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close this bookCities and the Environment (UNU, 1999, 343 p.)
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Open this folder and view contents1. Introduction: Cities and the environment – towards eco-partnerships


Yukio Aoshima

Japan’s relationship with nature

The late nineteenth-century writer Katai Tayama talked extensively about the relationship between the Japanese and nature. He stated: “There is probably not a people anywhere that lives in as close contact with nature as we Japanese. You can see it from our poems. You can see it from our literature. You can see it from our houses.” As Tayama observed, Japan was once a place where food, clothing, and shelter all came directly from the bounties of nature, where children’s playgrounds were brooks and fields, where nature, untouched and untainted by human hands, played a deep and integral part in our lives. Obviously, the lives of the common people then were nowhere near as materially rich as our lives are today. Indeed, from the physical perspective it was a hard life. But spiritually they were much richer than we are today, because of the bounties brought to the heart by close contact with nature.

Post-war Tokyo: The distortions of urbanization

After the Second World War, there was an influx of people into Tokyo from all over Japan, coming in search of jobs and new opportunities. In the two decades following the end of the war—the years from reconstruction to the peak of post-war growth—Tokyo’s population more than tripled. In this process, we somehow found ourselves living in a forest of high-rise buildings, streets continually congested with cars, and many other blights of urban excess. To put food on the table and achieve remarkable national economic growth, the Japanese sacrificed their home lives to their work, and consciously or unconsciously created, and tolerated, a host of problems that have continued to plague us: garbage, air pollution, water shortages, cramped living conditions, uncomfortable commuting conditions, and a shortage of natural spaces. New problems have continued to sustain the list of concerns. Indeed, more recently, we have been faced with toxic pollutants like dioxin, and endocrine disruptors—“environmental hormones”—that threaten the future of humanity.

Today, the population of Tokyo is nearly 12 million. During the daytime hours, about 3 million people pour in from neighbouring communities to work and study, giving us a daytime population of about 15 million. This huge figure has ecological repercussions. The activities of these people result, for example, in about 5.43 million tons of garbage - ordinary, not industrial, waste - thrown away in the city over the course of a year. That is enough to fill the Tokyo Dome sixteen times over. The average speed of cars on Tokyo roads is 18.6 kilometres an hour, about half the national average. This results in the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides into our air, which both contributes to global warming and damages our health. For the past thirty years, pollution and environment have been the top policy priorities of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. These are areas in which we have been active and assiduous in searching for solutions. Those efforts have paid off. We have substantially overcome industrial pollution, for example. But the solution to urban pollution - household waste and pollution from daily living - is not so easily found, because both the perpetrators and the victims are residents of the same city. We have not even made it halfway to a satisfactory solution. However, Tokyo society is entering a maturation phase, and this presents us with a marvellous opportunity to change radically the directions in which the city has been going, in an effort to address urban environmental problems.

The urban roots of global environmental problems

As we look around the world we can see that all cities, no matter what path they took to development, share many of the same urban environmental problems, such as garbage, toxic waste, and air and water pollution. These are issues of great concern to all involved in urban administration.

In recent years, global environmental problems have become so serious that they have sparked worldwide collaborative efforts to find solutions. The sources of these problems are roughly the same throughout the world: urban development, urban transportation, and lifestyles and production structures that emphasize, and rely upon, the mass consumption of resources and energy.

When dealing with global environmental problems, it is necessary for us to “think globally and act locally.” This holds true for urban environmental problems as well. Urban environmental problems have a significant impact upon global peace and prosperity. Global environmental problems have already become major international political and economic issues that impinge on the peace and prosperity of all humanity, and it is the production and consumption activities that take place in cities that have the largest impact on the global environment.

It is projected that the majority of the world’s population will reside in cities in the twenty-first century. Therefore, how cities deal with environmental problems will, through the impact on the global environment, be one of the largest factors in the future peace and prosperity of our nations and communities. Moreover, these are issues on which the cities of the world must join together in collaborative, sharing initiatives.

Urban environmental problems, and by extension global environmental problems, are a dimension of what is internationally referred to as the “North-South problem” - the gap in wealth and power between the rich industrialized countries and the poor countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific. Likewise, within the “North” and the “South,” economic gaps between cities and rural areas and poverty issues are partly behind environmental problems. From this perspective, therefore, urban environmental problems are a reflection of the domestic and international socio-economic issues that countries face.

Tokyo’s extensive experience in dealing with the “brown agenda”

For the past two decades, the focus of the world debate on the environment has been on ozone destruction, global warming, and acid rain - the so-called “green agenda.” In recent years, however, the growing seriousness of urban environmental problems has brought new attention to local problems of garbage, air pollution, and water quality, issues that form the so-called “brown agenda.” Japan, and especially Tokyo, have long been beset with pollution problems which have afforded them a wealth of experience and achievements. The ethos of “thinking globally and acting locally” sounds attractive, but what does it mean in practice? It means that urban environmental problems are not just something to think about. Cities must take the initiative, they must take concrete steps to solve these problems locally. These issues reflect uncertainty and extreme gravity, and require a shift in attitudes regarding three principles:

The principle of action

Clearly, international networks of cooperation are important in any effort to deal with environmental problems. But our actions as cities are more directly responsible for protecting our own environments and also, in turn, play an extremely important role in the solution of global problems. When we consider the extensive decay that has already occurred in our environment and the enormous amounts of time and effort that will be required to restore it to its original state or at least to some form of balance, the urgency of the situation becomes clear. Discussion is important, but discussion must lead to practical, results-oriented projects. And we must ensure that action is ongoing.

