A critical knowledge pathway to a sustainable future in an urbanizing planet

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Patricia Romero-Lankao, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States
The pace and scale of contemporary urbanization is a defining feature of the Anthropocene, which characterizes the dominance of human influence on the global environment. Although urban areas occupy less than three percent of the global land surface, they have global-scale impacts on natural resources, social dynamics, human wellbeing and the environment. The global environmental changes already underway are profound and in some ways irreversible. Altogether, these have serious implications for future human and environmental health, and social wellbeing.

Despite considerable research and policy attention to cities, efforts are strongly needed towards integration that builds upon this and facilitates intensive interactions among disciplines in developing new perspectives, theory and methods for understanding urbanizations and urban systems as they drive and are affected by global environmental change, and for exploring options to achieve sustainability and resilience in an urbanizing world.

I will present initial outcomes from a 2014 NSF/Future Earth-funded activity to develop a co-designed and interdisciplinary urban initiative within the Future Earth framework. The complexity of urban systems and the global sustainability challenges we face require inter- and trans-disciplinary research approaches that adopt a contextual approach to finding solutions. I will synthesize perspectives spanning multiple urban research and practice communities from workshops that took place over 2014 including the 2104 UGEC Conference, where emphasis was given to exploring:

  • knowledge gaps and key urban research and socially-relevant questions moving forward;
  • major challenges and opportunities for developing conceptual and methodological frameworks that support the global transformation to sustainability in the context of an urbanizing planet;
  • operational mechanisms that must be in place for a successful interdisciplinary urban project that fits within Future Earth.