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Master Program on International Urban Development rogram

Master Thesis


Supervisors: Prof. Kosta Mathey & Prof. Michael Schmidt Written by student: Thuy Duong Pham s

Ho Chi Minh City, July 2011

The future of our world is the future of cities. Therefore, building a holistic guiding framework for urban sustainability, which can be used in urban governance, decision-making, capacity building, education and public awareness raising is a critical key for a sustainable future. The thesis uses visionary and holistic approach in dealing with urban issues. What makes a livable and sustainable city? How do people perceive urban sustainability? How do people envision their dream cities? Among many aspects of urban development, what matter most to them? What are public perceptions on current urban development in HCMC? This thesis seeks to find answers for these questions, from suggestions of experts and think tanks, to peoples opinions, their hopes and dreams. Beside the international document research and the global online survey, the case of public perception in Ho Chi Minh City was also investigated with both online and offline questionnaires and interviews of people in some slum areas. Findings from experts bring out that sustainability associates with balance and equity in a comprehensive approach, which acknowledges the interrelationships among various dimensions of life and our interconnectedness with each other and with natural systems. Urban sustainability strives for ecological balance, low-carbon economic development, social inclusion and cultural vitality. Among these dimensions, good governance which is accountable, transparent, democratic and efficient plays a vital role as inclusive decision making processes toward sustainability. A series of concepts and features for urban sustainability such as sense of place, green, human friendliness, renewable energy, waste recycling, bicycle friendly and walkable neighborhoods, rainwater harvesting, affordable housing, inclusiveness, e-governance has been developed in the questionnaire to test responses from public perception on their desirable city. Most of these ideas were well received by respondents; this proves that a sustainable city can also be a desirable and lovable city. On the other hand, findings from survey of public perception on HCMCs urban performance as well as field study in some slum areas in the city present quite a gloomy picture. Poverty alleviation, education, empowerment, capacity building and public awareness raising are recommended for bringing about social change toward a sustainable urban future.

From Daisy with love First of all, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the two supervisors, Prof. Kosta Mathey and Prof. Michael Schmidt for their kind guidance and for giving me a chance to join this wonderful UDP course. I greatly appreciate the consideration of our course coordinators, Dr. Harry Storch and Prof. Karl Klgel. Thank you so much for believing in me and that is such a big encouragement! I am especially grateful to my dear friend Nigel Downes, who introduced me to this course, for his supporting as always. I would like to express a huge thanks to all of our Professors and Teachers for the lectures, excursions and inspiration! Many thanks to the research group of Megacity HCMC project for the knowledge I got from their workshops and discussions. Thank you all my friends and the staffs at VGU for the assistance and for our memories during these last two years together. I also respectfully acknowledge Dr. Bui Van Nam Son for his devoted consultation. This study cannot be done without the responses from more than two hundreds people all over the world. I would like to thank you all, each and everyone! It was such an honor and pleasure for me to read your various comments. Thank you very much too, my friends, who had helped promote the survey through their blogs, websites and social networks. My sympathy goes out to the interviewees in slum areas that I have talked to during the field study in May. It was a unique and transformative experience. I really hope that life will be better for you all. Finally, I would like to take this chance to express the deepest gratitude and love from my heart to my parents and beloved ones for their endless support and care. I know no words would be enough...

Table of Contents

1.1 Rationale......................................................................................................................................5 1.2 Research aims ..............................................................................................................................8


2.1 Backcasting and systems approach..............................................................................................9 2.2 Research methodology............................................................................................................... 11


Principles for Sustainability............................................................................................................. 14 3.1 Ecological balance ..................................................................................................................... 20 City as a regenerative and symbiosis system............................................................................... 20 Urban ecology and integrated land use.................................................................................... 23 Urban agriculture ..................................................................................................................... 24 3.2 Economic development ............................................................................................................. 26 Towards a low-carbon economy.................................................................................................. 26 Energy conservation and renewable energy ............................................................................ 28 ICT for low-carbon urban development .................................................................................. 30 3.3 Social connectedness and cultural vitality .................................................................................32 Social sustainability ..................................................................................................................... 33 Cultural sustainability.................................................................................................................. 35 Spiritual values ........................................................................................................................ 37 3.4 Good governance ....................................................................................................................... 38

4.1 Results from global online survey ............................................................................................. 43 4.2 Results from surveys in HCMC.................................................................................................57 4.2.1 Results from online and offline questionnaires .................................................................. 57 4.2.2 Results from interviews in slum areas ................................................................................ 63

5.1 Concluding remarks................................................................................................................... 67 5.2 Recommendations for HCMC ................................................................................................... 68 REFERENCES......70 APPENDIX I Sample of Global Online Survey.............................................................................. 75 APPENDIX II Sample of Survey in HCMC ................................................................................... 78 APPENDIX III Semi-structure Interviews in Slum Areas of HCMC ............................................. 85 APPENDIX IV Concept Notes for Sustainability Education .......................................................... 87 4

1. Introduction
If sustainable development does not start in the cities, it simply will not go. Cities have to lead the way. (Maurice Strong)1

1.1 Rationale
It is since 2008, for the first time in human history, more than half of the worlds population now lives in cities. As urbanization continues to grow worldwide, to some extent, we can say that the future of our world is the future of cities. Urbanization has brought to us many benefits, especially in terms of economic and job opportunities. As centers of communication, education, science, religion, commerce, and political power, cities are hubs of innovations and great places for cultural and social exchange. In terms of environment, the concentration of people and resources provides us the advantages of energy efficiency and convenience in transportation, goods and services delivering, as well as helps preserve biodiversity by reducing the stress on wildlife habitats (Miller 2004). As cradles of civilization, cities influences on culture and society have gone far beyond their proportion of the total population (Cunningham et al 2003). In earlier time, there was just a small percentage of population lived in urban areas, up to only 3% in 1800 and 13% in 1900 (Bugliarello 2008). Then, together with population booming after World War II, industrialization has rapidly boosted urban expansion around the globe. However, most of these urbanizations, particularly those in developing countries, are more on quantity rather than quality. In the international Sustainability Survey2 conducted by SustainAbility and GlobalScan (2011), most of the experts think that urbanization is a positive for global business, but a negative for society.

Chair of the Rio Summit, 1992, quoted in Urban Sustainability in New Zealand: An Information Resource for Urban Practitioners 2 The Sustainability Survey uses research-driven, expert insights to explore solutions to the biggest sustainability challenges, through ongoing engagement with more than 700 thought leaders from across 70+ countries and a variety of sectors (SustainAbility, GlobalScan 2011)

In fact, while cities bring many advantages, they are also the cause of many environmental and social problems. Most of cities are not self-sustaining but must rely heavily on external sources such as food from farms, timbers from forests, minerals from mines, water from watersheds. Cities are big consuming clusters of materials and energy. Although city dwellers occupy only about 2% of the Earths land area, they consume about 75% of the Earths resources (Miller 2004).

Food Energy Water Goods

Waste Pollution


Heat Noise

INPUT (Sources) THROUGHPUT (Processes) OUTPUT (Sinks)

Figure 1.1 City as an open, linear and unsustainable system

The amount of waste outputs is even greater than the materials inputs because materials combine with air or water in the process of being used. Current urban systems are typical examples of the degenerative throughput pattern characterized by linear flows (Lyle 1994). Ultimately, while resources are being depleted, sinks become overloaded with huge wastes far beyond their capacity to assimilate. This one-way throughput system, like most man-made processes but unlike natures cycle flows, results in the twin consequences of resource depletion and environmental degradation. Under population and housing demand pressures, unplanned and uncontrolled urbanization spontaneously occurs. In many of the cases, it is merely urban sprawl or urban spreading into suburban areas, where it does not properly and fully function as genuine urbanization, lacking of public services, causing loss of landscape, loss of

farmlands. Sometimes, it is characterized by low density development, which is not energy efficient in general, particularly in terms of transportation. And in other times, it is characterized by too high density. Where physical (hard) and social (soft) infrastructure developments do not keep pace with urban expansion and become overloaded, where cities can not manage the excess unskilled labors, urbanization can create more slums, shantytowns, unemployment, poverty, urban segregation. On the other hand, man-made concrete buildings and asphalt roads absorb more heat, altering microclimate and natural hydrological cycle, limiting rainwater infiltration which can result in more urban flooding. The lack of nature in urban environment, lack of space and stressful city life can cause negative impact to human psychology. Sometimes, the hidden social problems related to industrialization and urbanization can be quite serious as the linkages within communities and between tradition and culture have broken down. Social alienation, lack of public life, isolation, ultimately results in increased crime and fear (Goldsmith 2000). Since our economies and societies depend so much on fossil fuel, particularly oil, in the context of peak oil3 and climate change, many urban issues such as energy consumption, green house gas emission, urban flooding, transportation become more complex and inextricable. Particularly, cities which stretch over flood plains or coast lines, are getting more vulnerable to natural disasters as sea level rising. So, nowadays, cities are facing many challenges on the path towards sustainability, given that sustainability is an honor goal to pursuit, characterized by livability in a comprehensive view. Urban development patterns can not be sustainable if in themselves there are potential risks of breakdown and collapse due to any ecological imbalance, inequitable distribution or social injustice. Unsustainable urban development, by default, means that it can not go far and continue in the long run.

The label for the problem of energy resource depletion, the day that oil production reaches a maximum and will subsequently begin to decline.

1.2 Research aims

The fate of our cities is the fate of the Earth (Callenbach 1992). Unfortunately, most of our urban development patterns nowadays are not sustainable. Hence, for our future to be possible, we need creative visions of urban sustainability which must be very different with current reality. Although urbanization causes many problems, urban densities also have in themselves great potential for socio-economic innovation and opportunities, for compact and energyefficient development. Moreover, the dark sides of urbanization do not always have to manifest, but rather they are often exacerbated by bad planning and governance4, low public environmental and social awareness. Since awareness involves creating a shared understanding of sustainability and a common sense of purpose among teams, institutions and organizations, it is essential that everyone, especially those participates in the planning process, has a common understanding of what sustainability is and why our current system is not sustainable (Baxter et al. 2009). Therefore, building a holistic guiding framework for urban sustainability, which can be used in urban governance, decision-making, capacity building, education and public awareness raising is a critical key for a sustainable future. What makes a livable and sustainable city? How do people perceive urban sustainability? How do people envision their dream cities? What matters the most for them? This thesis seeks to find answers for these questions, from suggestions of experts, and by listening to peoples voices, their hopes and dreams. Beside the international document research and the global online survey, the case of public perception in Ho Chi Minh City was also investigated.

Findings from the international Sustainability Survey (SustainAbility, GlobalScan 2011) suggest that, poor city management, plus corruption are the greatest barriers to addressing urban issues.

2. Approach & Methodology

Success requires an understanding of the complex forces at work, a vision of the future and a strategy for making the vision a reality. (Edwards 2005)

2.1 Backcasting and systems approach

This thesis uses visionary (backcasting5) and holistic (systems) approach in dealing with urban challenges and building the framework for sustainability. The concept of backcasting is a way of planning which begins with the vision of what we want in the future, and then goes back to the present, figures out what we have to do to get there. Having first a desirable vision in mind is a powerful step to manifest it in reality. As visions provide inspiration and guidance for decision-making towards sustainability, they allow us to ensure that our actions and strategies aligned with the direction we want to head and as efficiently as possible. Since backcasting starts with the final end, the image of the desired outcome, it usually refers to long time frames, where there is great uncertainty and less control over what may happen. Hence, the future vision may usefully be defined using principles rather than specifics (Outhwaite 2009). Backcasting does not describe for measurable and fixed targets and goals, but rather for flexible, evolutionary and continuously re-created visions. Backcasting is an opportunity to let go of the current reality for a moment and freely imagine what might be possible (Outhwaite 2009). As forecasting mostly based on current trend, it tends to present a more limited range of options, hence stifling creativity and new possibilities, and more important, it projects the problems of today into the future. When we start with problems, often the vision is limited to having fewer problems, or solving an isolated problem; it does not necessarily encompass how we can satisfy ones needs more effectively, or how we can live rich and meaningful lives (Hallsmith 2003). As Albert Einstein once said the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them, backcasting is particularly

The Natural Steps Backcasting:

useful when current trends are part of the problems that we are trying to tackle. Thus, though forecasting is very effective if we are happy with current situation, if what we want is a very different future than the one we are headed toward, that is when we need to backcast (Baxter et al. 2009). In brief, backcasting is looking at the current situation from a future perspective, which allows complex problems to be approached by let us first simply focus on outcomes, then think backwards to identify numerous potential pathways to reach the desired outcomes. In turn, exploring many alternatives makes it easier to find solutions that best fit and optimize all of the parts and relationships within the system toward achieving these outcomes (Haines et al. 2005). Therefore, backcasting is a helpful methodology in planning for urban sustainability because of the complexity of urban challenges and the need to develop new ways of doing things to address them. Backward thinking is the core of where to start in systems thinking, a systems view and comprehensive approach that can help us to design smart and enduring solutions to problems. Systems thinking is a holistic approach which encourages us to see the whole - the bigger picture, so that we can structure more effective, efficient and creative system solutions. The systems view looks at the world in terms of relationships and integration, recognizing the essential interrelatedness and interdependence of all phenomena physical, biological, psychological, social, and cultural (Capra 1988). In order to understand whats behind our sustainability challenges, we need to step back and look at the big picture, see the connections, identify the root causes of our problems and find the leverage points for change (Baxter et al. 2009). Systems approach attempts to widen the circle of understanding in order to comprehend the connections that exist between all things in the web of life. It is a continuing process that involves honoring the past, being present, looking ahead, and keeping future generations in mind (Newman and Jennings 2008). Identifying cause and effect relationships requires us to see not only bigger but deeper, further in all dimensions of space and time. The following quote by Grazia is a beautiful metaphor on contemplation through longer time frames to recognize patterns: Imagine you want to shoot an arrow. The further back you pull the bowstring, the further the arrow flies. The same is true for

our own understanding and vision. The further back we look into history, the further we can see into our future (Grazia 2009). The holistic approach towards sustainable urban development is a strategic thinking to address the complex challenges of our urban issues. Thus, urban sustainability visions should encompass an integrated and interdisciplinary framework in which cities are considered as parts of larger natural ecosystems and socio-economic communities.