The principle of comprehensive response

It is essential to study problems scientifically and create a policy agenda as comprehensive as possible. This agenda should also be made available to the world at large. Accomplishing this will require stronger “civic governance” - governance which embraces citizens’ participation, so that citizens take an active part in the expansion in our cities’ ability to govern themselves. We must improve the level of our research into environmental technology and make better use of the technology we have. And we must apply the so-called “principle of prevention” by taking preventive measures. A comprehensive approach thus embraces prevention, management, and remedy, with the input of all actors and agencies involved in the urban space.

The principle of partnership

The third principle is partnership. We must be aware that urban environmental problems are extremely difficult, global-scale problems, and based on this awareness we must forge partnerships, networks of cooperation, and alliances among the world’s cities and the United Nations, NGOs, and civic groups. Though Tokyo still needs to address the “brown agenda,” we have much knowledge and experience in dealing with these issues, which we have a duty and responsibility to share with other cities around the world.

Creating an “eco-society”

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has tried to embody these attitudes and principles in a basic policy goal that we call “creating an eco-society.” We are currently directing all our efforts towards the achievement of this goal. Let me outline for you what it entails. What is an “eco-society”? There is no clear, accepted definition of the term. Yet we in Tokyo consider an “eco-society” to be a society that cares for sunlight, air, water, land, greenery, and other natural blessings; a society that restrains the mass consumption of resources and energy and the generation of waste, that endeavours to recycle and use resources effectively; a society that endeavours to return to a natural cycle the waste that is ultimately discarded after treatment to minimize the burden on the environment.

Tokyo has become more convenient and easier to live in - after years of hard work - but the flip side is the environmental burden. Development, transportation, and amenities are available to most inhabitants. Our rail lines are increasing, with more train carriages and stations air-conditioned and given escalators for further comfort. In terms of our personal lives, the size of our homes may still be a problem, but there are more homes available, most of our households have their own cars, and there are televisions and air-conditioners in every room. In the immediate neighbourhood you will find vending machines and 24-hour convenience stores, where you can easily buy food and necessities whenever you wish. Our city has indeed become a more pleasant and convenient place to live. But all this comes at a price: economic and social structures that lead to the wasteful consumption of resources and energy.

It behoves us to consider what is behind our comfortable, convenient urban lives, and whether our valuable resources and energy are being consumed efficiently. Take, for example, the estimated 5.44 million vending machines in Japan. Every day they consume as much energy as 2.6 million households. Then there is our diet. As our incomes have grown, so have our waistlines. But even so, we still put more food than necessary on our tables, and what is left over we find very easy to throw away. When we throw away just one bowlful of miso soup down the drain, it takes about four bathtubs full of water to return the water quality in our rivers to the point where fish are able to live there. When we go shopping, our purchases are wrapped, packaged, and bagged for us, but we bring the packaging home and it immediately goes into the garbage. This is the sort of garbage that clogs our landfills, and when it is burned it gives off dioxin, raising a host of other problems.

These are just a few examples of how, while squandering our resources and energy, we place loads on the environment that exceed its ability to clean and restore itself.

Changing lifestyles is not easy

Having grown used to comfort and convenience, it will not be easy for us to give up these lifestyles. Let me digress for a moment. About thirty years ago I wrote the lyrics to a hit song called Sudara-bushi, which was sung by Hitoshi Ueki. It was heavily promoted, and the saying used to be that you might go a day without hearing the crows caw, but nowhere in Japan could you go a day without hearing Sudara-bushi. At the time, we were in the midst of our growth spurt, and people were much more cheery and open than they are today. The song described, with a slightly comical touch, the saga of a happy-go-lucky salaryman who is unable to avoid the temptations of drink and gambling. One line in the song really rang true with the people of the time: “I know it’s wrong, but I can’t give it up.”

I think that describes us quite well. We know it is wrong, but we cannot give up our convenient, comfortable lives so easily. We have spent several decades creating a society and economy oriented towards mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, and mass waste. We know something is amiss, but we are so caught up in it that we cannot give it up.

The eco-society seeks to rethink from the bottom up how we live our lives, promoting the reuse and recycling of our valuable resources and handing down the bounties of nature to future generations. The goal is to become so proficient at recycling that we ultimately achieve a “zero-emission” society, a society in which all resources are completely reused and no waste generated. I believe that the twenty-first century will be the time when the world comes together to create an eco-society, a society that is truly able to achieve sustainable development. The twenty-first century will be the age of the people, of those who live in, work in, and support this society.

