Mega-Challenges Confronting Sustainable Urban Modernity

Professor Tom Gladwin

Professor Tom Gladwin

By Thomas N. Gladwin

This commentary originally appeared in The Journal of the International Institute in fall 2008 and is based on an article adapted from an academic address at the June 2008 “New Mobility” Conference organized by the University of Michigan’s “Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research and Transformation”

With this year marking the epochal transition of humanity from a rural to a majority urban species, it is a propitious moment to ponder how the future of global urbanization, to occur predominately in the low and middle income countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, may evolve over the next few decades in regard to size, velocity, shape and functioning.

The big question is whether the urbanization of today and that to come will lead the world toward or away from sustainability. Sustainability achieves an optimal scale of resource throughputs within the regenerative and absorptive capacities of life-supporting ecosystems and optimal distribution of resources both within and across generations based on ethical criteria of equity and sufficiency. With scale and distribution established, optimal allocation or division of resources can then be shaped by the logic of market efficiency.

Read the full article (pdf)


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