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Title: Environment and the City
Author(s): Peter Roberts, Joe Ravetz and Clive George
Date of Publication: 2009 Publisher: Routledge
Pages:xx + 367 ISBN: 978 0 415 30247 0
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Senior Secondary







Content: 1 – Introduction; 2 - the human urban environment: scope and methods; 3 - Future city: urban environments in transition; 4 - Urban environments in a global context; 5 - Towards the eco-city: the physical urban environment; 6 - City form and fabric: the urban built environment; 7 - Cities in the global market: the economic urban environment; 8 - Community and lifestyle: the social urban environment; 9 - Methods and tools for the urban environment; 10- Towards sustainable cities and regions.

Review: Urban studies are becoming increasingly popular especially as we are now officially an urban species. Likewise, there are many texts dealing with urban ecosystems and the slightly newer view of urban ecology. This suggests there are two 'cities': the natural system which attempts to "take over" built forms and the human system which erects buildings partly to escape (or at least mitigate) the natural environment. What these perspectives have in common is that they focus on one area. However, it is possible to make the case that since natural and human-made are together in one space it makes sense to deal with them as one inter-related system. It is this integration that the authors argue for. They posit that we need to study the connections between natural and artificial, between "North" and "South" cities and between action and effect. To tie this together the authors use the term human urban environment.

Chapter one takes the reader rapidly through the historical development and spread of the city, its footprint, its management and its sustainability. The aim is to give the reader some of the background needed to understand the more technical material that follows. Chapter two continues this introductory theme but from the focus of defining (or more accurately de-constructing) the term 'human urban environment'. In addition, the chapter highlights some key issues often left out of texts, notably the plurality of responses i.e. "North" and "South" form a continuum not two groupings. Most importantly, there is a detailed discussion on the notion of "critical perspectives" as a way to better appreciate the inter-relations between natural and human systems. Chapter three looks at the changes in city through time. This is not the measured step found in many historical geography texts but a series of steps from the early city through industrial city to new 'green city: a series of transitions between forms. These transitions are described in terms of both topic e.g. spatial, environmental, resource etc. and geographical e.g. North/South. If chapter three is time, chapter four is the companion dealing with space. It discusses growing urbanisation and its effects, employment, land use, tenure and governance. If these four chapters describe in broad terms the development of the current city the next four examine key drivers of change in the hunan-urban system. Chapter five takes the city as a series of resource flows taken largely from the surrounding ecosystems. In turn this leads to discussions about then use of these resources and the resulting pollution and environmental impacts. Again, the North/South debate continues but with more emphasis on the 'green' Northern development set against the 'brown' South development i.e. post-industrial versus industrialisation to develop (and presumably subsequently follow the 'green' path assuming there is such a linear track. Chapter six looks at urban growth and development starting with housing and tenure and contrasting the responses between the various city systems and finishing with ideas on sustainable urban form. Chapter seven studies urban economics and the impact that industrialisation has and can have on the city and its inhabitants. Finally in this part, chapter 8 examines the social environment and the dimensions of health, poverty etc. that can overwhelm cities. This ties in with environmental crimes and justice and risks suffered by the weaker groups especially women and children. Chapters 9 and 10 take these issues and suggest how they can be dealt with practically. Chapter 9 considers the range of tools that can be used to assess urban conditions e.g. polluter pays principle, cost-benefit analysis; the ways in which information can be gathered and some of the ideas that can be used to generate change. Assuming that the correct city of the future is a sustainable one, chapter 10 outlines the pressures it might be under and how it can be achieved. Alongside the details in each chapter are the common threads of case studies, overviews and references/links.

This is a remarkable book. It looks at the urban-ecology interface in a new way which allows a thorough examination of the system whilst using a holistic technique. This technique is constantly re-worked through the text so that the reader can see how it applies to any one specific area. It's full of good ideas and practical suggestions which make it ideal for the beginner trying to assess the environmental impact of their surroundings. Given that we are an urban species this makes sense not least because we need to address the situation that old city thinking has brought about. This is a bright and refreshing look at a familiar topic and a very interesting methodology. Certainly one of the best books published this year and a definite must-buy for the library.





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