Toward Just and Sustainable Cities: Identifying Key Areas for Urban, Peri-Urban and Rural Sustainability Collaborative Initiatives

Toward Just and Sustainable Cities: Identifying Key Areas for Urban, Peri-Urban and Rural Sustainability Collaborative Initiatives

Eric Chapman Lauren Rogers Adam Kay

Department of Biology, University of Saint Thomas, USA

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Increasing urbanization and changing population demographics represent two golden opportunities to reimagine how humanity may influence the trajectory of the planet. Although there is substantial information about ‘the speed in which we are falling off the cliff’ with respect to the negative effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen and phosphorus overuse, much less is known about how humanity may transition to living within sustainable ecological and social boundaries. Transitioning to global sustainability requires a framework that integrates both fundamental ecological boundaries with social foundations that provide basic needs. One such framework is Raworth’s Doughnut Model, where the doughnut indicates a ‘sweet spot’: meeting basic social needs of all within sustainable boundaries for earth-systems processes. While there are a global and a few national level analyses of sustainability using this framework, there are no regional level assessments. We used Raworth’s Doughnut Model to assess regional level sustainability for a mid-sized metropolitan area in the Midwestern United States. We pooled county data from government and non-profit reports to quantify social foundation and ecological boundary sustainability across one of the most populous regions in the upper Midwestern United States. Our regional doughnut analysis revealed many ecological overshoots and social deficits, and identified key areas for urban, peri-urban and rural sustainability collaborations. Our analysis also revealed the importance of geospatial variation in ecological boundary overshoot and social deficits. In many ways, our study system of the upper Midwestern United States is representative of city sizes of the future and understanding these trajectories of ecological and social parameters may inform future global sustainable pathways.


doughnut economics, peri-urban, rural, urban, urban sustainability


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