Education for sustainable spatial development: some reflections on teaching students of planning and related professions

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In 1992 national governments committed themselves to pursue sustainable development at the Rio Earth Summit. Urban areas play a critical role in this commitment as: they are where the majority of the world’s population is located and are growing rapidly; they have large and increasing ecological footprints; and, they host the infrastructure and industries that generate the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and waste. Urban and environmental planners can play a vital role in improving the sustainability of these areas, but how can they be best be prepared to face such a challenge? This paper examines how strategic changes can integrate the values of sustainability into built environment programs at universities. A specific case study is used based on a first year course in sustainability that the author convenes for a large and diverse group of undergraduate students. It is argued that in their future professional life, planning graduates have the potential to be agents of change by transforming the urban form as well as how the state interacts with the private sector and the community. This analysis is undertaken using the theoretical framework of ecological modernisation that underpins the idea of sustainability, offers a strategic pathway to transform publicprivate-community interactions, and approaches sustainability as a design challenge. The somewhat ambitious goal is to synthesise the empirical evidence, the practical experience, and theoretical framework into a coherent whole.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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