Sustainable Development and Cities

Sustainable Development and Cities

Nowadays, cities are the center of debates related to global sustainability. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities marked by deep social/spatial inequality. A third of this urban population live in poverty, precarious settlement sites without any services, equipment or basic infrastructure, under exposure of different types of risk and in contaminated, degraded areas. Global climatic instability enhances economic, social and political crisis in cities and governments worldwide. The rupture of ecological systems affects food production, public health, hydrological systems, urban settlements, transportation, energy provision and the capacity to attend the growing emergency situations. Soon, millions of people will have to be removed from coastal areas, where the largest cities are found, and from the dry regions of the Earth; urban lifestyle and agriculture will need to be readjusted all over the world. In order to discuss how cities might adopt a sustainable agenda, it is first necessary to identify, in the national, regional and local plans, the bottlenecks that hold back cities’ production of secure, resilient, healthy and fair human settlements. There is a need to change the sustainability concept beyond the simplistic view related to the environment. Many nations are already adopting sustainability as a central political project aligned to the 21st century needs. Likewise the Brazilian society mobilizes itself in different spaces and organizations to bring its multiple vision of the world translated into proposals, the University must engage in this task and deliver products based on different research centers; views from other countries and realities. In face of the global aspect of this theme, following the international scope of this debate becomes a crucial demand for UNIFESP and its research programs and post-graduation area. Creating innovative and fruitful processes that respect the environment and assure the sustainable development, requires investment in technology and qualified personnel training that can investigate and propose actions for the transition to a low carbon economy. The interchange of research with other international academic poles will contribute to the establishment of conditions allowing Brazil to make its place among the biggest economies of the 21st century.

Research Lines

  • Biodiversity and coastal urbanization process: anthropogenic impacts

Urbanization process nowadays is one of the main factors modifying the biodiversity in coastal ecosystems. A fundamental issue linked to urbanization are the harmful effects over biodiversity. Impacts provoked by pollutants, constructions and tourism might generate different structural changes that alter both the composition and the functioning of ecosystems. For example, trampling influence over biodiversity is higher in sandy beaches then rocky shores, while artificial constructions might be potential spaces for invasive species colonization. Because coastal ecosystems present specific biodiversity related to their physical traits, these habitats are affected in different manners, so it necessary to evaluate such impacts over biodiversity considering their intrinsic differences (sandy beaches, rocky shores and mangroves, for example). Our proposal aims to evaluate how coastal ecosystems' biodiversity like sandy beaches and mangroves are affected by different anthropogenic impacts in relation to the coastal urbanization. Therefore, we will apply monitoring methods as well field and/or laboratory experiments to evaluate the effects of some typical coastal urbanization factors. In this sense, due to its notorious urbanization the Baixada Santista region is considered a highly interesting site for such analyses; also, a study such as this present the counterpart for electing priority areas for long term monitoring of urbanization effects.

  • Ecological engineering as a solution for coastal biodiversity maintenance facing the urbanization impacts and climate change

The growing coastal urbanization is a threat for marine biodiversity worldwide. Natural areas are being occupied by gray infrastructure of cities, which has caused conflicts between environmental conservation and the social/economic needs (for example the needed infrastructure for demographic growth and for adaptation/mitigation to climate changes). Thereby, it becomes required solutions that diminishes habitat and biodiversity loss and, consequently, maintain the ecosystems services (fishing resources, leisure, tourism, mobility and coastal protection) and the social economic benefits, strengthening the sustainable development and nature’s conservation. To solve such conflict, ecological engineering use is a practice that has already shown positive environmental, social and economic results in terrestrial (green engineering) and coastal (blue engineering) environments. This nature based solution (NbS) guarantees local biodiversity conservation and, as a consequence, the ecosystem services in regions where engineering is needed. We present an intervention proposal for ecological infrastructure at the Baixada Santista region, which is under climate change impacts (for example, the forecasted sea level rise in the region would promote an economic impact around R$1.5 billion until the end of this century). This proposal will benefit different local sectors: from the largest port in Latin America to the industrial pole of Cubatão; from touristic and urban populations to the traditional communities and vulnerable families living in the coastal zone. In this sense, the installation of blue engineering will directly benefit biodiversity conservation through: (1) public policies, (2) restoration of coastal biodiversity and social economic benefits in urbanized areas where natural ecosystems restoration (mangroves for example) present lower viability, and (3) where the climate change impacts are eminent.

  • Coastal biodiversity and public policies: methodologies and actions to integrate different sections of society

This proposal addresses interdisciplinary issues to integrate researchers, civil society and decision makers in order to develop a Innovative Public Policies program with social relevance for biodiversity conservation. Our main goal is to develop skills and knowledge and also to support participative public policies production, built under the different views of different sectors of society. We will use the coastal biodiversity of mangroves, rocky shores and sandy beaches present in the cities of Santos and Guarujá as model systems. The coastal region is an important model area for the development of innovative social public policies related to conservancy, due to its social, economic and cultural importance inside a human mosaic of impacts. We will develop a diagnosis approach to assess relevant public policies related to biodiversity conservation, together with social/ecological/environmental evaluations to measure the environmental perception of the stakeholders. Considering this, a citizen science project will be performed to monitor the coastal biodiversity, aiming to strengthen the links between society and the environment. Finally, to reach our main goal, we will integrate such actions and knowledge with the decision makers in order to develop an integrative program between the interested parts to create new public policies with social and ecological significance. Using an active methodology, we want to stimulate all parts interested to share their knowledge and to identify advances and challenges in knowledge transfer and expectations. We will also contribute for the development of their skills and competencies in leadership, planning and working in groups so we can stimulate the establishment of an innovative social program for public policies that can also be expanded to other regions and matters, so that a long term response can be achieved. This is an opportunity for the development of interdisciplinary capacities that will benefit human well-being in the next generations, providing the best practices and solutions for management and biodiversity conservation of ecosystems services.

Partner Countries: Chile; Uruguay; Australia; United States of America; United Kingdom.

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Zysman Neiman