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Title: State of the World 2007
Author(s): Worldwatch Institute
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Earthscan
Pages: xxxi + 250 ISBN: 978 1 84407 391 7
Price: Format:Paperback
Overview:
Target Readership Sen Secondary
Presentation/Style
Content
Literature
Originality
Overall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content: 1 – An urbanising world; 2 - Providing clean water and sanitation; 3 - Farming the cities; 4 - Greening transportation; 5 - Energising cities; 6 - Reducing natural disaster; 7 - Charting a new course for public health; 8 - Strengthening local economics; 9 - Fighting poverty and environmental injustice in cities.

Review: This, the 24th. in the series, focusses on urban issues. Regulars here will know the format but it's worth re-stating for those who haven't yet seen this series (where have you been!). The text opens with a very useful timeline highlighting the key environmental problems from late 2005 to late 2006. The list is diverse with topics ranging from forestry and climate to security and governance. The aim is to provide an insight into those events considered significant enough to warrant attention either by virtue of their size or importance to environmental issues. The remainder of the book tackles the key topic chosen for that year. As noted above, this year it is the urban world chosen because of the imminent passing of a landmark in human settlement - more than 50% of the world's population living in urban centres. The first chapter focusses on this broad issue and deals with urbanisation in various parts of the world in turn highlighting the key issues that are developing. At the end we find a few case studies showing what can be done to make urban areas more ecologically responsive. Chapter two looks at one of the most important issues for the urban poor - water and sanitation. The significance of this cannot be over-stated. If the urban poor are to be helped it is in the provision of decent basic services that the work must be done. Mumbai, one of the cases mentioned, has the world's largest slums with a population close to 6 million (larger than most cities) and it's in these kinds of numbers that some solution must be found. Chapter three looks at an old solution that needs to be modernised- farming in cities. Despite clearance for urbanisation, peri-urban farms have been highly productive - what is needed is a way to get the re-connection with the land. Chapter four brings an old debate - public versus private transit up to date with a focus on energy sources and efficiency. As with the first time around, debate suggests support for public transportation but there are also questions of rising car levels and the ways we can 'retro-fit' our cities to be more efficient. The theme of energy use continues into chapter five with its examination of the energy needs of cities. Again, this is an old debate - the local versus regional power supply - but with the usual twist of the needing to reduce carbon pollution. City lighting is the unusual focus here - taken as one of the key users of energy but whose amount is not always questioned. Examples of solar lighting are given showing that there are many ways out of this problem. Chapter six moves on to far less familiar territory - risk inherent in cities. The basic argument is that modern cities, due to both construction and location, are likely to be less 'safe' against natural hazards than older cities. Much of this is due to the cost of infrastructure rather than its importance (one writes here still remembering the way the 2004 tsunami was described as of limited importance because the 200,000+ deaths were, presumably, not insured!). Despite such disparities there is still much we need to do to protect all citizens. This chapter just reminds us that most of the issues described in this text apply unequally - far more to the developing and poor than the developed. Chapter seven tackles another common city issue, health. Environmental factors contribute considerably to lung diseases whilst poverty does little to help people address such issues. As if to counterpoint this, chapter eight looks at the ways in which cities can help the local economy. The role of strong local actors/stakeholders is seen as influential whilst the idea of micro-credit (small loans for poorer people) gets another nod for the work it has done. Circulating through all this work is the notion that equality is not just a nice idea but vital for the efficient functioning of cities. Fitting then that this text closes with a discussion on the need to fight injustice, especially environmental injustice.

As with previous editions this book continues to deliver some of the best brief reports in their field. The standard of writing is consistently high not just within but between volumes. Students need to read this to see what good, well-thought out arguments look like. Where some other annual reports have failed to sustain an early promise this series just keeps delivering. Having recommended this text for years it must now be seen as essential reading for any serious environmental debate.

 

 

 

 

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