Hodson, M. & Marvin, S. (2017) Intensifying or transforming sustainable cities? Fragmented logics of urban environmentalism, Local Environment.


This paper analyses recent shifts in urban sustainability discourse and practice through a critical review of the historical development of the concept from the 1970s through to the global economic crisis in the 2007 and its fragmentation into the 2010s. Using this periodisation, the paper shows how the content of urban sustainability discourse has changed. First, it illustrates that the dominant assumption of sustainable cities’ discourse was to utilise economic growth to ecologically modernise urban environments. Second, it examines how the global economic crisis has intensified this fix and led to a new, even narrower emphasis on the techno-economic value of those aspects of urban environment that have economic and market potential. Third, it analyses the fragmenting of sustainable cities’ discourse into a set of competing logics that reflect this narrower agenda. This paper argues that the sustainable city has been absorbed into these new logics that are much more narrowly techno-economically focused and are squeezing out traditional concerns with social justice and equity.

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