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Urban Sustainability and the Limits of Classical Environmentalism

Kai Lee

  • Rosenburg Professor of Environmental Studies, Williams College, Massachusetts

Over the past generation, translating environmental concern into social debate and public policy has become one of the notable achievements of industrial societies. Yet the process that has emerged in rich countries does not seem to be simply transferable or even tenable over time. The search for sustainable development may accordingly require practical models of social change that have yet to be invented or imagined. In this talk, the problems of applying the existing model of environmentalism to two kinds of cities are analyzed: poor cities, in which population is growing faster than income, and rich cities, whose local environmental problems have been largely solved, but whose residents make consumption and investment choices with distant environmental impacts that are hard to perceive. Lee's 2006 field work in Accra, Ghana, will be discussed in this context.

Monday, March 20, 2006