Survival of Sustainability

Urbanization is one of the key factors that defines growth and modernization of the civilization as a whole. The development and growth of cities provides a progressive shift of people towards technology, security and creativity and has brought tremendous positive changes to most of the countries.

The root causes of social vulnerability to climate-induced changes and insufficiency of adaptive capacity of the state to provide public goods have diminished the success of climate adaptation in urban cities – Glenn Fieldman

However, this urban growth also has negatively affected social and environmental changes with the growth of urban poverty, wider inequality gap, pollution, increased natural disasters, global warming and climate change. The increase resource consumption of water, energy, land, transport has increased the environmental problems and degraded the ecosystems. Even though we believe that it is the responsibility of the state to provide universal public goods such as urban housing, adequate clean water and sanitation, policy planning and social welfare, many of the developing states has been failing to provide these necessities to the society. Social inequality has been rising because of the lack of efficient resources and facilities where people are suffering from environmental disasters and unhealthy living conditions.

“Resilience in the context of climate change and cities is usually taken to mean the capacity of a city to absorb climate change-related disturbances/shocks while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning. So it includes a capacity to resist these shocks and to recover. It may also include the capacity to recover in ways that reduce risks from future shocks.” – David Satterthwaite

It is important to understand the capacity a city can mitigate and adapt to environmental changes, as disasters and climate change affect wealthy and poor alike. Even though urbanization’s core values; ACCESSIBILITY, AFFORDABILITY and ACCEPTABILITY has been to build a sustainable framework to measure urban development, it has addressed solutions to address climate adaptation through resilience and mitigation measures.  The progress towards safe and sustainable urban housing, dams to reduce flooding and solve drainage issues with production of clean water and sanitation, improve health and education, inclusion of public spaces and social welfare has prepared cities to become more resilient to the future risks of climate change. However, urbanization has also contributed to the growth of urban poverty, inequality and vulnerability as people living in disaster prone areas are driven to poverty and slum settlements, decreasing the social welfare, increasing social vulnerability and creating more poor societies. As resilience and vulnerability both explain’s the capacity of people and cities to bounce back and adapt to environmental changes and reduce future risks, maybe institutions need to engage the civil society to create mechanisms to bounce forward and address the problem.

It is evident that cities need efficient roles in governance to create a healthy economy and institutional framework to address sustainable development, as developing cities are dependent on financial capacity and support of the international community. Over the years, this has been addressed through the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from wealthy countries to developing countries, helping each other tackle environmental problems together. The neoliberalists view of Adam Smith’s invisible hand; that will resolve the problems of poverty, global warming, inequality and social welfare through free market competition, laissez-faire economics, property rights, capitalism and FDI; has eventually become an inefficient method of assistance, as developing and poor vulnerable countries are drowning in pool-debts which leads to failed governance in poor states and increasing incapacity and inability to address global problems, like climate change. The influential role of international organizations such as World Bank (WB), United Nations (UN) and Institution of Monetary Fund (IMF) in providing financial assistance has helped developing cities to create frameworks to adapt and mitigate climate change and environmental disasters without obscuring in debt-pools. This has reduced national government spending and positively affected cities to build stronger intuitions, economies and engage civil society in the decision-making, participation in mitigating natural disasters and increased the role of governance to be more accountable in tackling the social vulnerability causes. However, this has also challenged financial investments for rural developments, health and education expenditures and global climate change pledges that have minimized the growth of FDI’s from the wealthy states to the developing states.

“The extent to which resilience can be effective, also depends on global agreements reached on climate change mitigation that slow and stop global warming.” – David Satterthwaite

Even though this is an ideal scenario, it is important for the international institutions to “bounce forward” to sustain future risks and address climate change. Without survival measures today we will not be able to build a sustainable and resilient future for tomorrow.

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