SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY3
These hurdles point to the centrality of two other concepts
Jane Jacobs introduced in her discussions of cities, “social capital”
and local action. In short, people matter. Early literature on sus-
tainability emphasized the three-pronged goals of sustainability—
social, economic, and environmental beneﬁts. But more recent
discussions (and practice) of sustainability describe people both as
beneﬁciaries of sustainability and as practitioners, innovators, and
decision makers. Local communities, through direct engagement
in articulating their concerns and priorities, are critical to helping
deﬁne what is desirable and what is doable. Local people have
“local knowledge”—the knowledge of time, situation, and experi-
ence. Such local knowledge helps ensure that urban innovations to
enhance environmental, social, and economic beneﬁts reﬂect local
priorities, cultures, and circumstances.
Nearly four decades ago, British economist E.F. Schumacher
critiqued economic development practice in his work, Small Is
Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered.15 Looking at less-
developed economies, he argued that technologies appropriate to
circumstance that reﬂect the capacities and resources available to
local communities were more likely to be used and sustained than
(often) large-scale technologies designed in industrialized nations.16
While “small” may not always be preferab le, Schumach-
er’s important insight was in his focus on economic a nd social
decision processes that directly engaged those affected by deci-
sions. This same ins ight has inc reasingly emerged globally in
collaborative conservation initiatives.17 Such initiatives, often
self-generated through local action, bring local people together,
sometim es w ith varying needs and interes ts a nd v alues, to
explore join tly how to ad dress problems of water quality, bio -
diversity, forest health, and economic o pportunity and h ow to
sustain local traditions and cultures.
But city sustainability efforts, too, are increasingly viewing
sustainability as both about outcomes and about governing and
social processes. Strengthening citizen engagement in decision
making is not new—indeed, concepts of “participatory democracy”
have a long pedigree. However, over the past two decades, applica-
tion of the concept has gained momentum. Two decades ago, when
the City of Seattle proposed to address the city’s waste management
needs by designating sites for as many as four incinerators, city
ofﬁcials faced an upheaval from multiple neighborhood groups.18
In a departure from its initial top-down decision process, the city
changed gears, formed citizen task forces, and used their delibera-
tions as the basis for overhauling its waste management vision for
the city.19 Waste reduction and recycling became the centerpieces
of the city’s waste management plans.
Seattle implemented this new vision through use of pay-as-you-
throw fees that rewarded recycling and waste reduction. The city’s
use of these market incentives in its fee structure reﬂected another
emergent phenomenon in sustainability efforts—the use of market-
based policy tools that align personal and economic decisions with
environmental and other goals. Drawing upon this concept, for exam-
ple, Bellevue, Washington began charging stormwater fees based on
amount of impermeable surface, which directly relates to amount of
stormwater runoff generated. Such fees created, in effect, incentives for
land managers and developers to retain or create permeable surfaces.
These city experiences are precursors to key themes unfold-
ing across the sustainability policy landscape. First is the grow-
ing addition of market-based tools to the policy tool kit. Second
is the importance of public engagement in decision-making.
Today, as cities re-examine how to address city infrastruc-
ture, waste management, climate change adaptation, transporta-
tion, and other challenges, whether in developed or developing
countries, the need for governing processes that engage citizens
is well-recognize d. How to fulﬁll that need, however, often
remains an elusive part of the sustainability equation.
The governanc e challenge is how to breathe meaning into
participation, beyond providing for reactive comments to pre-set
policy optio ns and plans. This challenge, as much as the chal-
lenges of technological and service innovations, now ani mates
the sustainability dialogue.
Endnotes: Introduction: Cities and Sustainability—Ecology,
Economy, and Community
1 See generally U.n. population FunD, State oF worlD population 2007:
unleaShing the potential oF urban growth 1, u.n. Doc. E/31,000/2007,
U.N. Sales No. E.07.III.H.1 (2007), available at http://www.unfpa.org/
2 See generally Jane JacobS, the economy oF citieS (1969); Jane JacobS, cit-
ieS anD the wealth oF nationS (1984).
3 Gert-Jan Hospers, Jane Jacobs: Her Life and Work, 14 eur. plan. StuD.
723, 732 (2006).
4 the worlD commiSSion on environment anD Development, our common
5 Id. at 8.
6 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Rio de Janeiro, Braz.,
June 3-14, 1992, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, U.N. Doc. A/
CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (Vol. I), Annex I (Aug. 12, 1992), available at http://www.
7 The STAR Rating System, iclei-local governmentS For SuStainability,
overview/rating-system/the-star-rating-system (last visited Nov. 3, 2010).
8 Overall Rankings, SuStainlane, http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-rank-
ings/overall-rankings (last visited Nov. 3, 2010).
9 For a discussion of the concept of biomimicry, see generally Janine benyuS,
biomimicry: innovation inSpireD by nature (1997).
10 See generally Lynn Scarlett, Green, Clean, and Dollar Smart: Ecosystem
Restoration in Cities and Countryside, environmental DeFenSe FunD (Feb. 2010),
11 waterSheD inFormation center, philaDelphia water Department, oFFice
oF waterSheDS, http://www.phillyriverinfo.org (last visited Nov. 4, 2010).
12 Lynn Scarlett, Cleaner, Safer, Cheaper, 27 envt’l. Forum 34 (2010).
13 Id. at 36.
15 See generally e.F. Schumacher, Small iS beautiFul: economicS aS iF
people mattereD (1973).
17 See e.g., tomaS KoontZ, et al., collaborative environmental manage-
ment: what roleS For government? (2004).
18 See generally Dewitt John, civic environmentaliSm: alternativeS to
regulation in StateS anD communitieS (1993).