Urban Livability and Integrated Challenges

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In this blog, Dr. Vida Vanchan, Associate Professor – Geography and Planning, State University of New York, talks about some of the questions raised at a co-organised session with Prof. John Bryson at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers.

On 8 April 2017, I co-organised two sessions with Prof. John Bryson, City-REDI, University of Birmingham, at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers. These sessions were entitled: Interdependent Challenges and Urban Living: Managing Complex Cities. The papers presented included studies of Birmingham and Newcastle (UK), but also New York and New Jersey (US) and Christchurch (New Zealand). The sessions raised some interesting questions.

What do we think of cities? Are we proud or feeling despair of city living? Does the city hierarchy, i.e. global versus non-global cities or size – mega versus non-mega cities status matter? What are the factors that may lead to the demise of cities? Are governments prepared for failing cities due to their vulnerabilities to external and sometime unpredictable agents such as natural disasters, pandemics, epidemics, and terrorism? Throughout history, cities have proven to be the cradle of human civilization and economic growth. They have attracted population, talents, investments as well as unwanted things such as diseases and crimes. Cities are thus connected and vulnerable to change. Managing a city requires good governance and environmental sensitivity. Good governance thus involves having both a vision for future with clear plans as well as an ability to work across sectors within and outside of the government to achieve this vision while addressing the present demands of urban dwellers and visitors. It also requires acknowledgement of the history, past and present mistakes of failed development policies and efforts. It further requires flexibility to cope with unforeseen situations. Every development plan needs to take into account its environmental impact. Though balancing economic growth and environmental conservation has been challenging especially for developing economies, minimizing the environment impact should be a goal for every sound development plan.


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