Environmental Urbanism

Introduction

Research conducted by various researchers on the environment, in particular the urban centers, reveal various practices that range from pollution in the cities through conservation of natural vegetables to soil, that are worth checking towards sustaining the environment. In the chapter An Introduction to Ecological Design, Stuart Cowan and Sim van Der ryn argue in terms of the way people and cultures have established various mechanisms, all of which aim at preserving their environment.

Human beings can live together in harmony just like the way wild animals interact, not only with one another, but also with their environment (Van Der Ryn & Cowan, 2000, p. 519). Therefore, according to them, design is paramount in ensuring a steady balance between the ecosystems. On the other hand, in The Wasteful Cities, John Lorinc argues in terms of how cities cannot survive without water, a crucial resource whose reliability depends much on the nature of the environment.

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According to him, the society ought to step up environmental conservation in the cities to ensure the sufficiency of water and wastewater infrastructure (Lorinc, 2006, p. 113). Government therefore, needs to intervene on issues of environmental conservation in the urban centers. However, Nicholas Low’s book Green-Shaded Cities claims that, cities should employ mechanisms for sustaining them in a way that people respect, not only one another, but also the nature around them for the benefit of all (Low, 2003, p. 211).

Nevertheless, based on a keen analysis of the works of these authors, there stand some loopholes, as they do not give a detailed procedure of the steps to follow in order to realize the dream of an environment conducive for the people leaving in the cities. In addition, cities have continued to deteriorate in terms of their surroundings, despite the efforts made by people like these authors, as they also do not pinpoint the requirements needed from the people towards the realization of this goal.

They also do not tell what exactly needs to be conserved and why. In this paper, I argue that the main reason why there appears to be a disconnection between environmental preservation, and conservation and human beings’ social and industrial practices is ignorance on the part of man.

By ignorance, I mean the lack of information on how to preserve and conserve the environment. Man is a rational being and if he/she knows what is at stake when he/she engages in environmentally unfriendly practices, it will become easier for him/her to refrain from them (Low, 2003, p. 224). Over the years, market economists, and other environmental entities have portrayed human beings as ‘monsters’ seeking to destroy the environment with their inventions of automobiles, skyscrapers, and other pollutants.

The concept of waste is a common allusion linking all the three articles. The authors agree that waste disposal has a major effect on how a city or an area’s environmental management is undertaken. One of the main reasons why this vice is rampant in urban centers includes the presence of air pollution policies that have no authority (Lorinc, 2006, p. 117).

Chronic technical failures of hydroelectric power plants result in waste release into the atmosphere. Over dependence on power energy is another problem affecting urban areas, especially those with lots of industries. “Nature’s cooling and purification systems are no longer functional because wetlands and woodlots have been eradicated by urban constructors and landscapers. Trees cut provide space for parking lots, “we build cities that function like huge heat sinks” (Lorinc, 2006, p. 114).

The houses seem insufficiently insulated and therefore the growing need for artificial heating systems. Pavements are made of asphalt and other ecologically insensitive building materials that absorb solar radiation. In Toronto for instance, the statistics report 1700 premature deaths, 6000 hospitalizations annually due to air pollution related conditions (Lorinc, 2006, p. 116). Smog and ground level ozone quantities have escalated and the situation is simply tragic.

Ecological footprints, defined as the amount of land, water, mineral resources and energy required to sustain an individual’s lifestyle remains worth measuring. Therefore, planners need to incorporate these measurements when developing cities. That way, the green cities spoken of, will appear a dream easy to realize, at least for future generations to live in.

Ecological design is another critical concept advanced throughout the three articles. It is what Van Der Ryn and Cowan propose as the possible solution to the environmental degradation, which currently seems directly proportional to the rate of urbanization. Briefly, ecological design refers to processes during and after a development that reduce environmental destruction through integration and adoption of natural processes (Van Der Ryn & Cowan, 2000, p. 223).

Experts have tested such designing. Based on their findings, the designs result to the advancement of sustainable life: a life of “social responsibility and financial profitability” (Van Der Ryn & Cowan, 2000, p. 528). For its implementation, an ecological design requires the cooperation and sacrifice of the present generation, which seems likely to benefit the least from their responsible actions, for the benefit of future generations.

Van Der Wyn and Cowan highlight three steps necessary to achieve this design with conservation as the first step. It refers to the practice of ‘economizing’ environmental resources or using less and reducing the wasted resources. Regeneration, the second principle, refers to “repairing and renewing a world deeply wounded by an environmentally insensitive design” (Van Der Ryn, & Cowan, 2000, p. 519). Finally, stewardship refers to interweaving nature and the urban environment in a way that yields maximum profitability.

Some of the methods proposed for the advancement of these principles include the construction of ‘pedestrian oriented’ urban designs, cogeneration, recycling of industrial wastes, toxic cleanup and the production or acquisition of sufficient energy to run the urban centers.

They also include the consideration of resource efficiency, construction of ‘healthy’ buildings, use of ecologically sensitive materials, social and ecological sensitivity in the usage of land, and aesthetic sensitivity. For these measures to succeed, it calls for the combination of efforts among architects, engineers and planners.

Such cooperation remains guaranteed to result in a very ecologically sensitive city, whose citizens, and administration appreciate the role of a healthy environment in the social and economical wellbeing of its inhabitants. Such a city will befit the title, ‘Green-shaded city’. Other characteristics of such a city include the “recognition of the intrinsic value of biodiversity and natural ecosystems-to protect and restore them” (Low, 2003, p. 210). Citizens can demand for it from their leaders by applying their democratic rights.

They can stage citizen action through rallies, campaigns and boycotts, which insist upon the maintenance of pure environments by all residents, including industries and factories that are naughty for polluting the environment. “Cities must coexist with and indeed within, nature. Cities must become resource pools rather than users of resources, reusing their own energy and resources- both natural and human” (Low, 2003, p. 225).

It therefore seems necessary for people to understand the importance of conserving energy and resources, so that they can gain the motivation to do so. It is also important that the opinion leaders be the ‘tool’ to administer this knowledge as more are likely to listen to their arguments. The result of such information dissemination will be diligent, self-driven environmental conservation by the people inhabiting such environments.

References

Lorinc, J. (2006). Wasteful Cities. In J. Lorinc, The City Under Stress. Toronto: Penguin Canada.

Low, N.(2003). Green Shaded Cities. In N. Low, The Green City. Oxford: Bellwether Publishing Ltd.

Van Der Ryn, S., & Cowan, S. (2000). An Introduction to Ecological Design. In R. T. LeGates, The City Reader. London: Routledge.

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