A defining feature of the 21st century is the mass rural to urban migration movements that have taken place first in the Global North during the industrial revolution of the late 1700’s and more recently in the Global South as those countries industrialise at a rapid pace (Seto, Fragkias & Gu, 2011). Such migration mostly takes place in-country (Haug, 2008) and is primarily motivated through climate or economic incentives (Barrios et al.. 2006) but often incorporates a desire to access public services upgrade lifestyles or access education. By the middle of this century we will be a predominantly urban civilisation (UN, 2015). Up to a third of the world’s population is involved in this vast human migration (Saunders, 2010) which impacts nearly everyone in some tangible way. There are approximately 498 cities globally that have over a million inhabitant, over 70% of which are located within the Global South (UN, 2016; 4). Approximately half of all urban growth in the Global South is a direct result of rural to urban migration (Smart & Smart, 2003) leading to fears that the pace of population growth outpaces the capacity of the city to sustainably absorb those migrants into the urban economy (UN, 2015; Røpke, 2006). Such a shock to the city will inveitably lead to considerable transformation of the urban space (Smart & Smart, 2003).
While there is little agreement as to the particular benchmarks and standards that make up urban sustainability (Khan, 2006), the traditional pillars of sustainability are considered to be “Social Development”, “Economic Growth” and “Environmental Protection” as initially set out by the Brundtland Commission (WCED, 1987) and later defined by the 2005 World Summit on Social Development (Kates et al. 2005). Those pillars are often supplemented by a fourth, considered to be “Cultural Vitality” (Hawkes 2001), a part of the “circles of sustainability” of UN Agenda 21 (Spangenberg, 2002). Cultural Vitality is a focus away from the social elements of sustainability and towards the intangible human and cultural dimension, their heritage and the differences that exist between various urban areas to be preserved and enhanced (Duxbury and Jeannotte 2012). This involves an adaptation of sustainability according to cultural norms and strategies employed (Nadarajah and Yamamoto 2007). Academics (Banister, 2008; Maoh and Kanaroglou, 2009; Geels, 2012; Tran et al., 2014) argue to the undervalued importance of technology in sustainability and its impact in improving social equity, economic efficiencies, transparency and governance within urban systems.
This essay explores the relationship between the needs for improved social inclusiveness within our urban environment and the impact that this may have on current place-making efforts. The ‘Right to the City’ movement, initially launched by Henry Lefebvre in 1967 and taken up by Harvey in 2003, demanded greater distribution and access to urban resources through revolutionary means. This has mutated into a greater discourse about growing inequalities in cities, the privatisation of common space and access to public spaces. Place-Making, despite its efforts in promoting inclusiveness and improved connectivity to public space can also have detrimental effects by furthering exclusion of certain disenfranchised populations.
In this essay, I will endeavour to examine the role that resilience plays within the sustainability agenda. Are the two mutually exclusive or are both needed to achieve a sustainable equilibrium in our cities?
The essay will first define sustainability and resilience in their various dimensions as well as look at the impact that natural hazards have on our world. I will use the case study of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to highlight the case of a city that has turned its back on resilience to embrace sustainability and how this may impact its population. I will explore some solutions that Ulaanbaatar may adopt to improve its own resilience. Finally I will reflect on the changing needs of our urban environment and the role that resilience should take within its future development.