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James Mardall


Sustainable Cities 2004

Essay Topic 1:

“Going global”, has become an ambition for many cities around the world, city managers are
eager to attract Global Functions and Transnationals’ investment to their city. However over
emphasising these global functions can have negative consequences for poor people in
cities, and for the maintenance of the urban fabric and the environment” (Robinson 2002).

Critically discuss this statement.


Apart from:

• Legitimately referenced material.
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This Essay, is a product of my own thinking process, not a second rate knock off of someone


But as with most issues related to Human development. 1999. there are many sides to this Global story. This econocentric paradigm is akin to the analogy of the snake consuming its own tail. I will attempt to examine the Third world consequences of overemphasising the present ‘Global Functions’ of the city. pp 266). means that environmental problems become exacerbated by the increased consumption of resources to fuel market growth. 2 . is to facilitate a process of citywide development incorporating the entire weave of the fabric of the City. But also the future requirements of the city in these same areas. This. social and economic spheres of the city. with respect to the environmental. Of course the underlying circular logic of this fallacy of development. a malaise we have been led to believe Third world countries are particularly effected by.” (Pile S (et al). Cities can provide. The challenge therefore. which have a poor record of good governance. (et al) (1992). means for the weave of the Environmental. necessitates that the city manager must not only balance the present environmental. of too quickly adopting a purely World Bank approved ‘Neo-Liberal’ paradigm of development. “…each city and urban centre has its own unique range of environmental problems and effective action demands local capabilities to identify problems and their causes and decide the best use of limited resources. Social and Economic fabric of ‘The City’ – A Third World Perspective According to Hardoy.E. pp 1).E. (et al) (1992). social and economic needs of the city. pp 26). “ … a healthy and stimulating environment for their inhabitants without imposing unsustainable demands on natural resources and ecosystems. By highlighting some of the impacts. “The market will promote the economic growth that is seen as the precondition for providing the resources necessary to tackle environmental problems.What ‘Going Global’.” (Hardoy J. The global rise of cities as the economic loci of the global market.” (Hardoy J. in order to achieve the this goal. for any city manager. This is especially true in cities. by the definition of sustainability. However there seems to be an underlying fallacy in this process of economic development that proceeds as follows. has led to the belief that cities offer the potential to sustainably uplift humankind. For this reason. and if left unchecked will ultimately result in even greater environmental damage and unsustainability.

urban populations have expanded without an associated expansion in the services and facilities essential for an adequate and healthy urban environment.” (Hardoy J. (et al) (1992). Third world cities who are ‘Going Global’ in order to attract global functions and Transnational investment. 3 .E. encourage the relocation of those industries and economic functions which are not wanted in the First world. Therefore the natural and social capital of Third world cities is being steadily eroded in favour of the living conditions of those individuals who inhabit First world cities. “While (environmental) improvements may be secured in many northern cities. While it is true. the fundamental problems of resource depletion and pollution. to the Third world. praises First world countries achieving environmental goals (goals which are used to justify neo-liberal development paradigms) at the expense of Third world countries. “Stagnant economies and heavy debt burdens do not provide an appropriate economic base from which to develop good governance. This is particularly evident if one imagines the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) argument at a global scale. which have global impacts. pp 17). Many Third World economies have no alternative but to increase the exploitation of their natural resources to earn foreign exchange to meet debt repayments. pp 21).“In most Third World countries.” (Pile S (et al). are not seriously tackled. The global NIMBY phenomenon. and the externalities of the North. especially in the face of the protective barriers around the worlds largest consumer markets which limit their exports of industrial goods. It is also true that Third world countries face economic realities which force them to accept market solutions which are not conducive to good governance in the first place. (et al) (1992).” (Hardoy J. Thus improvements to northern cities may be at the expense of exporting problems of pollution elsewhere. that there exists the potential for inequality in social service delivery within Cities in which good governance is not a predominate feature of the city fabric. continue to be imposed on the South. pp 267).E. Governments from the North and international agencies may promote environmental policies but there is little progress in changing the international economic system which would permit more economic stability and prosperity among the poorer third world nations. In short the ecological footprint of these northern cities shows little sign of diminishing. 1999.

