A Brief Reading List
On Urban Sustainability
We are often asked by those new to the subject to recommend some initial readings on urban sustainability. Following is a brief listing of some recent works. Many of these books have been reviewed in past issues of The Urban Ecologist, and several are available through the UE office.
Blueprint for a Sustainable Bay Area, Urban Ecology, Oakland, CA, 1996. An extensively illustrated look at how the San Francisco Bay Area can become more sustainable, written for a popular audience.
Ecological Design, by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan, Island Press, Washington, D.C., 1995 (reviewed in 1996 #1). An elegant, theoretical look at principles of ecological design, as applied in settings such as sewage treatment marshes, industrial ecosystems, and ecological buildings.
The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken, Harper-Collins, New York, 1993 (reviewed Winter 1994). A visionary work looking at how economics can be retooled to support the restoration of natural systems. Discusses specific mechanisms such as green taxes, and provides a theoretical overview of “sustainable businesses.”
End of the Road: The World Car Crisis and How We Can Solve It, by Wolfgang Zuckerman, Chelsea Green Publishing, Post Mills, VT, 1991 (reviewed Spring 1993). Dealing with the growth of automobile use is one of the biggest challenges of sustainable urban development, and this entertaining book systematically lists steps to end the “car crisis.”
The GAIA Atlas of Cities: New Directions in Sustainable Urban Living, by Herbert Girardet, Anchor Books/Doubleday, New York, 1992 (reviewed Spring 1992). A beautifully illustrated popular overview of urban history, problems and futures, with emphasis on developing world megacities. The book’s final section, “Healing the City,” summarizes themes such as urban greening, energy efficiency, recycling, alternative transport, and traffic calming.
Green Plans: Greenprint for Sustainability, by Huey D. Johnson, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1995. A look at how national green plans can set the stage for sustainable development, with examples from The Netherlands, Canada, and New Zealand.
Making Development Sustainable: Redefining Institutions, Policy, and Economics, edited by Johan Holmberg, Island Press, Washington, D.C., 1992. A reader covering topics such as public institutions, public participation, environmental economics, sustainable agriculture, and industry. Contains a good chapter on “The Future City.”
Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on Earth, by William Rees, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1996 (reviewed in 1997 #I). A popular book with catchy illustrations in which the author presents a “footprint” model for determining how much land area is required to support urban inhabitants.
Planning for a Sustainable Environment. A Report by the Town and Country Planning Association, Earthscan Publications, London, 1993. A thorough but dry consideration of topics such as land use planning, energy policy, ecosystems, natural resources, pollution, waste, transport, regional planning, and economic development, by a Sustainable Development Study Group consisting of many leading British researchers.
Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development, by John Tillman Lyle, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1994. A lengthy examination of theoretical and practical aspects of ecological design, covering topics such as solar design, water conservation, waste assimilation, and building construction.
Reviving the City: Toward Sustainable Urban Development, by Tim Elkin and Duncan McLaren, with Mayer Hillman, Friends of the Earth, London, 1990 (reviewed Spring 1992). A look at sustainable urban development from an environmental perspective, emphasizing steps to address energy use and pollution rather than social issues or land use.
Shaping Cities: The Environmental and Human Dimensions, by Marcia Lowe, Worldwatch Paper 105, The Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C., 1991. An excellent, concise overview of ways that cities can be made more sustainable, including discussions of urban form, transportation, energy use, water use, housing, land use, and social justice issues, with examples from around the globe.
Sustainable America: A New Consensus, President’s Council on Sustainable Development, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1996. Although a consensus document that doesn’t go nearly far enough in some ways, the PCSD’s report does outline many useful principles and examples of sustainable development, and is remarkable in that it exists at all.
Sustainable Cities, Graham Haughton and Colin Hunter, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Ltd., London and Bristol PA, 1994. A thoughtful and thorough analysis by two English academics, focusing on environmental aspects of urban development but bringing in social and economic factors as well. The authors adopt a strongly international perspective and discuss historical ideas about ideal city form as well as current implications of the Earth Summit’s Agenda 21. A potential textbook for university courses.
Sustainable Cities: Urbanization and the Environment in International Perspective, edited by Richard Stren, Rodney White, and Joseph Whitney, Westview Press, Boulder CO, 1992. An excellent international survey of sustainable urban development issues, edited by three geographers associated with the University of Toronto, with sections on western Europe, eastern Europe, Africa, Canada, the U.S., Latin America, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.
— Stephen Wheeler