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Resilient Cities in the Age of Sustainable Development

Chapter 11 of the textbook The age of sustainable development by Sachs & Ki-moon provides the readers with a refreshing and considerably nuanced perspective on the matter of urban life and infrastructure. The text builds itself gradually, starting from the roots of city formation, and going into the depths of explaining what makes them work well in a social environment. Firstly, this chapter discusses how rural life has slowly come to be overtaken by the dominance of urban settlement, where trade and interaction between people could develop at unprecedented rates. Cities very quickly became the starting point for any big social trend or movement, spearheading change and development all around the world. However, it is also important to note that only relatively recently, in 2008, the city population has grown to surpass that of people living under different circumstances.

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Such statistics, compared to the popular understanding of the matter, really put into perspective the importance cities play in the daily lives of many. Going further, the particular qualities of developed urban areas are discussed, and the variety of considerations that go into making a prosperous and good city. Usually, the text notes, cities are places where populations are dense, and a lot of people live relatively close to each other. While the particular proximity to another person can vary heavily, the difference between human populations as they were found in the past and now certainly have a lot of differences between them. Questions of infrastructure, additionally, play a very big role in how a city develops and functions, defining how people within an area interact. Other topics, such as the ecological impact of cities, and their relationship with culture, employment and governance are also discussed.

Overall, I think that the text was very well put together in terms of flow and content, giving an interesting and easy-to-read comprehensive look at the subject. Additionally, it made me consider how I view cities and their existence as a person that was born in one. Somehow, their presence and dominance over the popular thought and culture of today. Despite their relative youth, modern cities have for the most part become the staple of how people find each other, interact and construct their daily life. I think that the considerable thought that goes into making a good city is something I have not really thought about before, and I would want to change that. After reading this chapter, I found myself wanting to learn about urban design and planning.

Throughout this text, there were a number of things that surprised me, or made me curious about learning more, which was especially pleasant. Firstly, the fact that the majority of cities are built with access to large water sources. While coastal cities are obviously connected with the ocean and bodies of water, the fact that cities fully surrounded by land are also built with water as the main consideration is interesting. As it turns out, the majority of urban areas are near rivers, which in turn connect and flow back to seas and oceans, bringing the world together (Sachs & Ki-moon, 2015). Naval travel and trade, as well as the use of water in infrastructure, helps places with large quantities of people stay in operation. On another note, there was one other fact that surprised me while reading this chapter. In particular, it was that population density is not tied to environmental pollution in a way that I would expect. The text states that in many cities where people live closer together, levels of air pollution per person are usually much lower than in places where people are far away from each other.

Alternatively, cities will have more territory and lower population density can cause more harm to the environment. The difference comes in how their infrastructure is often laid out and how the transportation systems operate to support the living spaces of people. With far-stretching cities, more emphasis is often put on cars as a method of transportation, increasing carbon emissions due to the need for people to use their own methods of transport (Sachs & Ki-moon, 2015). Comparatively, a close-knit public transportation system, which includes trains, buses and other systems, allows to move more people around without having to increase pollution significantly. Additionally, a smaller city means that people are able to walk to their destination more easily, eliminating the need to use transportation altogether in many cases.

All in all, I think that the text has provided me with a lot of insight into cities and their existence as a whole. While I cannot say that every piece of information I have read was new and informative to me, the ability of the writer to summarize and position all of the relevant facts to make a larger point was very helpful in making me understand the message of the chapter. It has opened the door for further investigation and insight for me, becoming a source of cursory information I would like to expand on in the future.


Sachs, J. D., & Ki-moon, B. (2015). The age of sustainable development. Columbia University Press.

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