2.2 Research methodology

Three research methods were used in this thesis: document research, questionnaire (online and offline), and semi-structure interviews (fig. 2.1).

Figure 2.1 Thesis methodology flowchart

The thesis starts first with international document research to seek for experts views and ideas on urban sustainability, the principles and ingredients of a sustainable city, as well as some suggested models and good practices. The materials came from various resources: books, specialists websites, articles, and experts blogs.

The results from this document research stage are summarized in chapter 3. Some main ideas from the experts visions on urban sustainability were used to design the questionnaires for the surveys of public perceptions. Samples of these questionnaires are attached in the annex (appendix I, II and III). Results from these surveys are presented and discussed in chapter 4. The purposes of these questionnaires are assessment of public perceptions/awareness on some aspects of urban sustainability, as well as testing publics responses on some sustainable urban development models. Then, the results from these surveys can be considered in making public awareness raising programs, as well as public opinions can be integrated in the framework for urban sustainability.
Table 2.1 Research questions & methodology Methodology Questionnaire Online Offline Survey Survey

Main Research Questions

Document Research


How do experts envision a sustainable city? What make a sustainable city? How do people envision their desirable cities? What are their perceptions on urban sustainability? Among many aspects of urban development, what matter most to them? HCMC Global HCMC HCMCs slum dwellers

What are public perceptions on current urban development in HCMC?

The surveys of public perceptions on urban sustainability were conducted online globally (in English), and both online and offline for citizens in Ho Chi Minh City (in Vietnamese). The free Google Docs Form was used in designing the online surveys. The global online survey in English was launched in May of 2011 at this link:


Then, it has been promoted by posting on websites, social networks, blogs and mail groups such as Wiser Earth, Facebook, YES Alumni, ERM, Scribd Also in late May of 2011, the other survey with target groups of Ho Chi Minh City citizens was launched both online and offline (distributed in papers) in Vietnamese. The translated English version of this survey for Ho Chi Minh City is available in the website as well as in the appendix: (Vietnamese origin) (English, translated version) In addition, the fieldwork study in some slum areas, especially those along the polluted canals in district 4 and district 8 of Ho Chi Minh City, with observations and interviews of slum dwellers, had been conducted in May 2011. Since most of slum dwellers are powerless and poor, their voices are often left unheard while they are the most vulnerable to the disadvantages of urbanization. The questions asked to people in slum areas must be modified to be appropriate in their specific contexts and situations (appendix III). Mostly, the main purpose of this fieldwork is to get the real picture of the urban poor lives, and to listen to their wishes.

Figure 2.2 Locations of the fieldwork study at slum areas in Ho Chi Minh City 13

3. Urban Sustainability Visions

Vision is seeing the potential purpose hidden in the chaos of the moment, but which could bring to birth new possibilities for a person, a company or a nation. Vision is seeing what life could be like while dealing with life as it is. Vision deals with those deeper human intangibles that alone give ultimate purpose to life. In the end, vision must always deal with lifes qualities, not with its quantities. (Van Duisen Wilhard)6

Principles for Sustainability

Sustainability literally means the capacity to endure over time. Symbolically, it refers to what is of true values, what is good, genuine and resilient, which can stand the test of time. Sustainability associates with balance and equity in a comprehensive approach, which acknowledges our dependence on the health of natural systems for our survival and wellbeing, the limit carrying capacity of the Earth and the detrimental impact of unchecked human activities (Edwards 2005). Thus, sustainability strives for balance among the interconnected ecological, economic and social systems. As implied from the most popular definition of sustainable development7 (the Brundtland report 1987), sustainability requires a long term, intergenerational perspective. Equity should be maintained, not only across communities within generation but also between generations. The Earth Charter is a global consensus, a product of a decade-long, worldwide, crosscultural dialogue on common goals and shared values. As a vision of hope and a call to action, it provides us with inspiration and guidance to a sustainable future. In October 2003, UNESCO adopted a resolution recognizing the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework for sustainability (ECI Secretariat 2011). Main principles of the Earth Charter are summarized in the following box 3.1.

Quoted in Beyond You and Me - Inspirations and Wisdom for Building Community, Robin Alfred & Kosha Anja Joubert (Ed.), Gaia Education - Permanent Publications 2007 7 Our Common Future, the report by World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987): Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


Box 3.1 The Earth Charter - values and principles for a sustainable future8

THE EARTH CHARTERS PRINCIPLES Respect and Care for the Community of Life: To respect Earth and life in all its diversity; To care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love; To build democratic societies that are just, sustainable, participatory and peaceful; and To secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations. In order to fulfill these four broad commitments, it is necessary to: Ecological Integrity Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life. Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being. Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired. Social and Economic Justice Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities. Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice. Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life. Treat all living beings with respect and consideration. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.

Full version of the Earth Charter and more at


The spirit of the Earth Charter is beautifully highlighted in the core principle of Respect and Care for the Community of Life: respect Earth and life in all its diversity, care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love. It helps us to recognize what is deeply and fundamentally important to us our connection with each other and with the natural world. That holistic worldview leads us to do no harm and cooperate with nature, with all other humans and other living beings in the web of life. One Planet Living9 is a global initiative developed by BioRegional10 and WWF11. While the Earth Charter is an ethical framework, the One Planet Livings sustainable city concepts are more of a practical vision that helps us to focus on how we can take action for a sustainable future.
Box 3.2 The Ten Principles of One Planet Living (BioRegional and WWF)

One Planet Living: BioRegional Solutions for Sustainability: 11 World Wildlife Fund:


The Philips Centers framework for Livable Cities - In the urban context, sustainability can be perceived as visions of livable and lovable cities (The Philips Center for Health & Wellbeing 2010). Experts from the Philips Center have identified three important interlinked ingredients of a livable city: resilience, inclusiveness and authenticity (fig. 3.1 and box 3.3).

Figure 3.1 The Philips Centers Visualization Framework for Livable Cities (adapted from The Philips Center for Health & Well-being 2010)

SOCIETY (socio-cultural, economic & technical dimensions) ECOSYSTEM (environmental dimension)

In their conceptual framework for urban sustainability, think tank of the Philips Center pointed out that these three essential attributes of a livable city should present in all dimensions of sustainability (social, cultural, economic, technical and environmental). So, a livable city should be a resilient city, environmentally, socially and economically; this is particularly true in the growing context of climate change, as resilience is about

adaptability, flexibility, the ability of a city to balance continuity with change. A resilient city is a strong city which has inner strength to help it remain stable through shocks and stresses. A livable city is also an inclusive city, which cherishes social integration and cohesion. Moreover, a livable as well as lovable city usually has its own unique identity.
Box 3.3 Three important interlinked ingredients of a livable city12

VISION OF A LIVABLE & LOVABLE CITY (The Philips Center 2010) Resilience Preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems for local environmental quality Energy, food, water, materials at low global ecological footprint Green areas and water as environmental mitigation factors, parks as lungs of a city Cultural diversity, multiple lifestyle, continuity and change, tradition and innovation Adaptability, regeneration, transformation, interdependency, systems view Economic diversity, local entrepreneurship, job creation Inclusiveness Public green areas as outdoor gyms, recreational spaces, social bridges Empowerment, justice and freedom Equitable access to resources, rights to public goods and services Social participation, economic inclusion Cultural diversity and integration, tolerance Sense of ownership, security and safety Authenticity Local ecosystem for local identity, native species as uniqueness of a place Natural heritage as collective memory Connection between people and nature Historical heritage and identity Valuable local knowledge and culture Appropriate innovation and choices of change Cultural and technological rootedness Sense of place, belonging and pride Connection between people and people, people and land


First edition of the Insight Series on Livable Cities (The Philips Center, 2010)


Ecocity - Figure 3.2 features main characteristics of an ecocity model envisioned by experts of Ecocity Builders13, using integrated, whole systems approach for city design, ems building, and operations in relation to the surrounding environment and natural resources of the region (Ecocity Builders 2010). 2010)

City of accessibility for everyone City of minimized land consumption City of balanced mixed use City as network of urban quarters City with new balance of concentration and decentralization City of qualified density

City with public space for daily life

City in balance with nature

City with integrated green areas

City of bioclimatic comfort City contributing to closed water cycle

City for pedestrians, cyclists, cyclists public transport

City of reduction, reuse, recycle of waste City of minimized energy consumption

City integrated into the surrounding region City of concentrating development at developme suitable sites City of human scales and urbanity

City of short distances City built and managed with the inhabitants City of health, safety and well well-being City of sustainable lifestyle

City as power station of renewable energies City integrated in global communication networks City of cultural identity and social diversity

City for strong local economy

Figure 3.2 Principal features of an ecocity (adapted from Ecocity Builders)

The following parts of this chapter will discuss briefly more concepts and models for urban sustainability, in terms of its interrelated dimensions, ecological balance, economic development, social cohesion, cultural vitality and good governance for sustainable urban evelopment, development.

Ecocity Buillders:


3.1 Ecological balance

Cities can become more sustainable by modeling urban processes on ecological principles of form and function, by which natural ecosystems operate. The characteristics Jennings 2008) of natural ecosystems include diversity, adaptiveness, interconnectedness, resilience, regenerative capacity, and symbiosis. (Newman and

Recycle organic wastes

Renewable Resources Renewable Energy Regenerative Water




Recycled materials, water

INPUT (Sources) Reduced Consumption and Increased Efficiency

THROUGHPUT (Processes)

OUTPUT (Sinks) Reduced Pollution & Waste

Figure 3.3 City as a regenerative system with circular metabolism

City as a regenerative and symbiosis system

The core philosophy of sustainability lies in the appreciation of nature as the symbol of integrity, stability and beauty. Sustainability deals much with creative designs and planning in harmony with nature. From the perspective of sustainability, natures design and technologies are far superior to human science and technology (Sterry 2010).


In nature, nothing is useless, nothing is waste but everything is resource for other process in the sophisticatedly interconnected web of life, where circular metabolism is the principle of ongoing self-renewal system. Thus, a sustainable system is a regenerative system that mimics natures circular patterns, replacing the present linear flows (fig.1.1) with cyclical flows (fig.3.3). On a predominantly urban planet, cities will need to adopt circular metabolic systems to assure their own long-term viability as well as that of the rural environments on which they depend; outputs will need to become inputs into the local and regional production system (Girardet 2010). Most importantly, it is crucial to return organic waste into plant nutrients, for assuring farmlands long-term fertility. By recycling wastes back into the system, it also minimizes pollution. Sustainably using renewable resources, instead of fossil fuels and chemicals is also more resource-conserving, healthy and less environmentally damaging. On the other hand, creating a circular urban metabolism can create resilient cities and create many new local businesses and jobs (Girardet 2010). About resilience, Melissa Sterry is developing the model of Bionic City14, which embraces natures approach to building complex infrastructures: Whereas the conventional city is a mass of static, disconnected and inert structures operating independently and irrespective of one another and their environment, the Bionic City operates as an interconnected and intelligent ecosystem in which every entity is engaged in an ongoing symbiotic relationship with all others, from the molecular to the metropolitan in scale. Beyond preventing the problems traditionally associated with flooding, the Bionic City will also feature the means to utilise excessive quantities of water, including hydropower and water harvesting technologies. According to Melissa Sterry, the sensitivity the city has with its surroundings is key to its ability to predict and prepare for environmental changes. One essential characteristic of nature systems that helps maintaining stability in constantly changing conditions is diversity (Holmgren 2002). Multiple associations nurture each life form, thereby increasing the stability and resilience of the whole system. In natural system, everything is connected to everything else, each important function is supported by many elements, and each element performs many functions. Thus, this provides the

Bionic City- article on Earth 2.0 magazine:


thinking of multiple pathways to achieve one goal as well as a common solution to disparate problems (Lyle 1994). For instance, rainwater infiltration with thoughtful design can replenish groundwater, create landscape, as well as reduce urban flooding

Water supply & sanitation

Urban functions (housing, industries, services) Waste management

Traffic & transport


Architecture & master planning Landscape planning


Figure 3.4 Building blocks of SymbioCity a holistic and integrated approach for sustainable urban development (adapted from SymbioCity)

The idea of solving problems simultaneously is also the main theme of SymbioCity15, an urban sustainability approach by Sweden. Symbiosis means the integration of two or more organisms in a mutually beneficial union. Looking at the city as a whole, we find benefits through synergies in urban functions such as combination of industrial waste heat with the municipal energy plant, combination of architecture and landscape planning It takes more than one petal to make a flower. SymbioCity means urban resource efficiency across and between different urban technological systems, letting nothing go to waste; combining energy, waste management, water supply and sanitation, traffic and transport, landscape planning, architecture and urban functions for new and better solutions as well as a more efficient use of natural resource (SymbioCity 2009).

