This is the blog for CY Plan 254 Sustainable Communities, a graduate course in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley.

As a concept, sustainable development emerged in the 1980s as a way to bridge the gap between the interests of development professionals and the environmental community.

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The above quote, the most widely cited definition of sustainable development is from “Our Common Future,” the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. What’s not quoted as often is what comes immediately after, that sustainable development contains within it two key concepts:

  • “the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
Early debates focused on the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation. Since then, alternative scholarship and civil society movements have arisen that seek to put the concerns of the poor at the forefront of the environmental agenda. As the concept has become mainstream with policymakers and citizens around the world, there remain key questions and debates: What is truly meant by “sustainability”? Can urban development ever be sustainable? What does it take to create healthy, livable cities for everyone? We will be wrestling with the questions above and a whole lot more. Stay tuned!

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