Rapid urban development - especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America - is one of the defining features of the past 50 years.
The shift from rural to urban and from large settlement to mega-city produces environmental, social, ethical and human rights problems and it challenges our very understanding of civilisation. This book makes a valuable contribution to this understanding and will find a strong place on the reading lists of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in geography, economics, development, environmental management, governance and public policy.
The book is a collection of readings organised into seven sections, with 38 extracts from the works of leading thinkers on urbanism and sustainable urban development. The impressive list includes many difficult-to-track-down papers by Lewis Mumford, Ebenezer Howard, Jane Jacobs, Ian McHarg, Herman Daly, Jan Gehl, Robert Cevero, John Lyle, Robert Bullard and Ernest Callenbach.
This is not the usual “shopping-list” approach to a collection of readings. The high-quality extracts all contribute to a developing narrative that builds up understanding and competence in the reader. The narrative starts with the origins of the subject matter and progresses to land use and urban design, transport, urban ecology, energy and material, justice and equity, economic development, green architecture and building,
tools (such as ecological footprinting) and visions of a sustainable community.
The section on visions is powerful and locates the detailed work on this subject within very clear world-views of what is possible for crowded cities of the future. Cities can work and can be beautiful but must get better at governing themselves and eradicating environmental problems and injustice. The case studies give reality and credibility, and the planning exercises provide an immediate method
of engaging students and others in thinking and working in a way that maximises understanding.
The book is accessible, authoritative and wide ranging. It will be welcomed by everyone working in this complex area.
John Whitelegg is professor of sustainable development, Stockholm Environment Institute, York University.
Critical takes on breaks
The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. First edition
Editor - Stephen M. Wheeler and Timothy Beatley
Publisher - Routledge
Pages - 348
Price - £95.00 and £26.99
ISBN - 0 415 31186 1 and 0 415 31187 X