More on SymbioCity:


There are many ways to make an urban function effective, but focusing on them individually may let us miss out the synergies between them, which can only be found with a holistic approach. Therefore, an integrated planning approach is key to unlocking hidden synergies in the city. Instead of managing urban sectors one by one, SymbioCity combine them, saving valuable city resources and creating new values (SymbioCity 2009). Urban ecology and integrated land use As the spirit of sustainability lies in the heart of nature, protecting and restoring ecology within urban areas, bringing nature back into city is an essential theme in urban sustainability. Green spaces in cities offer us a lot of benefits. They provide shading, filtering the air, enriching urban biodiversity, reducing urban heat island effect, thus simultaneously making bioclimate comfort and lowering energy use for cooling. Urban ecology uses climate- and region-appropriate plants, xeriscaping16 to minimize the need for fertilizer and water, and uses land for multiple functions such as food production, wildlife habitat, recreation and beautification (Roseland 2005). Urban ecology also acknowledges the role of water and urban aquatic systems streams, ponds, rivers in revitalizing cities. Besides those ecological advantages, thoughtful urban designs in concert with nature and embracing culture of a place also have many aesthetic values, social and psychological healing benefits. Green public spaces can enhance community connection and interaction, providing places to contemplate, play, relax and meditate. Since land use permeates nearly all urban aspects, appropriate land use is a decisive factor for a sustainable city. In order to be sustainable, city should minimize land consumption, integrating green spaces and preserving farm land for food security as well as for other ecological functions. It is not always easy as land is a limited resource and the cost of real estates is often too high, while cities have to balance among conflicts of urbanization, development, population pressure with environmental and social goals. Therefore, symbiosis integrating planning or whole systems design17 for multi-purpose use can help afford this balance. Many examples illustrate this concept (Roseland 2005): green roof, solar photovoltaic panel on rooftop (no extra space needed); parks, urban gardening as

Xeriscaping refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation 17 Whole systems design concept for sustainability:



both recreation areas and edible landscaping; constructed wetlands as sewage tr treatment facility, natural habitats, recreation areas, drainage for rainwater run off Urban agriculture Urban agriculture or urban farming can be understood as farming within and around cities. Urban agriculture is a dynamic concept that comprises of a variety of farming systems, Urban ranging from subsistence production and processing at household level to fully commercialized agriculture (Zeeuw et al. n.d.). n.d.)

Food secure & inclusive city Food security & nutrition Poverty alleviation Social inclusion Community building

Environmental healthy city Greening urban landscape Urban biodiversity Improved microclimate Reduced ecological footprint Waste recycling Recreation & leisure

Urban Farming
Productive city Income generation Local economic development Emloyment generation

Figure 3.5 Urban agriculture as a tool for sustainable urban development (adapted from Zeeuw)

In response to serious problems of poverty, food insecurity, and environmental degradation, there is a growing attention and promotion of urban farming all over the world, along with the movement of resilient, self-sustaining and low carbon cities self sustaining cities. Increasingly, urban farming has been seen as part of sustainable urban development.


Urban farming can contribute to a food secure and inclusive city, a productive and environmentally healthy city (fig. 3.5). Therefore, it is necessary to acknowledge the links between urban agriculture and various policy target areas, such as the alleviation of poverty, economic development, or environmental protection, in order to justify the inclusion and mainstreaming of urban agriculture into municipal policies and public support programs (Zeeuw et al. n.d.). The most striking feature of urban farming, which distinguishes it from rural agriculture, is its integration into the urban economic and ecological system (RUAF)18. Urban farms and gardens complement rural agriculture in local food systems and can also become an important income supplement for households. Since food production is close to home and market, it helps reduce energy for transportation and packaging costs. This is also helpful in situations when supply chains from rural areas have been interrupted and cities are unable to receive food imports (Worldwatch 2011). Another essential benefit of urban agriculture is that it can contribute to waste management and nutrient recycling by turning urban wastes into a productive resource, thus reducing the use of expensive chemical fertilizers and improving local soil fertility (Veenhuizen and Danso 2007). In his theory of Food Urbanism (2009), Jason Grimm showed that urban food system of production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption and waste management can become infrastructure that transforms urban experience by thoughtful sensitive design and planning. According to Grimm, food production can be integrated into the daily activities of community residents through recreation and communal gatherings. Community gardens can also provide beautiful and pleasing spaces, helping improve the air quality in urban areas. And through cooperative market outlets, a larger series of food access points can be developed, supplying healthy fresh and affordable food.


RUAF Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture & Food Security: What is urban agriculture?


3.2 Economic development

To break dependence on oil, stop contributing to global warming, and build resilient cities that can thrive in the new urban age of energy and climate uncertainty, the bottom line for local governments is this: Reduce consumption, and produce locally. (Lerch 2009)

Towards a low-carbon economy

We are in the time of Peak Oil, and the time of cheap oil will end soon (Kuhlman 2007). Many experts have been warning about the end of our civilization as we know it is today19, the end of oil age with its catastrophic consequences20. The world economy heavily depended on high-carbon fossil fuel is eventually coming into crisis as these fuels go exhausted. Moreover, the problem is not only the depletion of oil, but also many environmental, political and socio-economic issues related, especially the green house effect that leads to global climate change. Thus, we need a thoughtful vision, a shift to new models of development that are more sustainable, a green economy based on climate friendly low-carbon energy. The concept of Zero carbon, one of the One Planet Livings ten principles (box 3.2) which aims at making building more energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technologies, is being developed at the Masdar initiative21. The European Union22 is making real efforts to reduce green gas emissions with their Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy in 2050. More and more, there is a growing trend of transition to low-carbon city or post carbon city city on a path of resilience for a world of energy and climate uncertainty (Lerch 2009). The Japanese Ministry of Environment has pointed out three principles for a low-carbon society: (1) Carbon minimization in all sectors, (2) Shifting from mass consumption society toward simpler lifestyles that realize richer quality of life, (3) Coexistence with Nature - maintaining and restoring natural environment that essential for low-carbon
Life after the oil crash: The Olduvai theory and catastrophic consequences: 21 Zero carbon city Masdar initiative: 22 EU, March 2011: Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy in 2050
20 19


society (Ministry of Environment - Japan 2007). Thus, building a low-carbon city requires the efforts and active involvement of whole social system.

Low-carbon Transport System

More walking & cycling

More public transport

Less private vehicles

Less noise & air pollution

Use of ITS*

More social interaction

Social equity

Less congestion

Safer roads

Better health

More lively urban neighborhoods

Better neighborhood accessibility

Higher security

More efficient in terms of energy/cost/time

Figure 3.6 Benefits of a low-carbon transport system (based on the CATCH23 factsheet series) *ITS: Intelligent Transport System, applied ITC in smart logistics

Though Peak Oil can conceive quite catastrophic potential, it also opens some hopeful possibilities, a chance to address many underlying social problems, and the opportunity to return to simpler, healthier and more community oriented lifestyle (Kuhlman 2007). The example of Cuba can serve as a positive and instructive model for a world facing Peak Oil24. Cuba is the only country that has faced such a crisis the massive reduction of fossil fuels, after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. Cuba's transition to a low-energy society has taken place by creating cycling culture, sharing public transportation and turning from a mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. Lesson from Cubas survival gives us hope in the power of

CATCH (Carbon Aware Travel Choice) is an EU project with the ultimate aim to reduce CO2 emissions of the urban transport sector by encouraging carbon-friendly travel choices. 24 See more: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (Documentary), Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions (2006):


community, and the effectiveness of their strategies, which can be summarize in three words: curtailment, conservation and cooperation25 . The guidance for low-carbon city development focuses on three key sectors of transportation & urban structure, energy and greenery (Kamata 2011). As discussed in the previous part, conservation of green spaces, farmland and urban greenery is essential as carbon sinks for the city. Besides, shifting from urban sprawl and diffusive urban structure to compact urban development is encouraged. Compact city in harmony with nature is an urban model that consists of station-centered communities with a mix of houses, stores, offices, and convenient facilities accessible mainly by public transportation, on foot, or by bicycle (City of Nagoya 2009). Many benefits of a low-carbon transport system are illustrated in figure 3.6. Public transportation is key for low-carbon city; together with policies to support local consumption of goods produced locally (Ecologist 2008). Many policies available to alleviate energy insecurity can also help to mitigate local pollution and climate change, as a triple-win outcome (IEA 2007). For examples, development in public transportation does not only conserve energy, but also relieve congestion, improve air quality, provide access for all (APTA 2008). Energy conservation and renewable energy In dealing with the energy issue, the first and foremost available strategy is energy conservation, through reducing energy waste and increasing energy efficiency. We should recognize the fact that in the mean time alternative energies can not replace fossil fuels at the scale, rate and manner at which the world currently consumes them. Moreover, the deepest roots of our current energy crisis lie on the patterns of wasteful production and consumption (Capra 1988). Therefore, what truly matters is profound change in our values, attitudes and lifestyle. Energy conservation is our short-term key energy source and will always be a good solution in the long run too. Energy conservation brings many benefits. It is low cost and available at all levels. Using less energy resource also means reducing pollution and environmental degradation, while
See more: Peak Moment TV program (2006) Learning from Cuba response to Peak Oil, interviewing Megan Quinn.


prolong fossil fuel supplies and buying time to phase in renewable energy. Saving energy can start just right at each individuals lifestyle. For examples: buy and use energyefficient devices, look for electronics that are rechargeable, walk or cycle for short trips, consider car-pooling or take public transport for longer ones, eat lower on the food chains, buy regionally and seasonally produced organic food whenever possible26 The list goes on, and every bit can help. Many measures can also be done on the technical sphere, where there is a lot of space for creative innovations. In housing, remarkable energy-saving can be achieved by improved heat insulation or green building design which takes advantages of natural elements like sun, wind, plants, trees, green-roofs instead of using air conditioning. Many intelligent lighting systems with energy-saving sensors have become widely used for hotels, official buildings. In transportation, energy-saving techniques can be attained through increasing fuel efficiency. In industry, the idea of co-generation, producing both heat and electricity from one energy source can be well applied. Eventually, we will use up non-renewable energy resources. From a long-term point of view, renewable ones are what we should rely on. The Sun shines for all of us, and the wind blows, free of charge. Although the equipments to collect solar and wind energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines cost money, when considering that the resource is taking for free, the overall cost of using solar and wind energy can make them smart choices. Renewable technology cost trends typically show a steep decline during last decades (NREL 2002), and that trends will continue to reach reasonable levels in the future as their markets expansion. Moreover, renewable energy are often clean, such as wind and sunshine, they do not emit smoke or create pollution. Others, such as biomass, almost always cause less pollution than fossil or nuclear alternatives. Renewable energies would bring a number of benefits to the economy. First, they help increase the diversity of energy supplies, and thus lower the dependency on imported fossil fuels and improve the security of energy supplies. Second, they help make use of local resources to provide a cost-effective energy supply while reducing regional and global greenhouse gas emissions. Since they are often flexible, small-scale designs, which
See more in the article on The Ecologist Magazine: 30 steps to an oil free world _to_an_oilfree_world.html


take the advantages of local conditions, they can be located close to the demand. Then, transmission and distribution costs are reduced, as well as losses. Finally, from the social point of view, renewable energies can create more domestic employment. Such benefits have created a strong motivation for pursuing renewable energies. The investment costs of renewable technologies have been reduced remarkably today and this makes renewable energies more attractive, quickly developed and expanded (Nguyen 2005). Future will belong to the age of Renewable Sources. It is also the scenario described in the Energy [R]evolution report, by the European Renewable Energy Council and Greenpeace (2007). The vision would be made by optimized integration of renewable energy, developing smart consumption, generation and distribution systems and maximizing the efficiency of building through better insulation. Solar faade would be a decorative element on office and apartment buildings. Rooftop wind and solar would be placed so that energy is generated close to the consumer. Clean electricity would also come from offshore wind parks or solar power station in deserts. Electricity would be much more prominent and become the principal source of energy for transportation, replacing gasoline and diesel fuels. Hydrogen can become a way of back-up to store solar, wind energy to use at night or during cloudy days (EREC & Green Peace 2007). Shifting to low-carbon economy means shifting to more diversified systems which maximize the use of locally available, environmental friendly resources. It is encouraging to know that we now have the technologies to build a new energy economy, one that is not climate-disruptive, that does not pollute air and that can last as long as the sun itself (Brown 2008). ICT for low-carbon urban development From mobile phone, computer, software to internet, information and communications technology (ICT) has become integrated in our everyday life and remarkably influenced our society in many levels. Recently, ICTs enormous potential in contributing towards a low-carbon society has been recognized and getting more and more attention. Using high technology, optical fiber, ultra-high speed, ultra-low power consumption network, nearly the most energy-efficient infrastructure, ICT can lead to smarter ways of doing and significantly reduce carbon footprint in cities (Yamakawa 2008). Efficiency of production and consumption can be improved. Movement of people and things can be reduced

through online shopping, e-service, online media, teleworking, virtual meeting. ICT can also support smart and integrated city planning, environmental management, urban monitoring.

E-learning E-Commerce E-Health

Paperless office




Smart Grids Smart Buildings Smart Logistics

Online Media

Figure 3.7 ICT applications for a low-carbon city

ICT can play crucial role in helping to improve energy efficiency in power transmission and distribution (smart grids), in smart buildings and factories, and in the use of transportation to deliver goods (smart logistics). They can also help in dematerialization27 and shifting to a circular economy, where resources are efficiently used (WWF & Ericsson 2009).

Dematerialisation can be applied to a range of current everyday practices and ultimately reduce the number of material objects that need to be produced. For example, online billing, online media replace paper and CDs, thus reduce the emissions associated with their manufacture and distribution (GeSI 2008).



