Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sustainability Case Studies Chapter 12 - Urban Social Sustainability: The Case Study of Nottingham, UK

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This is the 12th post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the chapter review.

This chapter is titled, Urban Social Sustainability:  The Case Study of Nottingham, UK by Jenni Cauvain of the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham. The chapter provides a good summary of social sustainability and why it is important to address issues of social sustainability in cities.

As many of the readers of this blog know, environmental sustainability is often the easiest of the three E's of sustainability--the other, harder E's being equity (social sustainability) and economics (economic development and green economics). This is particularly true in cities where mayors and local governing boards have control over major infrastructure such as garbage management, mass transit, and energy.

As Cauvain notes in the article, the City of Nottingham has gained a very green reputation in the United Kingdom and across the European Union. However, this reputation was earned largely due to its strength in the urban management of the environmental aspects of sustainability as described in the previous paragraph.

After a very solid review of the literature social sustainability, Cuavain then focuses on social justice and the right to the city. Many stakeholders are not equal partners in creating environmental sustainability. Plus, inequalities inherent in many cities lead to distinct issues of unsustainability in the context of poverty, social mobility and other factors which lead to social justice.

Within the case study, several variables are examined such as housing, diversity, income child poverty, and educational attainment. Excellent maps are provided and clearly demonstrate that although there has been progress in a variety of initiatives in environmental sustainability, there is a long way to go to enhance social sustainability within Nottingham. It is clear that environmental sustainability is the low hanging fruit within the context of the three E's within an urban context and that social sustainability remains difficult to attain, partly due to the structures inherent in local and federal government priorities in funding.

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Overall the chapter provides an excellent summary of social sustainability and provides a great review of how to measure and assess social sustainability within an urban context.

Click here to for more information about the book.

Here are some discussion questions that can be used when using this chapter in a lesson on urban social sustainability.

1. Why do you think it is easier to "do" environmental sustainability in cities rather than social sustainability?

2. Why is it difficult to measure social sustainability in cities?

3. How do you think urban, rural, and suburban areas vary within the context of social and environmental sustainability?

4. Do you think cities truly have a sustainability agenda if they focus mainly on environmental aspects of sustainability?

5. What methods would you use to measure social and environmental sustainability in your community?

6. How do you think social sustainability differs from the UK to North America?

7. What are the four factors that impact segregation?

8. What is environmental sociology?


Previous posts in this series:

Chapter 5. Drinking Water Infrastructure Inequality and Environmental Injustice:  The Case of Flint Michigan
Chapter 6. Sustainable Renewable Energy:  The Case of Burlington, Vermont
Chapter 7. Greenhouse Gas Management: A Case Study of a Typical American City
Chapter 9. Waste Management Outlook for the Middle East

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