Book links urban ecology, environmental justice, and global environmental change

Christopher Boone, Interim Dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and co-PI of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) program, and Michail Fragkias, Visiting Professor at Boise State University and former Executive Director of the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change program based in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, have tackled the pressing issues posed by the "urban century" in their edited volume, Urbanization and sustainability: Linking urban ecology, environmental justice and global environmental change.

This book brings together a range of scholars from urban ecology, environmental justice, and global environmental change research. In doing so, the editors have linked ideas, frameworks, and theories from the three fields to provide new, integrated insights on the pathways toward urban sustainability.

Chapters in the book range from a case study of the Million Trees Initiative in Los Angeles to an analysis of the social dimensions of environmental risk in São Paulo City, Brazil as well as more theoretical chapters dealing with the definition of urban sustainability and the contributions of ecological theory to understanding environmental justice.

Scholarship on the Phoenix metropolitan area is featured in a chapter authored by a team of Arizona State University scholars, Bob Bolin, Juan Declet Barreto, Michelle Hegmon, Lisa Meierotto, and Abigail York.  Their chapter builds on previous CAP LTER research on the spatial distribution of environmental disamenities and environmental justice. This new research examines shifting vulnerabilities, hazards, and risks in the Phoenix area. While low-income, minority neighborhoods near the urban core have historically borne the brunt of environmental injustice in the metropolitan area, the foreclosure crisis hit the outlying suburbs, which will likely face growing water insecurity due to a reliance on dwindling groundwater resources and a complex set of policies around water rights and groundwater recharge. At the same time, these urban core neighborhoods are expected to face exposure to increased heat under global climate change scenarios.

Boone and Fragkias have contributed a chapter to the volume that examines the connection between environmental justice and sustainability. They argue that "justice is a core yet often ignored principle of sustainability." They suggest that vulnerability science, which offers a framework for examining human-environment relationships and environmental risk on a mostly regional scale, may serve as a bridge between environmental justice perspectives that focus on local-scale, immediate problems and sustainability perspectives that  emphasize long-term thinking on global problems. An integration of principles, practices, and ideas from environmental justice, sustainability, and vulnerability "could be a powerful mix for effecting positive change."