The suburbs can help cities in the fight against climate change

phys.org | 11/12/2018 | Staff
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The edges of cities around the world are being devastated by fires and floods. It's drawing attention to suburban residents and the role they're playing in exacerbating their exposure to climate change risks. But instead of focusing on the suburban way of life alone, planners and policy-makers need to focus their attention and actions on what holds it all together: the "brutalscape," which is comprised of the infrastructures that enable suburban life.

Yes, today's suburban lifestyles are grossly unsustainable as a rule. At its most extreme, suburban settlement in ecologically sensitive areas is clearly reckless.

Suburbs - Inhabitants - Dreamers - Nightmare

But can we afford to caricature the suburbs and their inhabitants as dreamers living in a nightmare?

In Australia, the bush fire season has started earlier than usual this year, and climate change is the primary driver. Suburbs across the states of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have been burning. And so have their Canadian and Californian counterparts.

Scholars - Suburbanization - Research - Initiative - Global

As scholars of global suburbanization, both involved in a research initiative on "Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century," we are currently comparing suburban life in Australia and Canada.

Reactions to these disasters, most recently in Australia, have ranged from declarations of catastrophic conditions by emergency service responders and affected residents, to denial and evasion by politicians, especially when it comes to any discussion about the role of climate change on the present incendiary situation.

Growth - Footprint - Cities - Australia - Canada

The growth of the suburban footprint of cities in Australia and Canada tests the limits of the sustainability of our present way of living in terms of energy use, transportation and provision of utilities.

This raises an urgent question: What decisions need to be made today in order to ensure our future survival in the suburban expanse where the majority of Australians and Canadians currently live and will continue to live?

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