheral place, since the late twentieth century Bermondsey has been the focus of expansions of the City of London’s office development and recognized as an ‘urban frontier’ of gentrification (Keddie and Tonkiss, 2010). The Shard – a ninety-five-storey, ‘super-tall’ (Graham, 2014) skyscraper designed by the Italian design practice Renzo Piano Building Workshop and built between 2003 and 2008 over the London Bridge railway station – is seen in the film as symbolic of the encroachments of the centre, the city, capitalism, iconic architecture, and middle-class residents on the neighbourhood.