The Action Plan for an Eco-society

Let me briefly outline for you some of the efforts that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has made so far. The Metropolitan Government has been active in dealing with environmental problems, and particularly pollution, ever since 1969, when it issued the Tokyo Metropolitan Anti-pollution Ordinance. In more recent years, we have witnessed the growing recognition around the world of the gravity of global environmental problems, and, in light of this, we enacted a new Tokyo Metropolitan Basic Environmental Ordinance in 1994, reinforcing and expanding the efforts previously made. In February 1997, the Metropolitan Government formulated a “Priority Plan for a Resident-Friendly Tokyo” in which we list the “creation of an eco-society” as one of our highest priority goals. In February 1998, we formulated an “Action Plan for the Creation of an Eco-society” to serve as the general plan for the achievement of an eco-society.

The draft plan is made up of five sections: (1) resources and recycling, (2) water recycling, (3) energy, (4) transportation demand management, and (5) promotion of environment education. It contains actions for each area that it is possible to take right now. For example, in the field of resources and recycling, the Metropolitan Government has announced its intention in principle not to use anything but recycled products. We will also be taking steps to recycle any waste generated by construction projects ordered by the Metropolitan Government, to reuse any construction-related soil, and to compost the food waste from cafeterias run by the government. We have also asked residents and businesses to cooperate with garbage sorting, resource recovery, active use of recycled products, and selection of goods that will not soon turn into garbage.

In the area of energy, we have long promoted energy conservation, and we are also actively installing and using new alternative energy sources, such as “garbage power,” solar power, and “co-generation.” In the transportation area, we are actively installing transportation demand management systems and building more effective road networks.

The Action Plan for residents

We see these efforts not just as something for the Metropolitan Government. It is extremely important that residents and businesses become involved too. We are seeking opinions and proposals concerning the plan from residents and businesses, and we hope to finalize an action plan that will cover the entire city. The Action Plan may not be decisive in remedying urban environmental problems or solving global environmental problems, but I am confident that it represents an important and certain first step.

As part of this process, certain issues must be addressed:

Market failures

It has been popular lately to talk about “using market principles” or “respecting market mechanisms.” Deregulation and administrative reform are being pursued largely within this context, and that in and of itself is fine. But we must also remember that environmental problems are the result of “market failures” and their solution will require that central and local governments intervene in the markets with regulation and incentives, that they influence the economy of the private sector. Indeed, it was just such interference that enabled Japan to achieve its considerable results in conquering pollution.

Government failures

On the other hand, the collapse of the bubble economy has reduced people’s confidence in the government sector in general. The public has taken an unforgiving view of “government failures.” “Markets may fail, but governments fail too,” is a common sentiment. The environmental policies of both central and local government will thus be held up to close and sceptical scrutiny.

Administrative reform

It is therefore important for us to create mechanisms that minimize and overcome both types of failure. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is currently moving forward with an overhaul of city government. This reform reaches right down to the basic concepts and organizations of administration, and I will be providing our residents with specific, concrete proposals for reform that will reorient government processes towards the environment and enable us to give a strong and efficient push to the creation of an eco-society.

Culture and eco-societies

The Japanese have always loved nature and lived in harmony with it. We consider mountains, rivers, trees, and plants all to have life and to be worthy of respect. At the same time, nature has also been an object of fear for us. Nature is mighty. It has the power to uproot and erase our lives in an instant. At the heart of our view of nature we have always held to the idea that nature is not something that humanity can dominate. Rather, humanity is itself a part of nature. But we have for a very long time ignored this relationship with nature, and in our lust for material wealth and convenience we have continued to act in ways that violate natural cycles. Indeed, that is what “modernization” is all about; it is the crystallization of “contemporary society.” This, of course, is in no way limited to Japan.

Faced with threats to the global environment, we have a duty and responsibility to adapt our ways of living and our industrial activities to natural cycles, to minimize the burden on the environment, and to strive towards “sustainable development.” We must seek to create a civilization that values nature and spiritual wealth above all else, and we must marshal all the wisdom and power at our disposal to commit ourselves to that goal and act towards its achievement.


Takashi Inoguchi, Edward Newman, and Glen Paoletto

Cities are a focus of human endeavour, culture, and creativity. They reflect the vitality and opportunities of human society, and epitomize social and economic progress. Public amenities, health and welfare services, recreation, employment, education, and democratic participation are enjoyed by millions, perhaps billions, in the urban setting. Cities are also concentrations or nodes of political and economic power and form the engine of development and economic growth. Evolving socio-economic patterns have resulted in a rural exodus of huge proportions, and population increases are likely to be focused in urban areas. According to estimates, more than half of humankind will live in urban areas by the end of the century, and 60 per cent by 2020.1 In absolute terms, projected increases for population in general and urban population in particular reflect an equally sharp trend. According to the Habitat Agenda, by the year 2000 three billion people will live in urban areas, the greatest increases being in cities. Moreover, the most pronounced increase is tending to be within the cities of developing countries. By the end of the century it is projected that 11 of the 15 most populous urban agglomerations will be in countries now considered to be developing; in 2010 the projected figure is 12, and by 2015 it is expected that 13 out of the 15 biggest cities will be in the developing world.2

