Best practices for social change and environmental action

Archive for the ‘Public investment’ Category

For economic growth…add water

In Economic, Government, Growth and Development, Policy, Public investment, Resources, Sustainability, Water on May 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm

We’ve been hearing a lot about water recently, and for good reason.  It is perhaps the most critical factor in climate change as well as adaptation strategies.  As my former colleagues at SIWI often emphasize,  a changing climate manifests its most important environmental effects through water. They come in floods, droughts, storms and the consequences for human health and quality of life.  Increasingly, the impacts are genuinely dramatic, as illustrated by this week’s dire situation along the Mississippi River.

The urgent climate story has recently overshadowed the strategic facets of the global water crisis, none more important than water’s fundamental role in stable, thriving economies. It’s not easy to understand – especially for anyone not directly involved in IWRM (Integrated Water Resource Management), strategic planning, or public finance.

This is where the folks at Global Water Partnership (GWP) have stepped up with a policy brief on the matter.  Full disclosure: I know the people at GWP because they share offices with SIWI in central Stockholm. They do good work.

With this clear, readable policy brief –  Investing in Water for Sustainable Growth – GWP has provided an excellent primer on the topic.

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Wild in the city

In Habitat, Land Conservation, Public investment, Sustainability, Water on May 10, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Urban green space is an old idea that’s come full circle with a new twist.

The world has long appreciated the need for natural landscapes in its most populated places.  Consider the vision of Olmstead when he designed Central Park for New Yorkers, the sense of scale that informed the planners of Luxemborg Gardens in Paris, or the Swedish balance of humanity and nature that is evident in every grove and pasture of the vast Djurgården in Stockholm.

However, something went awry as populations migrated from the planet’s rural areas to create the new megalopolises of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The practical need for housing and infrastructure overwhelmed urban planners in the developing nations.  At the same time, economic forces and demographic shifts caused many cities in the more prosperous nations to let their parks and public places fall into blight. All the while, the human need for green space in the cities has grown more urgent than ever.

UN-HABITAT has done the world a great service by calling attention to this problem in its recent proclamation: Sustainable urban development: the right and access to the city reflected in quality urban public spaces.

The places it describes may not be truly “wild” in the literal sense, but they can offer urbanites the essence of wilderness.  As such, they are a basic requirement for quality of life and a fundamental element of vibrant city culture.

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