Search Swinburne Research Bank
This object has not yet been indexed by the background indexing service.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/197233
|Download PDF (Published version) (Adobe Acrobat PDF, -1 bytes)|
- Consuming the urban environment: a study of the factors that influence resource use in an Australian city
- Newton, Peter W.; Meyer, Denny
- From an environmental perspective, the 21st century has ushered in a number of critical challenges requiring solution within a narrowing window of opportunity if major social and economic dislocation is to be avoided. First, we live in a carbon-constrained world that is witnessing increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere capable of triggering climate change of a scale that could take centuries to reverse. How we generate and consume energy is central to this issue, and the most recent world energy outlook indicates that fossil fuels will continue to supply 80% of a rapidly increasing demand for energy over the next 20 years. Second, we live in a resource-constrained world where peak oil, water shortages, decline in agricultural land and loss of biodiversity are indications that our harvesting of the Earth's natural resources is now occurring at a rate that is exceeding replacement rate. Our patterns of consumption of housing, travel, water and manufactured products are core to this problem. With the world's forecast population of 9 billion to be 70% urban by 2050, the sustainability challenge will focus more closely on the resource consumption of cities and their populations. In this regard, recent State of the Environment reports on Human Settlements in Australia and internationally are not encouraging, with increasing levels of consumption being recorded across most headline environmental indicators such as energy, travel, housing and water, as well as increased levels of waste generation. The negative effects that this pattern of consumption and related urban development is having on the Australian environment---one of the most fragile on Earth---is also documented in the latest set of State of the Environment reports. They involve inappropriate land conversion, biodiversity loss, soil loss, challenge to safe water yields, pollution halos for urbanised coastal waters and airsheds, increased energy use and rising greenhouse gas emissions+-. Concerns about the environmental impacts of consumption have also been registered in the OECD, with consumption pressures from households expected to intensify significantly by 2030. Studies seeking to understand the determinants of urban resource consumption---the factors that underpin energy and water use, consumption of housing space, urban travel and domestic appliances---are therefore increasingly important in order to identify where the most prospective points for public policy intervention exist. On the supply side, increasing knowledge is being assembled on the ecological signatures of those materials and products that make up our built environment through life-cycle assessments of the manufacturing processes linked to housing, cars, consumer durables and so on and how they can be better designed into our cities by more sustainable approaches to metropolitan land use and transport planning than has been characteristic of much urban development since the Second World War. These transitions will take time, however, to make an impact. Attempts to reduce urban resource consumption more rapidly will require demand side interventions capable of affecting change in individual and household behaviour in the key domains of energy, water, travel and housing. This study is unique to the extent that it aims to assess how much of Australia's urban resource consumption is 'designed into' its cities and housing, and how much is related to the discretionary behaviour of an individual or household. The resulting knowledge will provide an evidence-based platform that is currently lacking for policy and program development by all tiers of government and industry to target areas where resource consumption can be most effectively wound back---by individuals, households, housing design professionals and urban planners.
- Publication type
- Book chapter
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences. Institute for Social Research
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology
- Urban consumption / Peter W. Newton (ed.), Chapter 13, pp. 173-197
- Publication year
- CSIRO Publishing
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2011. The published version of this book chapter is reproduced here with the kind permission of the publisher for non-commercial purposes only. No further re-use is permitted.