Despite the economic and social opportunities of cities and the attractions that clearly underlie the demographic trends, the problems and challenges inherent in large urban communities are self-evident. The benefits come at a great cost, and they are not equitably enjoyed. Cities are indeed an enigma. They are a microcosm of the problems, in addition to the opportunities, of human society as urban communities grow inexorably larger and denser. Human interaction with the natural environment and the man-made environment lies at the heart of the quality of life for millions - perhaps billions - of people around the world, and experiences are mixed. The adverse environmental consequences inherent in large urban centres are well known and well documented. The problems represent huge challenges with direct and fundamental consequences for human existence. Cities are a burden upon natural resources and pollute the air and water, contributing to environmental pollution at the local, city, national, and global levels. Urban development clearly destroys the natural environment and areas surrounding cities. Urban populations present enormous demands - often unmet - for the provision of clean water, sewerage systems, waste management, housing, and safe, equitable transportation. Throughout the developing world, it has been estimated that at least 220 million urban dwellers lack access to clean drinking water; more than 420 million do not have access to the simplest latrines; between one and two thirds of the solid waste generated is not collected; and more than 1.1 billion people live in urban areas where air pollution exceeds safe levels.3 Cities are also a focus of poverty, social dislocation, homelessness, social inequality, and crime. Projected increases in urban populations point to an escalation of these problems and challenges.4

The fact is that the promise of cities is not being realized in many cases owing to poor environmental management, destructive and unregulated commercial and industrial practices, rampant production and disposal, inadequate public planning, and a failure of urban actors to work together to address problems in a spirit of community and unity of purpose. Solutions have often proven to be elusive because of conflicts of interest among disparate actors, market-oriented pressures upon production and consumption patterns, closed or corrupt local governance, public ignorance or the absence of public leverage in market trends and public policy, and priorities in local government which have privileged economic and development interests over the environment. Even as urban environmental problems have become explicit, these priorities have continued to prevail. The assumption is often that the urban environment is a zero-sum game; that the environmental agenda and other needs are incompatible. Individual and corporate freedom, and market-oriented production and consumption, have been considered sacrosanct. The end of the Cold War proved to strengthen this ethos.

The globalization of this thesis, with the commensurate pressure to deregulate, open national markets, and meet standards laid down by international financial institutions, has similarly not always been conducive to the environmental agenda. There is a dialectic that has not been fully resolved. Economic growth, production, consumption, and freedom are the underlying causes of many urban environmental problems, yet they are central to the pervading political ethos of the market and democracy. In developing countries the tension between the environment and other priorities is particularly pronounced. Significant sections of society are preoccupied with day-to-day survival, whilst public policy revolves around the precarious management of economic growth and meeting basic human needs. The urban environment has tended not to be prioritized.


There is a growing belief that this dialectic can be settled. Energy use, consumption, production, individual and corporate freedom in a free market can be reconciled with urban environmental respect. This rests upon the assumption that environmental concerns, in the context of all the other pressures of urban life, can be approached as a non-zero-sum equation - a win-win situation. This commitment embraces the goal of sustainable eco-societies: addressing the problems which clearly exist and threaten to worsen, and making cities safe and pleasant places in which to work, live, and raise children, without undermining the ability of future generations to do likewise. The goal of eco-societies rests upon the coexistence of humankind -and more specifically, certain human activities - with natural cycles as far as possible, and upon prioritizing environmental concerns in urban governance. The modalities of this are widely acknowledged: there is a pressing need to minimize the environmental burdens inherent in large conurbations, to reduce pollution to air and water, to minimize and manage household and industrial waste better, to manage water systems efficiently and fairly, to maintain pleasant natural areas of recreation, to develop transportation systems which are efficient and socially equitable, to minimize the vulnerability of all citizens to natural disaster, to plan housing around human needs, and generally to emphasize human welfare and ecological sustainability in urban governance.

Sustainable eco-societies: The challenges

The path to eco-societies requires a parallel two-track approach: firstly, addressing the pressing environmental problems that exist, and secondly, addressing the underlying social, economic, and political factors that form the root causes of urban environmental decay. Both tracks rest firmly within the framework of collaborative partnerships amongst a variety of actors and institutions.

Waste management

Waste now constitutes a large-scale urban problem for both developed and developing nations. Waste problems in cities include the increasing difficulty of acquiring new land areas for disposal, the generation of pollution from waste and from the processes of waste treatment and disposal, disposal-caused resources depletion, and the huge cost involved in waste processing. Urban waste problems are not confined just to cities themselves: they also greatly affect peripheral regions as the demand for disposal spills over into an ever wider area. The search for solutions sets the goal of a society oriented towards reuse and recycling, where all possible means of restricting the generation of wastes are pursued and innovative mechanisms provide viable solutions which embrace all actors. Technological and legislative approaches to recycling, a market system that supports a recycling-oriented society, the encouragement of community-based recycling initiatives, and a shift in public attitudes towards consumption and disposal through public information and education are some methodologies which combine “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches.


