Cities: An Environmental History
From the ancient glories of Bam and Varanasi to the teeming conurbations of Tokyo and Sao Paulo, cities are amongst our greatest creations. Yet at the start of the twenty-first century, with cities now home to more than half the world's population, there is increasing concern over their unchecked expansion and the detrimental effect this is having on the planet. This unfettered growth is affecting every ecosystem on Earth, from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains, as induced climate change and ever increasing demands upon the world's resources take effect. As the pace of urbanization quickens, especially in the developing world, how can we make the world's cities more sustainable? How can we prepare new urban areas for future environmental challenges?
In Cities: An Environmental History, leading geographer Ian Douglas reveals the story of cities - why they exist, how they have evolved, and the problems they have encountered. In particular he explores efforts to make cities livable, to enable the urban environment to be enjoyed by its inhabitants. The author shows how, from the very beginning, environmental management played a key role in urban life, particularly in the use of water in Roman and Arab cities. He examines the concept of the city as an ecosystem and the holistic ideas about the functioning of the city that guided some planners, architects and urban managers in their responses to the worst consequences of nineteenth-century urban development. He then addresses specific problems associated with urban life, such as noise and air pollution, water supply and waste management, as well as exploring attempts at reducing the vulnerability of cities to hazards. The provision of green spaces, as well as campaigns to introduce parks, to preserve urban woodlands, and give city dwellers the opportunity to enjoy wildlife, are included. In a final chapter Professor Douglas considers strategies to make cities more sustainable and help them adapt to climate change. He reviews initiatives to reduce commuting and food miles and to re-use and recycle waste, looks at sustainable housing, energy conservation and dual water systems, and discuses attempts to retrofit existing cities in response to likely environmental change in the remainder of the twenty-first century. The result is a comprehensive account of one of humanity's greatest achievements yet a telling tale of one of our most pressing environmental concerns.
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