3.3 Social connectedness and cultural vitality

When you are connected to yourself, you live with integrity you act on your values and you are committed to truth and honesty. When you are connected to others, you commit to living in community, to caring for the common good, and to working for equality, justice and democracy. You commit to living joyfully with family, friends and the wider community. When you are connected to the planet, you try to live more sustainably, not using up or destroying nature. (Andrews 2006) If the definition of a sustainable society involves meeting human needs, it is worth asking what human needs are, and whether or not the system we are designing meets real human needs in a synergistic and positively reinforcing way (Holocene 2004). According to Manfred Max-Neef28, most of our needs are related to the social (protection, affection, understanding, participation) and cultural (recreation, creation, identity) aspects of life. Once the basic need for subsistence has been met, the fundamental human needs are understood as an interrelated and interactive system, not as a hierarchy as postulated by Maslow29 (Hallsmith 2003). It was also reflected in the core principle of the Earth Charter Respect and Care for the community of life: to care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love; to build democratic societies that are just, sustainable, participatory and peaceful. Social and cultural sustainability has been considered as soft infrastructure which is vital for a healthy community. The social and cultural intertwined dimensions of urban sustainability embrace vision of a humane society, where compassion, mutual respect and care are nurtured, where sharing30 and cooperation become a celebrated social priority31. Where social capital is strong, communities exhibit high rates of volunteerism and citizen involvement as well as greater inclusion of all sectors of society in the social and cultural fabric. Also, a community that is rich in social capital provides a wealth of intelligence,

Manfred Max-Neef: a German-Chilean economist and environmentalist, mainly known for his human development model 29 Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow 30 10 ways our wolrd is becoming more shareable (Gorenflo & Smith 2010) 31 Earth 2.0 Sharing as one of the four chief operating principles of the Earth 2.0 upgrade



sensitivity, and wisdom that will underpin and support appropriate ecological, economic, and social sustainability strategies (Kingston 2010).

PUBLIC SPACES Communication Participation Interaction Empowerment Social Capital Equity Social networks Inclusiveness Shared knowledge Diversity & Tolerance Understandings Compassion & Love Mutual trust Care & Supporting Connectedness Sharing Social cohesion Peace & Security Solidarity Democracy Sense of Community Sense of Belonging Adequate & affordable housing Health & child care Volunteerism Community gardens Cultural Capital Traditions Ethics Arts & Creativity Recreation History & heritage Custom & lifestyle Spiritual values Sense of Place

Life-long education Common houses Festivals Community celebration

Figure 3.8 Social and cultural intertwined dimensions of urban sustainability

Social sustainability
According to the WACOSSs model, socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected, democratic and provide a good quality of life (Hodgson 2008). So, a sustainable city is a just and inclusive city, where benefits of development would be distributed fairly across society. It is a city for all, regardless of their status, gender, race, ethnicity or religion. An inclusive city provides the opportunities and support that enables all residents to develop fully and allow them access to decent housing, transport, education, recreation, communication, employment and the judiciary, as well as cultural and religious expression. In an inclusive city, residents take part in decision-making that

ranges from the political to issues of daily life. Such participation injects a sense of belonging, identity, place into residents, and guarantees them a stake in the benets of urban development (UN-HABITAT 2010). In an inclusive city, diversity is respected; people are tolerant of differences, and are openminded. This creates condition for true communication can develop. Communication leads to trust, trust to sharing, sharing to co-operation and thus community solidarity is strengthened. As human beings, we all need meaningful relationships with others, the sense of community, the sense of connectedness, knowing that another person cares, supports and looks out for us. This corresponds with Maslows need for love/belonging and Max-Neefs need for affection and participation. People with a strong sense of community are more likely to report being in good health and less likely to feel isolated than those that have a weak sense of community (Jochmann 2010). Research has shown that communities where there are high levels of volunteerism and many opportunities for people to have contact with others outside of work or school have more consensus and are more resilient (Hallsmith 2003). Thus, public spaces in city are very important for communication, interaction and exchange to build sense of community. Jan Gehl32 once said, a sustainable city would be a very people-friendly city. It would be a city with good public spaces and a city that is rather compact. It would be a city that really invites people to walk and bicycle as much as possible. Research also confirmed that individuals in more walkable neighborhoods tended to have higher levels of trust and community involvement, and also reported being in good health and happy more often than those in the less walkable neighborhoods (Williams 2011).

Jan Gelh Interview (2008): Making healthy cities



Cultural sustainability
UNESCO (1995) defined the cultural dimension of community development33 as being the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs. The basic role of art, culture, and heritage has long been to bring beauty, depth and meaning into our daily lives, they also nurture individual and community identity, promote social cohesion, and contribute to the creation of social capital (Kingston 2010). More and more, culture has been recognized as an essential dimension with the potential to transform communities and individuals in positive and meaningful ways over the long term. Jon Hawkes (2001) wrote The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Cultures Essential Role in Public Planning", recognizing that a communitys vitality and quality of life is closely related to the vitality and quality of its cultural engagement, expression, dialogue, and celebration34. Current main themes of cultural sustainability are summarized in box 3.4. Hawkes model demonstrates that the contribution of culture to building lively cities and communities plays a major role in supporting social and economic health (Duxbury and Gillette 2007). According to him, the key to cultural sustainability is fostering partnerships, exchange, and respect between different streams of government, business, and arts organizations.

Sustainable Future - Culture and Knowledge Workshop two/issues_brief 34 Models of sustainability incorporating culture:



Box 3.4 Key themes of cultural sustainability35

10 KEY THEMES OF CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY (Creative City Network, Canada 2007) 1. The culture of sustainability Changing peoples behavior and consumption patterns, and adapting to a more sustainability-conscious lifestyle. 2. Globalization & cultural identity Protecting local culture from globalization and market forces. 3. Heritage conservation Recognize the history of a place and its tangible and intangible attributes. Revitalizing and re-using heritage buildings for cultural facilities. 4. Sense of place Building sense of place through intimate connection with our natural environment and history. The importance of heritage and symbols, and the role of the arts in raising community awareness and interest in sustainability are recognized. 5. Indigenous knowledge & traditional practices Recovery and protection of cultural health, history, and the culture of indigenous knowledge in society. Storytelling is a tool to keep memories alive and celebrate history. 6. Community cultural development Using arts and culture as community-building tools to promote sense of place, empowerment, and public participation. Creative collaboration fosters social development and change. 7. Arts, education & youth The arts are seen as both development and communicative tools in communities and schools, as they increase the effectiveness of teaching, research, policy, and actions toward cultural sustainability and development. 8. Sustainable design Sustainable design is seen as a component of cultural sustainability. Supporting cultural identity can ensure the past is part of the present and will benefit the future. 9. Planning A cultural lens is needed in city planning and design. This requires community culture-based planning strategies that address civic identity, youth, multiculturalism, and other aspects of communities. 10. Cultural policy & local government The multidisciplinary nature of sustainable development requires that policies for sustainability transcend boundaries and integrate cultural aspects.

Creative City Network, Canada 2007: Ten key themes of cultural sustainability



Spiritual values We need a spiritual compass to find our direction in life. A spiritual compass can help us to navigate our path through confusion and crises, through the suffocating allure of materialism, and through delusion and despair (Kumar 2007). Spiritual values are essential as an inner guiding light which helps us to develop our worldview, to seek wisdom of truth and wholeness, to find meaning of our existence and to connect with a greater transcendent reality. Justice and compassion spring from the hearts of people who recognize our profound interdependence and interrelatedness with one another and the Earth (Lamborn 2010). Spiritual connection is the basis for love, compassion and community. Our desire to deeply connect can be the most powerful force for good (Jones et al. 2007). People with compassion have deep concern for social equality and justice; they want to see that all people and other existences are treated with dignity and love; they become more tolerant, more embracing, always ready to reach out to help, to support, and glorify others (Lin 2006). The virtues of justice, humility, service and compassion can motivate us to address our social and environmental challenges and to build a world of peace and harmony (Jones et al. 2007). Therefore, creating a culture of sustainability which cherishes those values of tolerance, love, care, respect is essential in empowering and transforming community towards a sustainable future.


3.4 Good governance

Good governance must be built from the ground up. It cannot be imposed, either by national authorities, or by international agencies. Good governance is the fruit of true dedication, selfless leadership, and a politics of integrity. (Annan 1997) Good governance plays a decisive role in urban management, planning and operating towards sustainability. While government is an entity (an official governing organization), governance refers to the process of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented (UNESCAP). These governing processes involve not only the state (government), but also the private sector and the whole civil society.


Civil Society
(NGOs, Community groups)


Private Sector

Figure 3.9 Three interrelated actors of governance

All three interconnected actors are critical for urban sustainability. Government creates a conducive political and legal environment; the private sector generates jobs and income; and civil society facilitates political and social interaction - mobilizing groups to participate in economic, social and political activities (UNDP 1997). Since each part has weaknesses and strengths, it is important for good governance to promote constructive interaction, partnership, cooperation and coherence among all three. Box 3.5 describes an ideal image of good governance, adapted from UNESCAP and UNDP. Main attributes of good governance are long term vision, openness - transparency, responsibility - accountability, equity - inclusiveness, democratic participation - citizen involvement, effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness to the needs of the people.

Box 3.5 Characteristics of good governance (UNESCAP36 & UNDP37)

KEY ATTRIBUTES OF GOOD GOVERNANCE (UNESCAP & UNDP) Participation All men and women should have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capacities to participate constructively. Rule of law Legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially. Transparency Transparency is built on the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them. Responsiveness Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe. Consensus oriented Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. Equity and inclusiveness A societys well being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being. Effectiveness and efficiency Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources. Accountability Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society organisations are accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders. Strategic vision Leaders and the public have a broad and long-term perspective on good governance and sustainable development. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.

UNESCAP, Good governance: 37 Governance for sustainable human development (UNDP 1997):



These features assure that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities and the needs of future generations are taken into account, and the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. Good governance also contributes to peace and security because it gives societies sound structures for inclusive, equitable economic and social development. In post-conflict settings, good governance can promote reconciliation and offer a path for consolidating peace (Annan 1997). Good governance demands the consent and the participation of the governed and the full and lasting involvement of all citizens (Annan 1997). Key strategies for cultivating good governance include developing more decentralized state, active civic organizations, and responsible private sectors (Wheeler et al. 2005). Decentralization is an important strategy to attain citizen involvement and government responsiveness. Since power and decisions are closer to local people, decentralized government is more knowledgeable and accessible. It can respond faster, more effectively to peoples needs, with more accountability and transparency. Resource use would be more equitable and the gap between the rich and the poor would be narrowed (Wheeler et al. 2005). As Kofi Annan once said (1997), good governance has to begin with the will of the people. The will of the people must be the basis of governmental authority. That is the foundation of democracy. Democratization is definitely vital in building good governance, but it requires mature civic awareness, ongoing education, the development of government structures, institutions, and time. Once established, democracies need to be tended carefully in order to stay healthy and provide good governance for the people (Wheeler et al. 2005). Nowadays, the development of ICTs promises a huge potential of facilitating governance processes. Core components of e-governance include e-participation, e-administration and e-service delivery38. E-governance can enhance government and public institution efficiency, transparency and accountability by providing better public service and information delivery to citizens and others. Moreover, e-governance fosters greater interaction between authorities and citizens, thus encouraging more public participation

Governance assessment portal:


and involvement. Various online tools can be used, such as RSS feeds, tag clouds, interactive map, webcasts for information; blogs, online polls for consultation; e-petitions, wikis, forum and virtual worlds for participation (WEF 2011). Social networks also support e-governance with more equity, decentralization and democratization. On the other hand, e-governance can make a significant positive impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions through the dematerialization of public service delivery. Many paper-based services can be digitalized and situations where face-to-face interaction has been previously required (to prove identity) can be done virtually (GeSI 2008).


4. Urban Sustainability & Public Perceptions

If you want to build sustainable cities you have to take into consideration the thoughts and values of the citys inhabitants. (Paul Sinclair)39 While chapter 3 trying to search for suggestions on principles and models of urban sustainability from expert views, chapter 4 explores how these ideas are perceived from public perspectives, how people envision their desirable cities, and among many aspects of urban development, what matter most to them. Moreover, opinions of HCMC residents on current urban development of the city were also collected. Concepts of urban sustainability researched in chapter 3 were utilized to develop the questionnaires in chapter 4. The interrelated dimensions of urban sustainability described in chapter 3, which are ecological balance, economic development, social cohesion, cultural vitality and good governance, were integrated in the public surveys as features of a desirable city. Ecological balance is associated with a green city. Low-carbon economic development is manifested through characteristics of a regenerative, smart and connected city with renewable energy, waste recycling, bicycle friendly and walkable neighborhoods... Social cohesion and cultural vitality correspond to attributes of a human-friendly and interesting city, a city with sense of place. And in general, good governance is responsible for all of these good practices, particularly for a just and inclusive city. In fact, these features are not clearly categorized into any dimensions but they are interconnected, interactive and complementary to each other.

Professor of African and Comparative Archaeology at Uppsala University, mentioned in Mistra article on the Urban Mind research, The evolution of cities a mental process.



4.1 Results from global online survey

The global online survey was launched on 10th of May, 2011 at the link below and since then it has been promoted through social networks, blogs and mail groups such as Wiser Earth, Facebook, YES Alumni, ERM, Scribd

Sample of the questionnaire from this global online survey is attached in the appendix I. The last respondent was recorded on 13th June, 2011. Profile of respondents Total: 175 respondents

80% 60% 40%

Female 65%


Male 35%

29% 7%

20% 2% 0% < 18 18-30 31-40

3% 51-60

2% >60


Figure 4.1 Profile of respondents by gender and age

There are 175 responses in total from all over the world (table 4.1), in which 61 respondents (35%) are male and 114 respondents (65%) are female. Most of the respondents are from Asia and Europe (fig. 4.2).