Closely related to waste, pollution takes a variety of forms at a number of levels. Of particular concern are the pollutants that cause harm to urban inhabitants and eco-cycles, generated through the incineration of garbage, industrial emissions, and automobile exhaust. As the health impact - especially from toxins such as dioxin and hormone disrupters - has become increasingly clear, there has been pressure from several directions. Enforceable legislative standards, non-governmental scientific watchdogs, and public pressure have played particularly important roles.


Automobile transportation has enhanced people’s mobility and contributed to economic progress. Yet there are obvious negative repercussions in the form of traffic accidents, social inequality, congestion, and air pollution. There is a growing movement in favour of reducing excessive dependence upon private automobiles, and especially those that use gasoline. This movement is reflected in the development of low-pollution cars, the encouragement of public attitudes that rely less on private transport, legislative efforts to minimize the environmental impact of traffic, and collaborative initiatives between government and industry towards making cars less destructive and more recyclable. There is greater political support for large-scale public transport and “car-free” zones, and urban planning similarly plays a central role in designing cities to shift transportation towards public, equitable service.

Water resources and the ecosystem

By the early twenty-first century both water shortages and damage by flooding will become serious problems in many cities of the developing world. It is often suggested that water will replace petroleum as a focus of political tension. Historically, the capacity of a city would be constrained by its available water resources. However, big cities located downstream from water resources have removed this restricting factor by constructing huge dams upstream, to the detriment of the upstream areas. Some cities which have ample rainwater construct dams upstream rather than formulate water sustainability. In the future, in order for upstream and downstream areas to coexist, cities may have to give more attention to sustainable water supply. A further concern, especially in developing countries, is the flooding which results as rainfall does not penetrate into the ground, owing to rapid urbanization, and excessive drawing off of underground water, ignoring the regional water circulation and causing ground subsidence. A number of issues make it clear that the huge demand for clean water posed by cities is not being met in many cases.

Resources and energy

Cities are key centres of economic activity and production, both in developed and developing countries. As cities pose a massive water demand, they also impose enormous energy demands that in turn contribute to local, national, and global environmental deterioration. The generation of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide are clear problems. The goal of eco-societies is to embrace the ethos of “energy-saving cities,” involving conservation and reuse at a number of levels. The modalities are similarly multifaceted: technological innovations have been at the forefront of developing sustainable energy generation and low-energy approaches to transportation, household needs, and industrial needs; international agreements on pollution emissions have imposed standards upon national energy policies which require a great many adjustments at a number of levels; and public attitudinal changes are increasingly seen to be central to shifting society to a more conserving basis. Yet the implications of reducing the society’s reliance upon energy and the concept of a “low-energy society” are politically sensitive and strongly contested.


This volume will demonstrate how such challenges are being addressed on the basis of partnerships and joint initiatives among urban actors, in particular local government, national government, NGOs and citizens’ groups, commercial and industrial interests, international actors, and academic and scientific agencies. It will illustrate how the evolving dynamics that underlie the interaction between these actors reflect innovative approaches to the urban environment. These dynamics indicate how issues are addressed, why certain issues reflect greater progress than others do, and how and why friction has accompanied urban management in some cases. Indeed, while a great deal of progress - albeit geographically and socially uneven - has been demonstrated in these matters across the world, vying agendas, competing interests, and political tensions are still reflected in environmental governance. These issues can be as politically sensitive as any other area of local, national, and perhaps international governance.

Urban environmental management has reflected certain patterns that appear - to a greater or lesser degree - to be common to cities around the world. These patterns indicate the extent to which urban environmental concerns have moved to the forefront of the political agenda as an issue area closely related to “good governance” and changing attitudes towards, and expectations of, leadership and authority. In this sense urban governance, including the environment, reflects the wider shift towards democratization, accountability, and transparency in governance at all levels. In addition, cities are increasingly receiving attention, locally and internationally, as the key centres of economic growth and decision-making. To a large degree, the future of economic development and human welfare will be within the urban context. Indeed, the World Bank has estimated that up to 80 per cent of future economic growth in developing countries will be in towns and cities.5 Moreover, as cities are a major factor in transnational and global environmental degradation, such as global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer, and as environmental issues have become prominent on the national and international agendas, cities have become a focus for remedial action.

Finally, a further source of changing patterns of urban environmental management relates to a shift in emphasis in economic and development policies and attitudes. There is a growing movement in favour of human-centred development, as a counterbalance to purely free-market principles. Thus, economic growth is increasingly seen in the context of human welfare rather than abstract economic indicators. This shift has undoubtedly been accompanied by a greater emphasis upon the environmental implications of economic growth and development, with the result that environmental sustainability is now a familiar - if still problematic - concept. Momentum and motivation for initiative are therefore strong at a number of levels: at that of the neighbourhood, with a community interest in dealing with local problems and having a more pleasant environment; at the city level, with a host of challenges; through to the global level, which presents much wider problems exacerbated by cities. Clearly, tensions still exist between the environmental agenda and economic priorities, particularly in developing countries. Nevertheless, the debate is wider, there is greater public input into policy formulation, and all actors - although for differing motives - are embracing environmental issues.

