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Award helps ASU advance urban, environmental solutions

Urbanization in Hong Kong
September 25, 2014

Signaling a new chapter in its study of urban systems, the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) project – hosted by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability – has received a significant award from the Future Earth initiative.

In this so-called Century of the City, UGEC recognizes the opportunity embedded in urban environments. Often associated with environmental ills, cities can serve as an excellent source of innovative, sustainable solutions. UGEC has dedicated over eight years to uncovering these solutions, primarily by fostering promising research collaborations in the social sciences.

The Future Earth award, supported by a National Science Foundation grant, represents a chance to expand UGEC’s efforts. Through a two-year visioning process titled “Critical Knowledge Pathways to Liveable Urban Futures,” an entirely new project to address urbanization and global environmental change will take shape.

The visioning process will be guided by an Urban Transition Team, chaired by experts including Patricia Romero Lankao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and David Simon of Royal Holloway University of London.

The team will work cooperatively with Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre on a comprehensive workshop series. By convening practitioners from an array of disciplines, the series will articulate best practices for fostering inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations. This will enhance the effectiveness of the new project, which will be built within the Future Earth framework.

“We’re excited to broaden the initiative by incorporating more of the natural sciences – areas like ecology, climatology and urban health management – into our knowledge base on urbanization and global environmental change,” says UGEC’s Executive Officer Corrie Griffith. “Adequately addressing these complex urban sustainability challenges really demands this integrative approach.”

A comprehensive, edited publication is another intended outcome of the visioning process. The publication will detail the many conceptions of the term “urban,” aggregate existing knowledge on the relationship between cities and environmental change, and explore relevant developments in the scientific community.

“Understanding cities is vitally important because we now live on an urban planet,” says School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone, who sits on UGEC’s steering committee. “We need to figure out how to make things work in cities because if we don’t, we can’t make things work on a planetary scale.”

The visioning process will begin as Future Earth adopts all projects formerly administered by the International Human Dimensions Programme, UGEC’s parent organization.

UGEC’s second international conference, “Urban Transitions and Transformations: Science, Synthesis and Policy,” will be held in November of this year. It will take place Taipei, Taiwan, an appropriate location as Asia contains some of the most rapidly urbanizing regions in the world.

The conference, attended by practitioners from across both the sciences and world, serves as an ideal opportunity to introduce and initiate this exciting move into the next phase of urban research.