Table 4.1 Respondents distribution by country

Asia Bangladesh India Indonesia Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kuwait Malaysia Myanmar Philippines Saudi Arabia Singapore Thailand Vietnam Africa Zimbabwe Australia Australia Europe Albania Austria Belgium Czech Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Ireland Italy Kosovo Netherlands Romania Russia Spain Sweden Switzerland Ukraine North America Canada USA Latin America Brazil Costa Rica Ecuador Mexico

1 6 1 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 44

3 3 2 1 1 1 4 1 34 1 1 2 3 2 2 1 1 2 1

5 20

2 1 1 2

50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%



14.29% 3.43% 3.43%





North America

Latin America


Figure 4.2 Distribution of respondents by region


Environment - Conservation Other Education - Academic Engineering - Industry Non-profit, NGOs ICTs Government Medical - Health care Agriculture - Forestry Banking - Finance Services - Entertainment Media
0% 7.43% 6.29% 4.57% 2.86% 2.29% 1.71% 1.14% 1.14% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 17.71% 13.71% 11.43%




Figure 4.3 Profile of respondents by professional sector

The respondents come from diverse professional sectors as displayed in fig. 4.3, in which the highest share is environment/conservation (nearly 30%). Respondents perception on a dream city City size - Population

> 10 millions 5 - 10 millions 1 - 5 millions 500,000- 1 million 100,000-500,000 10,000-100,000 < 10,000

1.71% 2.86% 17.71% 16.00% 19.43% 24.57% 17.71% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30%

Figure 4.4 Respondents choice on the population of their dream city 45

Results of respondents perception on the size of their dream city in terms of population are shown in fig. 4.4. The responses are various, with the highest share (24.57%) for cities responses with population of 10,000 100,000 inhabitants. It is interesting to note that nearly one onefifth of the respondents (17%) even chose the smallest size available (cities with less than 10,000 inhabitants). Only few respondents chose cities with more than 5 millions abitants). inhabitants to megacities and mostly people who chose these options also come from cities with large population (Mexico, Madrid, Almedabad, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). A city with sense of place Figure 4.5 shows respondents perception on sense of place with nearly all features listed received ticks from more than 50% respondents, among that, local nature and urban designs get the highest rates of around 70%. It is sense of belonging that make people feel emotional attached to a place and the identity that make one city different from the others. Many factors contribute to sense of a place, such as its people (sense of community), its commu culture, tradition, customs and history, its nature, its architectures

Local biodiversity and natural landscape Urban designs Culture and historic preservation Sense of community Local food and tradition
0% 20% 40% 51.43% 60%

71.43% 69.71% 63.43% 62.29%


Figure 4.5 Respondents perception on sense of place

Respondents perceive variously on sense of place. Some likes a quiet and ancient city (M, 18-30, HCMC)40, some likes a simple and less complicated one (F, 18-30, Amman), some likes a more international one (F, 31-40, Helsinki), and another prefers a city with 31 40, good sense of humor and fun (F, >60, Eugene). One respondent (F, 18-30, Brisbane) 18 30,


Note: content in the blankets gives briefly reference to the respondent quoted (gender, range of age, city/ country)


associates sense of place with high levels of creativity and encouragement of exploration and development of creative and spiritual life, others with well integrated living, entertainment and business districts (F, 18-30, New York) or strong sense of safety and trust, no fear of violence (F, 18-30, Berkeley). A human friendly city Openness and friendliness are very important factors of a desirable city. A respondent from Berlin (F, 18-30) perceives this attribute as a social spirit to remove negative thoughts/feelings and actions, and another respondent from Brisbane (F, 31-40) associates it with assumption of genuine respect for all.

I love cities where people give you hospitality, synergies... Cities, where people shows love and optimism on their faces... I also love to have big or very big green spaces in city. Its so kind to see people of different ages and different social classes, all together. Because it doesn't matter if you are a poor or a rich one, life is a miracle and everyone have the full right to enjoy it..... (F, 18-30, Tirana, Albania)

Even a nearly perfect city in terms of environmental quality and economics may be undesirable if it is not human friendly.

I do live in Trento which could be even considered a perfect city BUT people are not really friendly and open. Besides that, although the CITY is very nice, it's inside a country and a context. The country has several problems which end up to influence it as well. In an even more idealistic consideration, although Trento could be a perfect city I suppose it's also from the human nature to miss what you don't have... especially considering relationships with friends and family (who lives in a very imperfect city, in the other side of the world...) (F, 31-40, Trento, Italy)

This attribute is strongly confirmed from the results illustrated in fig. 4.6, with all listed features of a human friendly city received ticks from more than 70% respondents. In which embracing cultural diversity, welcoming to people of diverse cultures and backgrounds has the highest record of nearly 90%.


Embracing cultural diversity Having great public spaces Open-minded and helpful people minded
0% 20% 40% 60% 72.00%


71.43% 80% 100%

Figure 4.6 Respondents perception on a human friendly city

This attribute does not only manifest through the characteristics of the people (open (openminded and helpful) but also from well and thoughtful urban designs of public spaces, which encourage social interaction and cultural exchange. Respondents suggested for a human friendly city included technology and housing design that forces people to interact, affordable housing that prevents the rich living in one area and the poor in another - mixed income housing (F, 18-30, New York), affordable living and living 18 wages available to all, free (government funded) access to basic services (F, 31 31-40, Berkeley). A human friendly is also a city of tolerance, with dedication to helping those with in economic need or otherwise suffering, creative ways of handling conflict (F, 31 31-40, Philadelphia). A green city It seems that a green city needs no explanation. Green, nature and environmental quality is one core pillar of sustainability. It is also desirable by most of us.

I had a chance to live one year in Cottbus in Brandenburg and I loved it, for many reasons. People travelling by bike, amazing surrounding of the city, many cultural events organized by University and/or the city itself. The development is to be seen in there...many green areas, many quiet areas. The impact of the university is very v visible. I would love to live in such a city. (F, 18-30, Prague, Czech)


Many parks in the city, lots of trees on the streets Urban gardens, plant pots on balconies, green roofs Fresh air and clean water
0% 20% 40% 60%



72.57% 80% 100%

Figure 4.7 Respondents perception on a green city

Figure 4.7 shows high agreement on that. The models of urban garden, green roofs are also highly welcomed (86%). Respondents added some more models such as abundant local food crops grown commonly in public spaces (F, 31-40, Berkeley), buildings that 31 rkeley), are covered in greenery green faade, vertical gardens and fly-over gardens (F, 18 fly over 18-30, New York). A regenerative city It is quite encouraging to see that nearly all sustainable listed features for a regenerative city received high rates of ticks (more than 70%), in which the two most equally concerned are waste recycling and renewable energies (82%).

Separating and recycling/composting wastes Renewable energies Green buildings using local, renewable materials Energy conservation and energy efficiency Rainwater harvesting
0% 20% 40% 60%

82.29% 82.29% 75.43% 74.86% 72.00% 80% 100%

Figure 4.8 Respondents perception on a regenerative city Respond


Waste treatment is one of the most important issues nowadays and it should be applied in every city. As an incentive to separate the waste, Germany got it with the system of "pfand": a small charge when you buy bottles of glass or plastic and you get the money back when you give back the bottles. It can alienate poverty a little, it encourages the waste separation and millions of bottles are reused (for plastic bottles, it's a rare thing!!). (F, 18-30, Cottbus, Germany)

One respondent from New York (M, 31-40) recommended his favorite Hammarby Model41, a district project in Stockholm, Sweden which attempts at a balanced, closedloop urban metabolism, considering the unified infrastructure of energy, water and waste. A smart and connected city Figure 4.9 shows results of public perceptions on a smart and connected city with models of using ICTs such as E-governance, to improve public services and interactions between citizens and government, making government more accountable, transparent and effective; and applications of ICTs in urban management such as transportation.

Active citizen participation in decision making E-governance Use of ICT, GPS in traffic management, lighting systems
0% 20% 40%



54.86% 60% 80%

Figure 4.9 Respondents perception on a smart and connected city

It turned out that the most concerned was given to the feature of active citizen participation in decision making (72%), followed by e-governance (67%). Though the

A Hammarby Project, Stockholm, Sweden: In addition to the Hammarby Model infrastructure, the presence of urban-scaled density, access to multiple modes of transit with an emphasis on reduced car commuting, preservation and restoration of existing natural systems, and progressive construction and housing policies make Hammarby Sjostad an effective demonstration that ecological and urban go together by means of comprehensive planning.


applications of ICTs in urban management promise high potential, this idea was interested to only more than half of the respondents. A bicycle friendly city with walkable neighborhoods Again, like in the case of a regenerative city, nearly all main features of a bicycle friendly city with walkable neighborhoods are highly welcomed (more than 70%), with the most agreed was attributed to a diverse and efficient public transportation (87%).

Diverse and efficient public transit Services, transport stations in walkable distances Bicycles for short distances Pedestrianised downtown Car sharing or car rental models
0% 20% 40% 51.43% 60% 80%

87.43% 75.43% 72.57% 69.71%


Figure 4.10 Respondents perception on sustainable urban mobility Less cars and more green spaces! Social, cultural, ess leisure infrastructure for everybody, not only in the everybody city center!

(M, 31-40, 40, Bremen, Germany)

This model also received many comments from respondents, mostly expressing their supporting. Some respondents expected their dream city with no cars (M, 18 18-30, Vienna), or with bicycles even for long distances (M, 41 41-50, Stockholm), or suggested road designs ), that enable people to walk/use bicycles (F, 31-40, Tampere). 31
I would love to visit Curitiba in Brazil. They learned the hard way how to live in community and take care of their city because it belongs to everyone. Jobs are close people's homes so the distance that they walk or take a bike ride is minimum. (F, 18-30, Guayaquil, Ecuador) Ecuador 51

An interesting city A desirable city would be an interesting city with diverse activities of services, entertainment and recreation, a city where community arts, music, dance and celebrations are fostered, a city encourages innovations and creativity. The results from figure 4.11 shows that high percentages of respondents share these ideas.

Community arts, music, dance and celebrations are fostered Lively urban life



A city of innovations and creativity

0% 20% 40% 60%

65.14% 80%

Figure 4.11 Respondents perception on an interesting city

A city that enables (young) people to start their small and medium sized enterprises or projects - small shops, local products, local art productions... (M, 18-30, Bern, Switzerland)

Respondents suggested city to have its own libraries and museums (M, 18 18-30, HCMC), arts and creativity education and training (M, 31-40, New York), putting universities in the 31 40, centre to encourage young people into the city (F, 18-30, New York). 18 A just and inclusive city
Well I guess better cities is where people are treated the same and have ell ame equal opportunities. It is the city where justice is not in the hand of a I particular person, it is where a law goes over everyone no matter who he is or from where he comes from. (F, 18-30, Amman, Jordan) Jordan


A desirable city would be not only human friendly but also humane; an inclusive city e which embraces all its people, regardless of their race, gender, age, or social and economic status. Figure 4.12 shows a high agreement of respondents on features of an inclusive city, ci with the highest interested was attributed to education and job opportunities for all, special assistance for people with disability (88%), followed by good quality, affordable housing available for the poor (75%) and good health care and public services accessible to all services (74%).

Education and job opportunities for all. Assistance for people with disability. Good quality, affordable housing available for the poor. Good health care and public services are accessible to all
0% 20% 40% 60%






Figure 4.12 Respondents perception on a just and inclusive city

Respondents suggestions for an inclusive city included encouraging citizens in collaboration, in taking parts of planning the local education, health-care and politic health care activities (F, 18-30, Chiang Mai), public transport suitable for people with disability (F, 30, 31-40, Tampere), high salaries for socially concentrated jobs (F, 18-30, Berlin) and an 40, 18 30, efficient social work system (M, 18-30, HCMC). 18 More respondents ideas on their desirable city ents
No cars/only public transport (generated by renewable energies), cradle c to grave - management concerning products, general environmental awareness among citizens, urban gardening all along city (everyone responsible for own food) (F, 18-30, Berlin, Germany) Minimize home sizes. Reduce consumerism. Take a step back and have jobs that pertain to local growth, development and prosperity.

(F, 31-40, Sacramento, USA)


I'm a public librarian. I think places like public libraries are vital to healthy cities. We grant people of diverse ages, social and economic backgrounds the opportunity a shared space for cultural enrichment, educational advancement and the evolution of community. (F, 18-30, Philadelphia, USA)

Decentralization: Local government is fully and independently responsible for governing and managing local city with meaningful participation of its own people. (F, 18-30, Chiang Mai, Thailand)

I am living in Hanoi. I want our city to be greener by fewer motorbikes & cars, instead, more bicycles should be used. Moreover, there should be more trees on the streets, more public parks and our city should keep the lakes as they are specialty of Hanoi. Better governance via less corruption & better management systems are required for traffic, health care, etc. (F, 18-30, Hanoi, Vietnam)


Respondents perception on the significance of urban aspects What aspect of a city that makes people love to live there? What matters most to them? Figure 4.13 presents the average results of respondents rating the significance of some main urban aspects on the scale of 1-5 (1: least important, 5: most important). The results show that all aspects listed are important to people, according to respondents perception (all average points > 3.3). What matters most to people does vary. However, on average, good public services, health care, education, nature & green, good governance and sense of community weight the higher points.

Good public services, health care, education Nature and green Good governance Sense of community Economic opportunities Lively urban life Urban design History and culture 0 1

4.349 4.145 3.846 3.844 3.753 3.740 3.444 3.379 2 3 4 5

Figure 4.13 Respondents perception on the significance of various urban aspects [Scale of 1 (least important) - 5 (most important)]

Besides those factors rated, some respondents also gave more comments on the features of a city that they like and what matters most to them.
Safety and good governance, equity, and job opportunities are of great importance to me.