These developments are reflected in the emergence of certain trends in the manner in which urban environmental issues are addressed around the world. These trends are examined in many of the chapters of this book. Firstly, partnerships among various actors or groups characterize urban environmental management across the world. Most problems require a broad-based approach, balancing “top-down” legislation and ordinances with “bottom-up” community and private initiatives. Some environmental issues can be addressed by single groups, but most require collaborative initiatives involving a fair distribution of burdens and rewards amongst various actors. Secondly, this implies an increasing prominence for civil society in urban environmental management, in developed and developing societies alike. NGOs and citizens are becoming involved in policy formulation and are crucial actors in rectifying environmental problems and in making initiatives workable. Partnerships among actors, and the growth of civil society groups, have also highlighted a process of decentralization, and thus the increased relevance of local, community-based solutions. Whilst these have been described as “alternative approaches,”6 they are becoming increasingly more mainstream.

Simultaneously, however, and thirdly, urban environmental issues are increasingly the subject of transnational networks and collaboration, giving meaning to the ethos of “think globally, act locally.” Many cities have been developing transnational ties for some time, and the environmental impact of cities is obviously transnational. Moreover, it is clear that cities around the world face common environmental challenges. These tendencies have given momentum to international interaction focused upon the urban dimensions of the environment. The United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul in 1996 (Habitat II) was a culmination of this, and was followed by a process of consultation and collaboration. The World Bank’s “Liveable Cities for the Twenty-first Century” project is an example. The “Eco-partnership Tokyo” conference in May 1998 was also a major forum based upon the concept of cities and citizens’ groups directly sharing experiences and policy options.7

Fourthly, the theme of “stakeholding” is strengthening in urban environmental governance, through broader participation in policy formulation and the implementation of initiatives. As a corollary of the partnership ethos, stakeholding implies a unity of purpose within communities and among citizens’ and other groups. Everyone has a stake in the quality of the environment and it is logical to work in cooperation, within a communitarian framework, in the interests of sustainability. Clearly this optimism has not been borne out in many cases, and friction continues to characterize urban environmental management in many cases. Nevertheless, the stakeholding ethos is increasingly underpinning broad-based collaborative initiatives.

Fifthly, innovative approaches to problem-solving have been at the heart of urban environmental progress in recent years. Such approaches will continue to be crucial to future endeavours. Making the market work in favour of the environment, encouraging changes in attitudes towards consumption, collaboration among disparate groups, and technological advances are some examples of such innovation.

Within this context progress is being made toward meeting the demands and challenges of the urban environment. Resource and energy conservation, recycling and reuse, limitations upon air and water pollution, gearing market actors towards ecological considerations, devising new ways to address environmental problems, raising public awareness, and generally shifting urban governance and culture towards environmental sustainability have been the result of fruitful eco-partnerships around the world. A partnership is a joint endeavour entered into voluntarily and on the basis of mutual benefit, and in the spirit of cooperation and reciprocity. An eco-partnership recognizes that environmental challenges are complex and require a multifaceted, concerted response on the part of numerous actors and agencies, based upon an equitable apportionment of burdens and rewards. Such activities vary widely according to the issue at hand: local arrangements between consumers and supermarkets to recycle packaging; wider recycling and waste systems initiated by local or national government and embracing manufacturers and retailers; collaboration between universities, public research institutions, and major commercial companies; the development of ecologically friendly technology on the basis of public and private funds, and a host of other initiatives. A balance - and often a combination - of “bottom-up” and “top-down” action is reflected in a matrix of cooperative networks and initiatives. This is the essence of partnership. However, we should not be too sanguine, for sensitive decisions have to be made, and not always to the liking of everyone. In local government positive and negative sanctions and incentives, in addition to enforceable ordinances, legislation, and planning laws, are also essential.

Levels and thrusts of eco-partnership

Challenges and problems of the urban environment can be seen within the framework of levels of eco-partnerships - such as neighbourhood, city, country, international - and thrusts of problem-solving. Different thrusts at different levels reflect the dynamics of particular issue areas and communities. For certain issues, such as industrial pollution and waste disposal, a strong “top-down” thrust is essential. For other issues more market-oriented solutions are better suited, and the market is shifting towards ecological practices in production, retail, and life-cycle patterns. A further thrust might be thought of as a “communitarian” approach to problems which are reflected at the local level, where citizens take it upon themselves to care for their own environment in a direct, community-based manner. In addition, a technological thrust is often emphasized, where progress is based upon new scientific approaches to problems, such as the introduction of CFC substitutes, lead-free petrol, and reuseable electrical components. In practice, the different levels, dimensions, and problem-solving thrusts tend to be interconnected and often mutually dependent: hence the partnership ethos underlying the whole movement.