An actuality that is most keenly felt by the most disempowered sectors of City dwellers.E. The solution of course would be to institute an all-inclusive.And while ‘Going Global’ does inject investment into these Third world cities. then the potential exists to use the population densities which commonly occur in cities to increase service delivery at an economically reduced cost. pp 15-17). including the institutional means to ensure that infrastructure.” (Hardoy J. and not the economic desires of a few primarily economically motivated individuals. impacting on the hydrological cycle. it is often at the expense of their welfare. 1999. by for example. creating urban heat islands and thereby affecting the local climatology. has supplanted (or at least suppressed) the idea of the welfare state with its deeply embedded notion of contractual relationships between government and society. Without Good Governance however. “Good Governance is critical for successful cities. These greatly affect the ecology of the area in which it occurs. It provides the means through which citizens reach agreement on how to meet multiple goals… Only in the absence of effective governance.E. namely the poor. In terms of participation. the alternative urban fabric is one of rapid and unchecked development. empowered social forum in order to ensure that political and administrative agendas reflect the needs of the majority of the City dwellers. and thus experience both material and political deprivation. is one of increasing inequality amongst urban dwellers.” (Pile S (et al). (et al) (1992). 4 . pp 267). The social fabric of increased big business involvement in the cities ‘Global’ status. large sections of the population of cities remain excluded. and the new landforms created by it. socially. “The concentration of population and production in cities. If a vigorous and all-inclusive policy of Good Governance were to be pursued in Third World Cities. (et al) (1992). ” (Hardoy J. services and pollution controls are provided. “…an emphasis on partnership between government and the economy. pp 33). are environmental problems greatly exacerbated. environmentally and economically. Those individuals most reliant on the welfare of the city managers are often the ones who end up receiving the least. and most importantly. can bring greatly reduced unit costs for most forms of infrastructure and service.

(Hardoy J. unstable house sites. Asia and Latin America live in ‘life and health threatening’ conditions because of unsafe and insufficient water. and 5 . (et al) (1992). This means that a substantial portion of the Third worlds population are in a position where they are directly and negatively impacted upon by the results of their cities attempting to ‘Go Global’.E. inadequate or no sanitation. overcrowded and unsafe shelters. (et al) (1992). Many of the individuals living in this area.e.E. pp 28). According to United Nations statistics Tabled in ‘Environmental Problems in Third World Cities’ More than 45% of the Third World’s population currently live in urban centres.” (Hardoy J. pp 17). is in many cases exceeded. While I would like to agree with the following statement: “The extent to which good environmental quality is achieved in cities may be one of the most revealing indicators of the competence and capacity of city and municipal government. Durban South Basin). while large metropolitan centres and industrial centres have developed in areas where dispersal of air pollutants is difficult. risks of flooding and other environment related factors” (Hardoy J.E. has meant that development often occurs in areas environmentally unsound for such growth. Poor city management with respect to the unchecked growth of cities in an attempt to be a global player. “Urban expansion has often taken place over lands ill suited for this purpose.The results of such expansion mean that a large proportion of urban dwellers face the risk of being exposed to natural and man made environmental problems. (et al) (1992). pp 20). These risks are compounded in areas where poor service provision of water and waste removal occur. “Over 600 Million urban citizens in Africa. Some of these families are forced to spend up to a third of their monthly income on medication to combat these ailments. The carrying capacity of the local urban environment to absorb the waste produced by the city. pp 18). (et al) (1992). which are in close proximity to several large petrochemical refineries. no drains and garbage collection.E. The social and economic costs of the effects of these high levels of air pollutants are common knowledge to those low-income individuals who live in our own Durban South Basin. (Hardoy J. and the result is often high levels of localised pollution (i. suffer from respiratory ailments.

(et al) (1992). However these choices are often made at the expense of true and independent economic growth.of the extent to which their policies respond to their populations needs and priorities.E.” (Hardoy J. Often do not allow for them to pick and choose the types of industry they are often forced. the cities natural capital (and ultimately the world’s). It is evident that the factors which influence city managers to want to ‘Go Global’ in order to encourage Transnational investment. Especially in Third world countries where the costs of uplifting the population are often more than these countries are able to cope with without creating partnerships with business. to accept. pp 21). of economic necessity. 6 . This Third World development paradigm is ultimately unhealthy and unsustainable. the social well being of the cities population (especially the poor) and most importantly. it will be because it is more highly valued than the eagerness to attract global functions and transnational investment. and if the urban fabric and the environment are to remain intact.

oxford University Press. April 1998. (pp 76 – 87).E. 1999. Routledge & Open University Press. 251 – 273). London. Environmental Problems in Third World Cities. London. (et al). 2002. 1992. 7 . Pile S (et al). Routledge & Open University Press. (pp’s 22 – 52. Earthscan Publications Ltd. 1999. The South African Geographic Journal. Vol. (pp 265 – 275). London. London. Hardy J.References: Allen J (et al).1. 80 No. Development & Displacement. Satterthwaite D. Unsettling Cities: Movement / Settlement. (pp 1 – 35). Earthscan Publications Ltd. The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Cities. London. Robinson J. Unruly Cities: Order / Disorder. 1999. (pp 141 – 204).