(F, 31-40, Mexico City)


For me, the people in the community are taking charge of their own spiritual and material development and are contributing to the process of decision making, change etc. (F, 18-30, Melaka, Malaysia)

Unfortunately nothing else matters when deciding in which city I live than a job :/ But naturally if I would not need to think of a job, the other matters would become more important. (F, 31-40, Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica)

A city where I want to live the most is close to my family, relatives and friends. It should close to the beach, or mountain, or fountain, forest, the field, farm... (F, 18-30, Bien Hoa, Vietnam)

I've lived in several cities. Munich was the best life, but the weather was crappy and the culture could have been better. Plus, it lacked inclusiveness and community. But for transport, health, economy, design, greenness, parks, and resource care it was far better than Buenos Aires, NYC, San Jose, Costa Rica, and Washington DC. NYC is the best by far for culture, design, and neighborhoodiness, economy is generally great too, green stuff is so-so. Buenos Aires was not so good apart from design, economy (when I was there), and culture is great. San Jose is not so good but at least has the basics covered with health and water quality, but people are friendly and the lifestyle is laid back. Economy is so so. A combination of parts of all those cities could be included in my ideal city.

(M, 31-40, New York, USA)


4.2 Results from surveys in HCMC

4.2.1 Results from online and offline questionnaires
The questionnaire in Vietnamese exclusively prepared for residents of HCMC was launched both online (link below) and offline (distributed in papers for people writing their opinions and then collected) on 28th of May 2011. The last online respondent was recorded on 16th of June, 2011. Sample of the questionnaire from this survey for HCMC is attached in the appendix II. Profile of respondents Total: 78 responses, in which 26 online and 52 offline respondents42, (39 male and 39 female). Respondents ages range from 19 to 66 years old (fig. 4.14), in which most of them are in the age range of 18-40.
50% 40% 30%
Male 50% Female 50%



20% 10% 0% 18-30 31-40 41-50 8.97%

16.67% 6.41%



Figure 4.14 Profile of respondents by gender and age

The number of offline respondents was higher than 52. However, because some responses were not appropriate (lack of respondents information or only few questions were answered), these have to be left aside.



Services 4% Other 14%

Architect 9% Business 9%

Office 14%

Education 21%

Engineering 29%

Figure 4.15 Profile of respondents by professional sector

Respondents professions are varied as illustrated in figure 4.15. Respondents perception on a desirable city City size - Population

> 1 million 500,000 - 1 million < 500,000

0% 8.97% 20%

29.49% 61.54%




Figure 4.16 Respondents choice on the population of their desirable city

Results of respondents perception on the population of their desirable city are shown in fig. 4.16 with the most favorite attributed to 500,000 1 million inhabitants (61.54%). Only 9% of respondents prefer small city with less than 500,000 inhabitants.


Table 4.2 presents peoples responses on 19 features of a desirable city with 5 options: like very much, like, dont care, dont know and dont like.
Table 4.2 Peoples responses on characteristics of a desirable city
Like very much

Characteristics of a desirable city


Dont care

Dont know (?)

Dont like

1. Many gardens, parks, trees on the streets



2. Urban designs are harmonious with natural landscape and surroundings.



3. Urban heritages are well preserved.




4. Original, having identity.




5. Sense of place, sense of belonging (landscape, people, gastronomy, culture)





6. Strong community sense, supporting and loving community




7. Friendly and open-minded people. Diversity and differences are respected.




8. Many public spaces for community activities, cultural and social exchanges




9. Interesting urban life, many entertainment and recreational areas, theatres, restaurants





10. Slumless. City has good quality social housing program. Everybody has a decent place to live.





Characteristics of a desirable city

Like very much


Dont care

Dont know (?)

Dont like

11. Social justice: Every citizen is respected and treated equally. Inclusive city which cares for the marginal groups and has policies to assist the poor, people with disability, especially in terms of accessibility to education, health care and job opportunities




12. A humane economy: social responsible enterprises which have safe working conditions for labors, reasonable working time, holidays and decent wages





13. A green economy: green business with environmental consciousness, energy and resource saving, using renewable energies, local and natural materials.





14. E-governance: more transparent, effective and responsive, increasing interaction between citizens and decision-makers. Public and administrative services are made quickly by internet.






15. Wastes are classified, then go for composting or recycling





16. Urban designs encourage rainwater infiltration to replenish groundwater and mitigate urban flood. Rainwater harvesting can also be done at household scales.





17. Diverse, developed and convenient public transportation system.




18. Pedestrianized downtown. Encouraging bicycling culture (healthy, environmental friendly, energy saving, less traffic).





19. Urbanization is controlled. Good urban planning, preserving farm land, green spaces for microclimate regulation.






Results from table 4.2 show that, most of the ideas for a sustainable city are desirable, especially these features of greening in the city, urban design that are harmonious with natural landscape and the surrounding (100%), social justice (98%), sense of community (99%), waste recycling (95%) and convenient public transport (98%). However, there are still respondents with no interest (dont care), though in small percentages, particularly in issues of urban heritage preservation (9%), openness, friendliness, tolerance of differences and embracing cultural diversity (8%), e-governance (9%), bicycling culture and walkable downtown (12%). The features that some people still have no ideas (dont know) are rainwater infiltration (8%), green economy (4%), control of urbanization (4%) and e-governance (3%). More comments from respondents Most of respondents dream of a city that is green, clean, beautiful, safe, slumless, no more traffic jam and flooding, convenient public transit, a city with high level of public awareness, diverse play grounds for children, democratization in community Respondents perception on Saigon - Ho Chi Minh city What people like best about Saigon - What people like best about Saigon do vary. For some respondents, it is just because Saigon is their hometown where their family and friends are living, their birthplace with memories from childhood. For some other respondents, it is Saigons people, those open-minded and friendly Saigoneses that they like the best. Some respondents expressed their nostalgia of an old Saigon, with graceful colonial buildings, old big trees along old green streets, while others prefer a modern, dynamic Saigon. In general, people love Saigon because of its interesting and diverse urban life and services, its promising opportunities for jobs, education, and recreation. What people do not like most about Saigon - What people do not like most about Saigon is quite united, with high consensus of opinions on problems of traffic jam, pollution and flooding. Most of respondents shared the same disappointment on the citys too much


crowded and overloaded infrastructure, bad transport system. Noise, wastes, lack of green, bad planning and low public awareness were also mentioned. Respondents perception on HCMCs urban performance With the scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (excellent), people were asked to give their assessment on HCMCs performance in various urban aspects. The results of this evaluation are illustrated in figure 4.17 below.
Job opportunities, economic development Openness and friendliness Education Health care Sense of community, supporting and caring Architecture, designs, landscape Identity Urban heritage conservation Green and public spaces Social justice Infrastructure Urban management Transportation Environmental quality 0 1 2 3 4 6.53 6.45 6.44 5.95 5.90 5.56 5.30 5.21 5.07 4.97 4.53 4.16 3.99 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.23

Figure 4.17 Evaluation HCMCs performance on various urban aspects [Scale of 1 (bad) - 10 (excellent)]

Figure 4.17 shows that, in general, HCMC got quite low scores on its functioning, particularly in environmental quality, transportation, urban management and infrastructure. Job opportunities and economic development is the only aspect which was perceived as good.


4.2.2 Results from interviews in slum areas

The fieldwork study at some slum areas in Ho Chi Minh City, interviews of slum dwellers, had been conducted from 11th to 22nd of May 2011. The questions are flexible to be appropriate in their specific contexts and situations (semi-structure), the main outline of question sample is attached in appendix III. Profile of interviewees Total: 57 interviewees (43 female and 14 male). Profile of respondents by gender, age and occupation is illustrated in figure 4.18 and figure 4.19. Their ages range from 16 to 81 years old. Some photos from the interviews are shown in figure 4.20.
30% 22.81%

26.32% 21.05%





0% 16-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 >60

Figure 4.18 Profile of respondents by gender and age


Other (jobless, retired) Housewives Small business (informal sector, street vendors, tailors) Hired labors, workers 0% 10% 19.30% 15.79% 20% 30%

33.33% 31.58%


Figure 4.19 Profile of respondents by occupation


Figure 4.20 Photos from interviews in the slum areas (HCMC, May 2011)


Slum-dwellers and the urban aspects that matter most to them dwellers When asked what their dream in life is, many interviewees referred to a decent house, or even a small shelter on their own land, a more stable life, earning enough money to sustain their living.

Economic opportunities Safety, security Sense of community Public services, health care and education No flooding Urban governance, transparent, accountable Urban life, entertainment, recreation Nature and green spaces Urban design History and culture
0 3 2 1 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 16 12 22 31 49



Figure 4.21 Interviewees priorities on top 3 of urban aspects matter most to them [Sum of points on priority, top 1st = 3 points, 2nd = 2 points, 3rd = 1 point]

Interviewees were asked to give their priorities on top 3 of the aspects of a living place that matter most to them. The factors listed are as the same as the list in figure 4.13 for at global online survey with 2 more additions (safety, security and no flooding) suggested by the slum-dwellers themselves. Their responses were converted into points (top 1st = 3 dwellers (t points, 2nd = 2 points, 3rd = 1 point) and then sum of all the points for each aspect was calculated and presents in figure 4.21. Results from figure 4.21 show that interviewees put the highest weight on economic opportunities (jobs), followed by safety and security, and by sense of community. Observation from fieldstudy in these slum areas also showed that nearly most of the interviewees have to struggle in life with very low condition of living. When basic subsistence needs have not been met yet, sustainability is only a very far away dream, which sometimes seems to not exist in their perception.


5. Conclusion & Recommendation

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision fails due to lack of direction. Vision with action can change the world. (Shahmardaan)

5.1 Concluding remarks

From the principles of Earth Charter or One Planet Living to models created by think tank of Philips Center or Ecocity Builders, sustainability has been envisioned in an integrated framework of interrelated dimensions. Cities and human systems are considered as parts of larger natural ecosystems and socio-economic communities, in which all things are linked to each other in the web of life. Thus, urban sustainability can only be achieved with a systems approach which recognizes this profound interconnectedness. Urban sustainability visions are not fixed images but rather flexible and evolutionary perspectives. The core philosophy of sustainability lies in the appreciation of nature as the symbol of integrity, stability and beauty. Thus, a sustainable city would be a green city, in which nature is well protected and integrated harmoniously in urban design and planning. Moreover, there is no concept of waste in nature, energy and materials flow and regenerate through ongoing cycles. Thus, a sustainable city would be a regenerative city, which applies natures wisdom in its waste recycling and using local, renewable material and energy. Respecting nature, living more simply within the Earths limits and reducing our impact on the Earths resources, this implies the moderation in population reproduction, economic production and consumption. These are crucial steps towards a low-carbon economy, particularly in the context of Peak Oil, climate change and resource depletion. Written beautifully in the Earth Charter, the key principle of sustainability is care for the community of life, with understanding, compassion and love. Sustainability cherishes sense of community, social capital, solidarity and a culture of peace with mutual respect, sharing and caring. Cooperation rather than competition with nature and with each other is advocated. Above all, happiness, which is the real meaning of life, does not lie on materials terms alone but rather on our spiritual and social relationship in community.


A sustainable city would be a human friendly city. This human friendliness does not come only from its open-minded, helpful and friendly people but also this attribute can be manifested and fostered by thoughtful urban design and planning, which encourage social interaction and cultural exchange through public spaces, walkable neighborhoods Any imbalance or injustice implies unstability and high potential risk of collapse, thus it can not sustain in the long run. Beside ecological balance, a sustainable city would be a city of social and economic justice because equity is another primary principle of sustainability. A sustainable city would not only be human friendly but also humane; an inclusive city which embraces all its people, regardless of their race, gender, age, social or economic status. On the other hand, culture of sustainability appreciates tolerance of differences, and diversity is seen as source of richness rather than conflicts. Ideals of democracy, accountability, transparency and inclusive decision making are essential attributes of good governance, which in turn plays a vital role as guiding forces for cities on the journey toward sustainability. Since actors of governance comprise not only the government but also the private sector and civil society, active citizen participation is vital to the success of urban sustainability. Nowaday, with the development of web 2.0, e-governance and other ICT applications in urban management and operation promise huge potential in improving public services as well as enhancing citizen participation and interaction in decision making.

5.2 Recommendations for HCMC

A sustainable city is also a desirable and loveable city. This is confirmed through the global online survey and the questionnaire for HCMCs residents in which sustainability models are welcomed by most of respondents. On the other hand, reflection on reality of HCMCs urban performance presents quite a pessimistic picture. HCMC in perceptions of respondents is still far away from urban sustainability visions. Many problems of traffic, pollution, flooding, overload infrastructure, noise, lack of green and public spaces, corruption and bad planning pose great challenges to sustainable development of this soon-to-be megacity. This implies that, although compact development is a good and efficient model, it would functions positively only when there is reasonable size of population within its carrying and management capacity, plus good governance and urban planning that harmonious with local nature.

In addition, observation from the field study at some slum areas in HCMC also shows that there are many people still live in very bad conditions and everyday still have to struggle to survive. Sustainability would be a very far away dream if the basic subsistence needs have not been met. Therefore, the city should assist the poor through social housing, health care policies, job opportunities, especially in terms of accessibility to education and training. Because in the long run, public empowerment is crucial to win over poverty and to go further on the way toward future urban sustainability. Better public transportation system, well-organized, diverse and efficient is needed for crowded HCMC. Public transportation should be more comfortable as the quality of service should be improved so that it can be more attractive and become priority in peoples choice, beside affordability. Walkability and cyclability should be integrated into public transportation system. Pedestrians and cyclists should be encouraged through incentive policies and programmes. On the other hand, limitation of cars and motorbikes, particularly in central downtown can help saving energy, improving environment and community sense with safer traffic, better public interaction and less pollution. Urbanization should be approached with precaution. Systems thinking and long term perspectives should be applied in strategic urban planning. Scenarios of climate change, risk of salination, flooding and their impacts should be taken into account to prepare for adaptation and mitigation. Some current new urban projects expanding into low lying land and highly sensitive areas such as Thu Thiem, new harbour in Nha Be, tourist city in Can Gio (the UNESCO biosphere reserve) should be re-examined very carefully. Farm lands and green spaces should be preserved for microclimate regulation, water retention, urban biodiversity as well as food security and other beneficial ecosystem services. Greening the city activities should be encouraged such as planting street trees, building community gardens, parks, covering city with flowers, plants wherever possible (abandoned lots, balconies, roofs) to make city more beautiful and refreshing. Urban designs such as green pavement, waterparks can facilitate rainwater infiltration to replenish groundwater and mitigate urban flood. Cisterns can be used at household level to catch and channel rainwater for non-drinking purposes.