Frameworks for eco-partnerships

The first part of this volume deals with frameworks for eco-partnerships. It analyses the dynamics, processes, and difficulties of urban eco-partnerships at a number of levels. The institutional, social, technological, and political contexts of urban environmental problems and solutions are examined, highlighting the bases for partnerships and the rising momentum behind the environmental agenda. Ernest Callenbach’s chapter on ecological rules argues that “social codes of conduct,” which embrace individuals and corporate actors, are fundamental to the creation of an eco-society. Social codes of conduct have become weakened in modern industrial countries and now reflect commercial interests and market forces. The social rules which are essential for an eco-society often conflict with these pervading norms, and the successful forging of new norms demands a concerted effort by educators, writers, the media, government, and NGOs. Callenbach clearly argues that an eco-society rests upon a fundamental shift in social tenets. Hari Srinivas puts urban environmental management into a “Partnership Continuum,” a framework which embraces a comprehensive range of actors and forces and identifies resources and linkages behind partnerships. This is useful for identifying the shortcomings, gaps, and mismatches in environmental management, and how partnerships can best be geared to overcome them. Again, his chapter points to a broadening and deepening range of activities behind these partnerships. Voula Mega’s chapter, “The Concept and Civilization of an Eco-society: Dilemmas, Innovations, and Urban Dramas,” illustrates the development of innovations for urban environmental governance in the European context and the foundations of social partnerships in the creation and coordination of eco-projects. Her chapter is supported by a great deal of empirical material which demonstrates the variety of collaboration efforts, including initiatives under the umbrella of the European Union, which are having a direct effect.

Edward Newman’s chapter, “Sustainable Urban Societies: A Technological or a Political Goal?,” identifies and explores the political dynamics which lie behind urban environmental issues, with an emphasis upon Japan. He identifies the various groups and vying agendas, priorities, and solutions. Whilst the processes which lie behind the governance of this issue are inevitably political, he argues that this process is moving towards a “legitimate-politics” rather than a “power-politics” process. The political framework is shifting in favour of the environment, and in favour of the groups most vulnerable to environmental conditions, the citizens. Various actors are pushing the urban environment onto the agenda and progress is being made in a number of areas as a result of bargaining between interest groups and the rising consciousness of the public.

Together, these chapters highlight the evolution of partnership upon the basis of increasingly solid foundations. These are conditioned and mediated by market pressures and political debates centred around issues such as state intervention, burden-sharing, and individual freedom.

Partnerships in action

Part II deals with partnerships in action, analysing a number of issues and specific examples of environmental action in a variety of contexts, within the evolving frameworks illustrated in part I. Ooi Giok Ling’s chapter, “Civil Society and the Urban Environment,” demonstrates how the global “associational revolution” of NGOs has been playing a role in urban growth and environmental management, particularly in Asia, where the role of the state has been dominant in development. The non-government and non-profit sector has contributed to the improvement of environmental management and the planning of cities. In the process, a number of issues and implications have arisen, indicating both the opportunities and constraints faced by the non-government sector. In a different context, but in a region which shares similar challenges, Daniela Simioni’s chapter examines the growing importance attached to social, environmental, and housing issues in urban planning in the context of development pressures and priorities. As city environmental problems have become critical, the effective management of urban environmental issues at a regional level is essential under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

James Nickum, in “After the Dam Age is Done: Social Capital and Eco-partnerships in Urban Watersheds,” examines the growing need for collaborative arrangements among citizens, NGOs, business, and local authorities to secure water supplies for urban areas, on the basis of local “self-organization” and “social capital.” The chapter by German T. Velasquez, Juha I. Uitto, Benjamin Wisner, and Shigeo Takahashi also identifies community-based action within the framework of neighbourhoods, NGOs, local government, and national government. Their “New Approach to Disaster Mitigation and Planning in Mega-cities” examines how natural disasters affect social groups differently and in complex ways: age, gender, class, ethnicity, and disability have a great influence on the chances of recovery after a disaster. This chapter describes new approaches to disaster mitigation and planning through the use of unconventional methods towards vulnerability reduction. These include new methods in the implementation of existing technology, effective awareness education and training, solving the root causes of social vulnerability, and networking. Monte Cassim’s chapter, “Life Cycle Assessment: Its Prospects as a Tool for Creating a Sustainable Economic System,” demonstrates genuine progress in “greening the market” through the use of ecological accreditation. Assessments of the environmental impact of all aspects of business practices are increasingly significant in the market. International standards, such as the ISO 14000, and national standards form an environmental accreditation system which is educating and motivating commercial actors to pay attention to environmental issues. This chapter demonstrates how local accreditation systems can also be fruitfully organized. Klaus W. Konig similarly presents a persuasive argument for a practical innovation. His chapter outlines the potential for the reuse of rainwater by households as a major recycling opportunity which offers a decentralized and efficient solution to some water management challenges. Lyuba Zarsky and Jason Hunter conclude part II with a “new model” of environmental management. Their chapter, “Communities, Markets, and City Government: Innovative Roles for Coastal Cities in Reducing Marine Pollution in the Asia-Pacific Region” argues that coastal cities could play a pivotal and creative role in financing water infrastructure and regulating water pollution by industry. Although coastal cities are part of the problem, they could be a large part of the solution, as they have advantages over national governments in taking action on coastal marine pollution: they tend to be more open to civic groups and other NGOs, and they show how action is most effective when based upon local approaches and solutions.

