Why cities are crucibles for sustainable development efforts (but so hard to get right)

Figure 1. Rural and urban population trends, 1950-2050,  Adapted from Fox, S. & Goodfellow, T. (2016) Cities and Development, Second Edition. Routledge.

Dr Sean Fox, Lecturer in Urban Geography and Global Development, University of Bristol

Sustainable Development Goal 11 outlines a global ambition to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. It is arguably one of the most important of the 17 recently agreed Goals, but we’re unlikely to reach it in most parts of the world by 2030.

The importance of Goal 11 stems from global demographic trends. As Figure 1 illustrates, over 50% of the world’s population already lives in towns and cities, and that percentage is set to rise to 66% by 2050. In fact, nearly all projected population growth between now and 2050 is expected to be absorbed in towns and cities, and the vast majority of this growth will happen in Africa and Asia (see Figure 2).

These trends mean that when it comes to eliminating poverty and hunger, improving health and education services, ensuring universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation, promoting economic growth with decent employment opportunities, and creating ‘responsible consumption and production patterns’ (and achieving many other goals) urban centres are on the front line by default. Continue reading

Energy Access

Dr Sam Williamson, Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering, Bristol University

We are energy consumers. Every day we devour energy, and most of the time we don’t even realise it. Before we wake up, our boiler has heated up our water for a hot shower, and at this time of year our homes are warmed. We unplug our mobile phones, switch on the bedroom lights, and boil a kettle to make our morning tea or coffee, before we travel into work, university or school, often by car or bus, consuming energy as we go. And that’s before we think about any of the embodied energy in everything we use. We have direct access to energy through the infrastructure made available to us.

A fire and tuki (kerosene lamp) in a kitchen, Terai, southern Nepal. Photo credit:
Sam Williamson

However this isn’t the same all over the world. The International Energy Agency report in their World Energy Outlook 2016 that 35% of the world’s population still cooks on traditional biomass, with 18% having no access to electricity, and with over 80% of these people living in rural areas. Those that are connected often suffer from frequent power cuts, and have to revert back to traditional methods for lighting and power. 4.3 million people each year die from illnesses attributed to indoor air pollution using traditional fuels for cooking, heating and lighting (World Health Organisation, 2016). Along with the health implications, exposed flames can cause fires in basic housing, and burning of fuel wood and charcoal leads to extensive deforestation causing soil erosion and land degradation. Continue reading

Learning from the sharp end: Education for sustainable development in small states

Terra Sprague, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education

Terra Sprague, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are quickly finding themselves at the sharp end of global climate change, yet they often get overlooked when it comes to international policy deliberations and decisions. So, why should we listen, and what can we learn?

When it comes to global policy deliberations about internationally agreed education targets and goals, such as the Education for All (EFA) goals and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), small states have often found that their priorities are largely overlooked.

Michael Crossley, Professor of Comparative and International Education

Michael Crossley, Professor of Comparative and International Education

At the Education in Small States Research Group in the Graduate School of Education (GSoE), our recent research focuses upon the educational policy priorities of Commonwealth small states, and others with populations of up to 1.5 million. There are 32 of these states within the Commonwealth alone, generally concentrated in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, but with some additional members such as Botswana and Namibia. These states often share common factors such as isolation, remoteness, and susceptibility to natural disaster shock, but they are extremely diverse in terms of their cultures, languages, human development indicators and gross domestic product (GDP).

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