It is necessary for HCMC to start as soon as possible integrated waste management instead of current landfilling method otherwise later HCMC will inevitably face the waste crisis. It should be noted that, reducing waste, separating waste at source and recycling can only be promoted efficiently with enhanced public awareness. Cleaner, renewable energies and their supporting infrastructure should be taken into consideration in the long term development of the city. Some examples can be the model of solar street lighting, solar-panel on roof of big buildings, cleaner fuels for public transportation Capacity building, public awareness raising and education for sustainability Good leadership with urban sustainability vision is required for future success of a city. Moreover, active citizen participation is also vital. Thus, capacity building for local managers, officers, as well as education and public awareness raising can be powerful tools for positive social change and for nurturing a culture of sustainability. A proposal concept for a course on sustainability is attached as appendix IV in the annex. In general education for sustainability should be integrated creatively43 at all level of education system and even should start at family education. Holistic perception is necessary for humanity to live sustainably by understanding our co-existence on this planet, how we are interconnected and mutually interdependent. This leads us to cooperate with all other humans and other living beings, and encourages a meaningful lifestyle in which we live more close to nature, more simply but healthily and richly. Therefore, education should place a high focus on living values, building inner strength and interpersonal skills, fostering compassion, respect and understanding, celebrating diversity, multicultures, equality and social responsibility. A holistic education aims for future citizens who live with love and care, who find joy in services and who appreciate the Good, the True and the Beautiful in life.

Beside conventional teaching, we can apply various creative ways of education such as teaching by being examples (green teachers); team work to teach cooperative spirit; experience-based learning, through school gardens, working in the field, helping other people in need, voluntary services in local community; visual learning with the help of movies, audio, documentaries, internet; project-based learning, problembased learning; excursions to natural sites, forests, national parks; learning through arts; teaching meditation for children to help them improving concentration, having inner peace and developing spirituality



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APPENDIX I Sample of Global Online Survey

Link: What kind of city/community do you want to live in? How do you envision it? Please feel free to share with us your ideas. We're eager to hear from you! Many thanks in advance. :-) About You Your age Your gender

Where do you live? (Name of the city/community and the country, for example: Hanoi, Vietnam)

Your occupation or profession: Which sector do you work in? (or if you are a student: What is your major field of study?) Characteristics of Your Desirable City Please relax and give us opinions about the city of your dream. :-) Size - Population A City with Sense of Place. Sense of belonging, place attachment and identity (Please tick all options that apply)

Caring, familiar neighborhood with a strong sense of community Strong sense of place by culture and historic preservation Strong sense of place by local biodiversity and natural landscape Beautiful urban designs that are harmonious with surroundings Original local food and traditions Other: A Human Friendly City (Please tick all options that apply)

Great public spaces for lively human interaction, social and cultural exchange. Welcoming to people of diverse cultures and backgrounds Open-minded and helpful people Other: A Green City (Please tick all options that apply)

Many parks in the city, lots of trees on the streets Urban gardens, plant pots on balconies, green roofs, community gardens... Fresh air and clean water 75

Other: A Regenerative City (Please tick all options that apply)

Renewable energies are used Energy conservation and energy efficient appliances are used Many green buildings using local, renewable materials Wastes are separated at sources and then go for composting or recycling. Rainwater is collected to avoid urban flooding and for groundwater renewal. Other: A Smart and Connected City (Please tick all options that apply)

E-governance (use of ICT to improve public services and interactions between citizens and government, making government more accountable, transparent and effective). Active citizens participation in decision - making Use of ICT, GPS in traffic management, lighting systems... Other: A Bicycle-Friendly City - Walkable Neighborhoods (Please tick all options that apply) Well-organized, diverse and efficient public transport system

Bicycles are used for short distances. There is encouraging cycling culture. Services, transport stations are in walkable distances City centre is pedestrianised Car sharing or car rental models are available Other: An Interesting City (Please tick all options that apply) Lively urban life with diverse activities of services, entertainment and recreation

A city of innovations and creativity Community arts, music, dance and celebrations are fostered Other: An Inclusive City - Social Justice (Please tick all options that apply)

Good quality, affordable housing available for the poor. Education and job opportunities for all. Special concern and assistance for people with disability. Good health care and public services are accessible to all. Other:


What aspect of a city that makes you love to live there? What matters most to you? Please rate the following aspects (1: least important, 5: most important) 1 Economic opportunities Caring and friendly people, strong sense of community Beautiful urban designs Natural landscape, green spaces History and cultural tradition, celebration Good urban governance, transparent, accountable Good public services, health care and education Lively urban life More comment (Optional): Any ideas to make better cities that you want to share with us? Or where in the world do you want to live, and why? Please feel free to leave your comment here. 2 3 4 5


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APPENDIX II Sample of Survey in HCMC

BN THM D KIN V TH V PHT TRIN Chn thnh cm n bn chu kh dnh cht thi gian cho bn thm d kin ny! Tn ca bn: __________________________________ Tui: ____ Ngh nghip: __________________________________ I. Thnh ph m c. Bn thch sng trong mt thnh ph: 1. a. nh, < 500.000 dn b. trung bnh, 500.000 1 triu dn c. ln, > 1 triu dn Nam N

c im ca thnh ph

Rt thch


Khng quan tm

Khng bit (?)

Khng thch

2. Nhiu vn hoa, cng vin, cy xanh trn ng ph 3. Thit k th hi ha vi a th, cnh quan thin nhin v khng gian xung quanh 4. Nhng di sn th c c gn gi, bo tn tt 5. C bn sc ring, nhng nt cnh quan, kin trc, vn ha c th m khng th tm thy nhng ch khc 6. Thn quen, gn gi (cnh vt, con ngi, m thc, vn ha), ni m bn c cm gic thuc v n 7. Cng ng thng mn, mi ngi chia s, tng tr ln nhau 8. Ngi dn thn thin, ci m vi ngi ngoi, vi ci mi. S a dng v khc bit c tn trng


c im ca thnh ph

Rt thch


Khng quan tm

Khng bit (?)

Khng thch

9. Nhiu khng gian cng cng cho nhng sinh hot chung, gn kt cng ng, trao i vn ha 10. i sng th phong ph, nhiu khu vui chi, gii tr, rp ht, qun n... 11. Khng c nhng khu chut. Thnh ph c nhng chnh sch nh x hi cht lng tt. Mi ngi dn u c ch an c lc nghip. 12. Cng bng x hi: Mi cng dn c tn trng, i x bnh ng trc chnh quyn v php lut. Thnh ph quan tm v c nhng chnh sch h tr ngi ngho, ngi khuyt tt, nht l nhng c hi tip cn v gio dc, y t, vic lm 13. Kinh t nhn bn, cc doanh nghip c trch nhim x hi, mi trng lm vic an ton cho ngi lao ng, thi gian v iu kin lm vic, ch lng, ngh php hp l. 14. Kinh t xanh, cc doanh nghip xanh vi thc v mi trng, ch n tit kim nng lng, ti nguyn, s dng nng lng ti to, tn dng vt liu t nhin ca a phng. 15. Chnh ph in t: gip cho vic iu hnh c hiu qu, minh bch, tng mc tng tc gia ngi dn v chnh quyn. Cc dch v cng v hnh chnh c thc hin nhanh chng qua internet. 16. Rc c phn loi, lm phn bn hay ti ch 17. th c thit k khuyn khch thm thu nc ma xung t b sung vo ngun nc ngm v gim ngp lt. Nc ma cng c th c thu gom v tn dng quy m gia nh. 18. H thng giao thng cng cng pht trin, a dng, tin li. 19. Khu trung tm l ph i b. Vic i xe p c khuyn khch (va gip ngi dn khe v vn ng, va gim nhim mi trng t khi xe, gim tiu th nhin liu, gim kt xe).


20. th ha c kim sot v quy hoch tt, gn gi t cho nng nghip, cho nhng khong xanh, gip iu ha vi kh hu.

21. C nhng iu g khc v thnh ph m c ca mnh m bn mun chia s thm? Hi ring t mt cht, c m ln nht hin ti ca bn l g? (Khng bt buc)


Si Gn - Thnh ph H Ch Minh

22. Nhng iu g ca Si Gn khin bn yu nht?

23. Nhng iu g ca Si Gn khin bn khng thch nht?


24. Chm im Tp. HCM - Vi thang im 10, bn hy cho im Si Gn v nhng mt sau (tt c u l tng i, y khng c ng hay sai nn bn c nh gi theo quan im ca mnh. Bn c th trng nhng mc no bn cn phn vn):

Phng din C hi vic lm, pht trin kinh t Kin trc, cnh quan Vic bo tn cc di sn th Cht lng mi trng C s h tng Giao thng Gio dc Y t Mng xanh v nhng khng gian cng cng Cng bng x hi S gn kt trong cng ng, tinh thn tng thn tng i S ci m, thn thin Bn sc ring Qun l th


25. Cu hi thm (khng bt buc): Bn c tng, gii php no cho nhng vn th ca Si Gn m bn mun chia s? Theo bn chng ta cn lm g, cn c nhng chnh sch g thnh ph ngy cng tr nn tt p hn? Bn lc quan hay bi quan khi ngh v tng lai ca thnh ph?


English Version of the Vietnamese Questionnaire SURVEY ON URBAN AND DEVELOPMENT Thank you for taking your time to answer this survey! Your name: __________________________________ Age: ____ Occupation: __________________________________ III. A Desirable City. You like to live in a city: 2. a. small, < 500.000 inh. inh. b. medium, 500.000 1 mio. inh. c. big, > 1 mio. Male Female

Characteristics of a desirable city

Like very much


Dont care

Dont know (?)

Dont like

2. Many gardens, parks, trees on the streets 3. Urban designs are harmonious with natural landscape and surroundings 4. Urban heritages are well preserved 5. Original, having identity 6. Sense of place, sense of belonging (landscape, people, gastronomy, culture) 7. Strong community sense, supporting and loving community 8. Friendly and open-minded people. Diversity and Differences are respected 9. Many public spaces for community activities, cultural and social exchanges 10. Interesting urban life, many entertainment and recreational areas, theatres, restaurants 11. Slumless. City has good quality social housing program. Everybody has a decent place to live.


Characteristics of a desirable city

Like very much


Dont care

Dont know (?)

Dont like

12. Social justice: Every citizen is respected and treated equally. Inclusive city which cares for the marginal groups and has policies to assist the poor, people with disability, especially in terms of accessibility to education, health care and job opportunities 13. A humane economy: social responsible enterprises which have safe working conditions for labours, reasonable working time, holidays and decent wages 14. A green economy: green business with environmental consciousness, energy and resource saving, using renewable energies, local and natural materials. 15. E-governance: more transparent, effective and responsive, increasing interaction between citizens and decision-makers. Public and administrative services are made quickly by internet. 16. Wastes are classified, then go for composting or recycling 17. Urban designs encourage rainwater infiltration to replenish groundwater and mitigate urban flood. Rainwater harvesting can also be done at household scales. 18. Diverse, developed and convenient public transportation system. 19. Pedestrianized downtown. Encouraging bicycling culture (healthy, environmental friendly, energy saving, less traffic). 20. Urbanization is controlled. Good urban planning, preserving farm land, green spaces for microclimate regulation.

21. Is there anything else you want to share about your desirable city? What is your dream now? (Optional)



Saigon Ho Chi Minh City

22. What do you like best about Saigon? 23. What dont you like most about Saigon? 24. Evaluating HCMC - With the scale of 10, please assess Saigon in terms of these following aspects (there is no wrong or right answer, just freely give the score according to your personal view): Aspects Job opportunities, economic development Architecture, designs, landscape Urban heritage conservation Environmental quality Infrastructure Transportation Education Health care Green and public spaces Social justice Sense of community, supporting and caring Openness and Friendliness Identity Urban management Score

25. More comment (optional): Do you have any ideas, solutions for HCMCs urban issues that you want to share? What do we need to do, which policy we should have to make our city better? Are you optimistic or pessimistic when thinking about the future of the city?


APPENDIX III Semi-structure Interviews in Slum Areas of HCMC

Place and date of visit Name of interviewee Age: How old are they? What is their occupation? Period of time living there: How long have they lived in the place? Housing Ownership: (If rented, how much do they have to pay per month?) How many people living in how many square meters? Sense of community: How do they experience sense of community here? Is sense of community important to them? Water: Do they use tap water (municipal water), groundwater (their own well)? Do they have to buy water from private sources? Electricity: Do they have municipal electricity? (Their awareness/experience on renewable energy, energy conservation, energy-efficient appliances) Wastes: How wastes are treated? Do they have municipal collecting or do they dump the wastes nearby? Green space (observation). Mobility modes (observation and asking questions) Urban flooding: Have they experienced urban flooding in the area? (Have they heard about Climate Change?) Internet: Do they connect to internet? If yes, how do they think about e-government? Recreation, entertainment: What do they do in their free time? (How is the public space in their area? Do their communities offer any activities?) Safety and security in the area? Do they have health care insurance? How do they care about their children education? Social justice: Have they received any support from local government? Have they experienced any injustice? Have their voice heard? Urban governance: How does local government in the area function? Are they transparent, accountable, responsive? Is there public participation in decision-making?