International and future dimensions

Part III embraces the international and civilizational dimensions of urban eco-societies, exploring the widening international networks, exchanges, and joint initiatives between cities, citizens, and other actors within and across national borders. It also examines the social patterns and trends which must be addressed if the world is to move effectively towards sustainable eco-societies. In this context Nitin Desai’s chapter, “Cultivating an Urban Eco-society: The United Nations Response,” explores the various levels of activity and collaboration relating to urban environmental management, focusing upon international efforts. Jusen Asuka-Zhang also points to innovative measures in “An Economic Assessment of China-Japan cooperation to Address Acid Rain.” Japan and China have mutual incentives to cooperate in identifying the extent of transborder pollution and formulating a joint initiative on cost-effective action. Toshihiro Menju illustrates how the framework of collaboration for urban environmental issues is becoming wider, in his chapter, “A New Paradigm of North-South Relations: Implications of International Cooperation by Local Authorities in Japan.” He observes that since the 1950s international contact in the form of sister-city affiliations has been a central part of local authority activity in Japan, pointing to a widening and deepening international network of cities, citizens, and NGOs, based upon sharing ideas and policy collaboration. This type of activity also highlights growing grassroots partnerships linking people beyond national borders. Glen Paoletto’s contribution, “Urban Governance in the New Economy,” argues that past development patterns cannot be repeated or sustained if we are to have economic growth and viable cities in the next century. Fundamentally new and innovative approaches are required to three issue areas: governance, education, and technology.

A central theme running through these contributions is the mobilization of resources through institutional coalition formation. The effective mobilization of the ideas and resources of government administration, business, and citizens - as an “ABC coalition” - is at the root of this. The success of these partnerships will determine lifestyle quality and choices for generations to come.


1. World Resources Institute, “World Resources 1996-97: A Guide to the Global Environment: The Urban Environment,” Internet site. See also Nancy Yu-ping Chen and Larry Heligan, “Growth of the World’s Megalopolises,” in Roland J. Fuchs, Ellen Brennan, Joseph Chamie, Fu-chen Lo, and Juha I. Uitto (eds), Mega-city Growth and the Future (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1994).

2. Population Division, United Nations, World Urbanization Prospects: The 1994 Revisions. Estimates and Projections of Urban and Rural Populations and of Urban Agglomeration (New York: United Nations, 1995), pp. 4-5. It is projected that the 15 most populous cities in 2015, in declining order, will be Tokyo (28.7 million), Bombay (27.4), Lagos (24.4), Shanghai (23.4), Jakarta (21.2), Sao Paulo (20.8), Karachi (20.6), Beijing (19.4), Dhaka (19), Mexico City (18.8), New York (17.6), Calcutta (17.6), Delhi (17.6), Tianjin (17), and Metro-Manila (14.7).

3. World Resources Institute, “A Guide to the Global Environment: The Urban Environment.”

4. Recent surveys of the broad issues and challenges presented by burgeoning urban communities, especially in the developing context, are: Carole Rakodi (ed.). The Urban Challenge in Africa: Growth and Management of Its Large Cities (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1997); Fuchs et al. Mega-city Growth and the Future, including G. Shabbir Cheema, “Priority Urban Management Issues in Developing Countries: The Research Agenda for the 1990s”; Fu-chen Lo and Yue-man Yeung (eds.). Emerging World Cities in Pacific Asia (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1996); Alan Gilbert (ed.). The Mega-city in Latin America (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1996).

5. Carl Bartone et al., Toward Environmental Strategies for Cities: Policy Considerations for Urban Environmental Management in Developing Countries, Urban Management Programme Policy Paper no. 18 (Washington DC: World Bank, 1994), pp. 9-10.

6. Yok-shiu F. Lee, “Myths of Environmental Management and the Urban Poor,” in Fuchs et al., Mega-city Growth and the Future, pp. 407-8.

7. See also Oran Young, Global Governance: Drawing Insights from the Environmental Experience (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998); Lynton Keith Caldwell, International Environmental Policy from the Twentieth to the Twenty-First Century, 3rd edition (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1996); World Bank, Mainstreaming the Environment: The World Bank Group and the Environment since the Rio Earth Summit (Washington DC: World Bank, 1995); Philip Shabecoff, A New Name for Peace. International Environmentalism, Sustainable Development, and Democracy (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1996); Daniel Sitarz, Agenda 21. The Earth Summit Strategy to Save Our Planet (Boulder: Earthpress, 1993); W.M. Adams, Green Development. Environment and Sustainability in the Third World (London: Routledge, 1990).