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Sustainability in the Global City


  • 34 b/w illus. 8 maps
  • Page extent: 426 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.73 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 307.76
  • Dewey version: 23
  • LC Classification: HT241 .S86 2015
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Sustainable urban development
    • Urban anthropology
    • Urban ecology (Sociology)
    • Urbanization--Social aspects
    • LAW / Environmental.--bisacsh

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9781107076280)

Cities play a pivotal but paradoxical role in the future of our planet. As world leaders and citizens grapple with the consequences of growth, pollution, climate change, and waste, urban sustainability has become a ubiquitous catchphrase and a beacon of hope. Yet we know little about how the concept is implemented in daily life, particularly with regard to questions of social justice and equity. This volume provides a unique and vital contribution to ongoing conversations about urban sustainability by looking beyond the promises, propaganda, and policies associated with the concept in order to explore both its mythic meanings and the practical implications in a variety of everyday contexts. The authors present ethnographic studies from cities in eleven countries and six continents. Each chapter highlights the universalized assumptions underlying interpretations of sustainability while elucidating the diverse and contradictory ways in which people understand, incorporate, advocate for, and reject sustainability in the course of their daily lives.

• Takes an 'on the ground' ethnographic approach to a very important issue (urban sustainability) with case studies from all over the world • Offers a critical, comparative, and balanced perspective • Is geared for course use: chapters are supplemented by 'snapshots' - short and timely, non-theoretical case studies


Introduction Melissa Checker, Gary McDonogh and Cindy Isenhour; Part I. Building the Myth: Branding the Green Global City: 1. 'We're not that kind of developing country': environmental awareness in contemporary China Jennifer Hubbert; 2. Green capitals reconsidered Cindy Isenhour; Snapshot 1. Transparency, consumerism, and governmentality: lessons from a very small place Gary McDonogh; 3. Going green?: washing stones in world-class Delhi Varsha Patel; Part II. Planning, Design, and Sustainability in the Wake of Crisis: 4. 'The sustainability edge': the postcrisis promise of eco-city branding Miriam Greenberg; Snapshot 2. Developing sustainable visions for post-catastrophe communities Daniel Slone; 5. 'I've got a house but no room for my hammock': the tragedy of the commons; or, another common tragedy among the Añu of Sinamaica, Venezuela Ana Servigna and Alí Fernandez; 6. Green is the new brown: 'old school toxics' and environmental gentrification on a New York City waterfront Melissa Checker; Snapshot 3. Producing sustainable futures in post-genocide Kigali, Rwanda Samuel Shearer; Part III. Everyday Engagements with Urbanity and 'Nature': 7. Whose urban forest?: the political ecology of gathering urban nontimber forest products Patrick Hurley, Marla R. Emery, Rebecca McLain, Melissa Poe, Brian Grabbatin and Cari Goetcheus; Snapshot 4. One man's trash Brad Rogers; 8. Shopping on Main Street: a model of a community-based food economy Kathleen Bubinas; 9. Spokespeople for a mute nature: the case of the Villa Rodrigo Bueno in Buenos Aires María Carman; Part IV. Cities Divided: Urban Intensification, Neoliberalism, and Urban Activism: 10. Combining sustainability and social justice in the Paris metropolitan region François Mancebo; 11. Shifting gears: the intersections of race and sustainability in Memphis Matthew Farr, Keri Brondo and Scout Anglin; 12. Can human infrastructure combat green gentrification?: ethnographic research on bicycling in Los Angeles and Seattle Adonia Lugo; 13. Urban sustainability as a 'boundary object': interrogating discourses of urban intensification in Ottawa Donald Leffers; 14. Learning 'just' sustainability: a collaboration between the Preserve East Austin Affordability Campaign and the frontiers of geography class Eliot Tretter; Snapshot 5. After sustainability: Barcelona in a time of crisis Gary McDonogh; Afterword Alf Hornborg.


'Urban policy makers focused on sustainability often ignore the growth of eco-apartheid in their own cities. The contributors to this invaluable book confront the issue head-on, through exhaustive ethnographic research, and show us how and why environmental justice is the key to a green urban future.' Andrew Ross, author of Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City

'In this groundbreaking work, the centrality of sustainability to the contemporary city and its interlocking systems of urban policy, politics, and planning is revealed through ethnographic case studies and vivid snapshots of real-world places. This is a collective achievement of anthropologists working together to reframe a field that is at the forefront of the discipline.' Setha Low, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

'This volume confronts the uncomfortable question of whether cities can ever be sustainable. Why do the lofty goals blind cities to environmental and social realities on the ground? Interrogating sustainability schemes such as branding, post-disaster rebuilding, and planning policies, the authors reveal environmental inconsistencies and exclusionary conditions produced when neoliberal interests are privileged.' Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

'I highly recommend this collection of essays, and hope to have a chance to use it in teaching. It provides insightful and nuanced perspectives on how the language of sustainability is used, how programs get deployed, and their differential impacts on communities.' Stephanie Pincetl, The Nature of Cities (


Melissa Checker, Gary McDonogh, Cindy Isenhour, Jennifer Hubbert, Varsha Patel, Miriam Greenberg, Daniel Slone, Ana Servigna, Alí Fernandez, Samuel Shearer, Patrick Hurley, Marla R. Emery, Rebecca McLain, Melissa Poe, Brian Grabbatin, Cari Goetcheus, Brad Rogers, Kathleen Bubinas, María Carman, François Mancebo, Matthew Farr, Keri Brondo, Scout Anglin, Adonia Lugo, Donald Leffers, Eliot Tretter, Alf Hornborg

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