Their top 3 priorities

(1st = 3 points, 2nd = 2 points, 3rd = 1 point) 1 2 3

Economic opportunities Sense of community Urban design Nature and green spaces History, culture and tradition Urban governance, transparent, accountable Public services, health care and education Urban life, entertainment, recreation Safety, security No flooding

What is their dream in life now? Suggestion for the city: Do they have anything they want the city to improve? What is their hope for the future of the city?


APPENDIX IV Concept Notes for Sustainability Education

The world is facing severe global crises, from environmental degradation, climate change, to social and economic issues. Moreover, in the context of globalization, these problems are more and more trans-national and interrelated, which pose big challenges on the path way to sustainability of every nation. Since future relies upon young people, a catalytic process for social change can be achieved through education and empowerment for youths, especially university students, who are tomorrows leaders and thinkers and whose decisions will have a growing influence on societies and lifestyles. The concept notes propose integrating of the Youth Encounter on Sustainability (YES) course into the universitys curricula. This YES course takes an interdisciplinary approach which help student gain better understanding of our todays interconnected world issues. Moreover, the YES course aims to provide students with perspectives and principles so that they can begin to move our society towards the ideals of justice, equity and sustainability. The YES course uses the approach adapted from the ACTIS44 as shown in the figure below, which integrates three educational aspects of knowledge, skills and values to empower young students to address global challenges and reality. The knowledge and skills are applied to develop holistic, interdisciplinary and appropriate solutions to sustainability challenges. These include skills for creative, critical and systems thinking, communication, collaboration and cooperation, conflict management, problem-solving and planning, using information and communication technologies, and practical citizenship. Moreover, the model emphasizes on strengthening students values based on ethical framework to help them in decision-making and choosing sustainable ways of living. The course uses mainly student-centered teaching and active learning approach, with twoway interaction to encourage students to study and find the way to solve problems. It offers students diverse activities such as lectures, small group project, student presentations, case studies analysis, role play, exhibition, film watching, group discussions and plenary discussion. Since YES is a transdisciplinary course which provides necessary perspectives for every one, this educational approach can be integrated in any universitys curricula. Moreover, while keeping the main themes and spirit, the forms of education for sustainability can be creatively designed to adapt to specific demands and contexts. For example, beside formal education, the course can be in the forms of thematic seminars, forums, extra-curriculum activities, talk shows, conversation with expertsetc. This flexible approach can enhance its attractiveness and potential for replication.




Core skills Future visioning Critical thinking Participation Collaboration Systems thinking Knowledge Interdisciplinary understanding of society and the environment Transferring knowledge and awareness into actions Considering of different perspectives Values An ethical framework which reorients societies & individuals towards sustainable lifestyles

Addressing Global Challenges and Realities

Educational model applied in YES course (adapted from ACTIS Education)

Main resources: ACTIS Education: Earth Charter International & Youth Action for Change: Online short course on Youth Leadership, Sustainability and Ethics. Earth Charter International, BeatBoard and Heart in Action Enterprises: Earth Charter Global Learning Opportunity (eGLO 3): Education for Life: Facing the Future People and the Planet: Its All Connected A comprehensive guide to global issues and sustainable solutions UNESCO Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future: YAC (Youth Action for Change) Sustainable Development Online Course: YES Magazine Resources for Teacher:


The YES course contains 10 modules: COURSES MODULES

Unit 1 Introduction to Global Issues & Sustainability

Unit 3 Environment & Climate Change

Unit 5 Energy

Unit 7 Social & Cultural Dimensions of Sustainability

Unit 9 Sustainable Cities & Urban Development

Unit 2 The Earth Charter - Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future

Unit 4 Food & Water

Unit 6 Designs for Sustainability

Unit 8 Economic & Politic Dimensions of Sustainability

Unit 10 Youth Actions for a Sustainable Future

Unit 1: Introduction to Global Issues and Sustainability Teaching students about the world is not a subject in itself, separate from other content areas, but should be an integral part of all subjects taught. We need to open global gateways and inspire students to explore beyond their national borders. - Vivien Stewart, Becoming Citizens of the World, Educational Leadership This unit introduces major global issues that need to be addressed in building a sustainable future and serves as a foundation for the more in-depth studies in following units. It highlights the interrelationship among these issues and the interconnectedness of local and global systems. Students should gain an understanding of the complexity of the world we live in and the challenges for keeping it in balance, not only ecologically but socially and economically as well. The course also explores the emerging concept of sustainable development and offers some effective thinking tools that frame an approach to sustainable solutions. Students are encouraged to envision a possible future as well as to brainstorm for creative and innovative approaches. Topics to discuss: Global issues Population growth and the Earths carrying capacity Climate change Hunger and poverty Urbanization Pollution Loss of biodiversity Depletion of natural resources Energy crisis Peak Oil

Unsustainable consumption Conflicts and war Globalization Sustainability

Dimensions of sustainable development in a dynamic balance Goals for Sustainable Human Development The MDGs Systems thinking, critical thinking and seeing from multiple perspectives Vision for a sustainable future

Unit 2: The Earth Charter Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life! - The Earth Charter This unit aims to help students acquire a good understanding of the sustainability vision as expressed through the values and principles of the Earth Charter. The course offers a space for students to reflect and discuss the key principles of the Earth Charter; understand its importance and how it can be used as a tool in todays world. Students are encouraged to reflect on, examine and challenge their own personal views. The notion of care is emphasized. The idea of sustainable societies is discussed in detail: what constitutes a sustainable society and what are its necessary components, links need to be made between social and economic justice as well as environmental integrity. Topics to discuss: Care for the community of life with understanding compassion and love Treat all living beings with respect and consideration Interconnectedness, interdependence and systems view of life Secure Earths bounty and beauty for present and future generations Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace

Unit 3: Environment & Climate Change Without healthy natural systems around us, without the ecological basis, all other dimensions - social, economic or technological - are meaningless. When the basic conditions for human life on earth no longer exist, we no longer need to consider the other dimensions - Roger Baud This unit presents the primary dimension of sustainability, the ecological environment. Lessons from nature, the essential roles of ecosystems and biodiversity in sustaining life on Earth are studied. The unit provides a look at the way our societies/economies interact

with the environment, explaining why our linear patterns, which constantly turn natural resources into waste on a global level, are unsustainable and against natures cycle patterns. Moreover, this unit engages student to one of the biggest challenge to humanity at the moment Climate Change. Topics to discuss: Biodiversity, ecosystem services and the web of life Lessons from Nature Human Environment interaction The root causes of the environmental crisis: the multiple causation model Climate change scenarios, causes and effects. Tackling climate change local, regional efforts and international cooperation

Unit 4: Food & Water Hunger and chronic malnutrition diminish human life. The lack of physical or economic access to safe, nutritious and healthy food at all times leads to negative consequences for peoples and nations. - Diouf, J., 2000, World Food Day message Food and Water, two issues directly related to our basic needs are investigated in this unit. Students are encouraged to use critical thinking in finding out the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, in analyzing costs and benefits of the solutions, particularly the negative consequences of using technology to increase food supply such as Green Revolution and genetically modified foods. The focus is on the concept of food security and strategies through which this may be attained. This unit develops an understanding of how sustainable farming can both enhance food production and ensure that natural resources are managed in the best way possible for long-term sustainability. The unit also aims to raise awareness on the alarming risk of the global water crisis. Topics to discuss: Hunger, Malnutrition, and Food Security Match the Food First Fundamentals to their opposing myths The other side of technology: Green Revolution and genetically modified foods A critical link: Water and Food Water footprint of Food Agriculture & Biodiversity Global water crisis Sustainable agriculture, organic farming, free range Slow food, local food, vegetarian movements Rainwater harvesting, grey water reuse Natural wastewater treatment


Unit 5: Energy We've embarked on the beginning of the last days of the age of oil. - Mike Bowlin, Chairman, ARCO Every living thing needs energy to maintain their lives on Earth. Every society needs energy to power their social and economic activities. This unit leads students through an adventure across history of human development which has been marked by the inventions of major energy sources. The advantages and disadvantages of each energy source are examined. This unit also provides a global view on current unequal, unsustainable energy supply and consumption. Our worlds addiction to oil, the Peak Oil moment and the energy crisis are also discussed in the relation to various social, environmental, climate change, economic, security problems. Students are encouraged to analyze the issues, considering multiperspectives and making future energy policies or building a strategic energy plan. Topics to discuss: Energy sources discoveries through history Energy and major global issues World energy supply and consumption: unequal availability and distribution Peak Oil and the energy crisis Energy and Transportation Nuclear energy issues Energy conservation Renewable energy prospect Energy for sustainable development Innovations in Mobility

Unit 6: Designs for Sustainability In many ways, the environmental crisis is a design crisis. It is a consequence of how things are made, buildings are constructed, and landscapes are used. By working with living processes, we respect the needs of all species while meeting our own. Engaging in processes that regenerate rather than deplete, we become more alive. - Sym Van Der Ryn To create a sustainable world, we must infuse the design of products, buildings, and landscapes with respecting for the wisdom of natural systems. Design for sustainability is simply the effective adaptation to and integration with natures processes. It is quite an interesting field since it is a harmonious combination of arts, creativity with technology and science. Through illustrative case studies and examples, students explore the philosophy of sustainable designs and technologies. Students are encouraged to recognize the importance of preserving the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cultures which contribute to environmental protection and human well being. This unit also introduces the concept of life cycle assessment, eco-labels and full cost accounting

(internalization) in order to help consumers identify products that meet the highest social and environmental standards. Topics to discuss: Biomimicry Nature as Model, Measure and Mentor Eco designs integrating renewable materials and energies The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle The Hannover Principles Designs for Sustainability Life Cycle Assessment Permaculture principles and designs Traditional models Green building Eco-products, Eco-label and environmentally sound technologies Appropriate technology

Unit 7: Social & Cultural Dimensions of Sustainability The wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living; The courage not to fear or deny difference, but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures, and to grow from encounters with them; The compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one's immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places; These qualities are the essential elements of global citizenship. - Daisaku Ikeda This unit explores the social and cultural dimensions of sustainability in the light of inclusiveness and diversity celebration. Creating harmony among diversity is a fundamental issue of the twenty-first century. Diversity should not beget conflict in the world, but richness. On the other hand, the vital role of education and lifelong learning, providing youth and children with educational opportunities that will empower them to contribute to sustainable development is emphasized. Role of mass media is also considered as an effective approach in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges. Moreover, students are encouraged to discuss the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living. Sustainability spirit embraces a culture of peace with mutual respect, solidarity and love. It recognizes what is deeply and fundamentally important to us our connection with each other and with the natural world. Topics to discuss: Education for Life Health Well-being and Happiness In search of the Good Life Globalization and cultural identity Multicultural and respect of cultural diversity Unity in Diversity

Global citizenship Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices Heritage conservation Sense of Place Community development Spiritual dimension of Sustainability Living Values and Personal Development Nurturing a Culture of Tolerance, Non-violence and Peace Sustainable tourism

Unit 8: Economic & Politic Dimensions of Sustainability Good governance is perhaps the most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development. Kofi A. Annan This unit first questions the limit to growth of our economic systems. It suggests students to reflect on current GDP index as development measurement and to search for alternative indicators of genuine progress. This unit aims to give students a better understanding of how the ideals of democracy, accountability, transparency and inclusive decision making are components of sustainability; and that all trade should support sustainable resource use, environmental protection and progressive labor standards. As poverty is one of the underlying causes compromising sustainability, eradicating poverty is one of the important topics to be discussed. Moreover, the emerging concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Entrepreneurship are introduced. Students explore the vision of Green Economy and are encouraged to contribute creative and innovative ideas, solutions for building that. Topics to discuss: Question to Growth Genuine Progress Inequality & Poverty Poverty Eradication Democracy Human Rights Good Governance: Participation, Transparency, Accountability Free and Fair Trade Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Social Entrepreneurship Green Business & Green Economy Natural Capitalism


Unit 9: Sustainable Cities & Urban Development Streets for people, not cars. Destinations easily accessible by foot, bike, and public transit. Health as wellness rather than as absence of disease. Affordable housing for all. Food produced and consumed locally. Renewable sources of energy. Less pollution and more recycling. A vibrant local economy that does not harm the environment. Public awareness and involvement in decision-making. Social justice for women, people of colour and the disabled. Consideration of future generations. - Mark Roseland, Vision for an Eco-city With the rapid growth in urbanization, today more than half of the world population lives in cities and this trend is expected to continue. Therefore, sustainability is closely related to urban sustainability. The first part of this unit gives an introduction and general view on various aspects of urban development. Then in the second part, students are encouraged to explore urban sustainability and solutions to these issues. At the last part of this unit, students present best practice cases (which they have prepared on their own choices) from cities all over the world. Topics to discuss: Overview of urban development issues Eco-city and urban sustainability Best practices exhibition/presentations

Unit 10: Youth Actions for a Sustainable Future Be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi This unit is the concluding session for the course, tying up any loose ends, bringing some closure to the class and inspiring students to act and apply what they have learned. Students are encouraged to share their reflections and comments on the course and the principle guideline of the Earth Charter. Questions raised for discussion are What can individuals do? How can we transform our own lifestyles and inspire others to do the same? This unit also introduces to students some typical youth actions and networks. Topics to discuss: Being a conscious consumer and responsible citizen Living light towards a minimum impact lifestyle Employment and investment: Green jobs, social entrepreneur Join or start a green group Endorsing the Earth Charter and making it a living document Youth Leadership and Sustainability

Examples: The Youth Action for Change, the Earth Charter Youth Groups and the Green Generation Vietnam Network