A critical assessment of key datasets and approaches with which to determine the resource requirements of future urbanisation

Du Plessis, Jehane-Prieur (2016-03)

Thesis (MPA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: It is now generally agreed that in order to avoid the severe threats posed by the “global polycrisis” of climate change, ecological degradation, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, food insecurity, income inequality, poverty and over-consumption of raw materials, a pathway of sustainable development must be found in the 21st century. It is also increasingly recognised that urban areas, where the majority of the people on the planet now live, and where the vast majority of energy and materials are consumed, are not only key contributors to the global polycrisis, but also hold the key to a pathway of sustainable development. However, with around 2.5 billion people projected to be added to the global urban population by 2050, serious questions need to asked about the sustainability of such urban growth. But nearly everyone in the mainstream urbanisation literature seems to assume that urbanisation will continue unabated, and that somehow the resources will be found to make this happen. Nobody is asking, “what are the resource requirements of future urbanisation?” So, the original goal of this study was to try and find an answer to this vital question. However, in order to assess the resource requirements of global urbanisation to 2050, three key sets of figures would have to be accepted, namely: estimates and projections of urbanisation, population and urban resource consumption. And, in the analysis of the literature surrounding these data themes, fundamental problems were uncovered. So, the focus of the study was then shifted from trying to assess the resource requirements of future urbanisation, to critically analysing the way in which to do so. As a result, an extensive literature analysis was undertaken over three chapters, focussing on global urbanisation, population growth and resource consumption. The key findings of these literature analyses are that: the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and uncertainties that are imbedded within the urbanisation estimates and projections of the UN are of such a nature that their data must be considered too unrealistic and unreliable to form the basis of a comparative study on global urbanisation; in the coming decades, economic factors look set to both impede the decline of Africa’s high fertility rates and drive an increase in the fertility rates of low-fertility countries, and, if this materialises, the combined effect would be a much higher global population by 2050 than any world population perspectives currently projects; the domestic material consumption (DMC) indicator that is used in material flows analysis (MFA) studies of cities and countries, does not provide a realistic picture of a city or country’s resource consumption, because it does not account for the upstream raw materials that were required to enable the consumption at the final destination. An alternative perspective to assessing global urban resource consumption is then proposed, which re-defines “urbanisation” from a global socio-metabolic perspective, and uses the raw material consumption (RMC) indicator and a range of population projections in its method.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Sedert die 1960s het die wêreldpopulasie meer as verdubbel, wêreldwye roumateriaalverbruik het meer as verdrievoudig, die wêreldwye stadsbevolking het verviervoudig, en die wêreldekonomie het meer as verviervoudig. Hierdie vinnige groei en ontwikkeling het teen ‘n duur omgewingsprys gekom, en in die 21ste-eeu word die menslike beskawing gekonfronteer deur die “globale veelvoud-krisis” van klimaatsverandering, ekologiese degredasie, biodiversiteitsverlies, voedsel- en water-onsekerheid en hulpbronverlies. Dit word nou in die algemeen aanvaar dat indien hierdie bedreigings teen die volhuibaarheid van moderne menslike beskawing oorkom wil word, ‘n pad van volhoubare ontwikkeling gevind moet word. Dit word ook al hoe meer herken dat stads- en dorps-areas, waar die meerderheid van mense op die planet nou woon, en waar die oorweldige meerderheid energie- en material-hulpbronne verbruik word, nie net belangrike sleutelspelers is in die bydra tot die globale veelvoud-krisis nie, maar ook die sleutel dra tot ‘n pad van volhoubare ontwikkeling. Alhoewel, met die beraming dat 2.4 biljoen mense nog by die wêreldwye stadsbevolking gevoeg gaan word teen 2050, moet ernstige vrae gevra word oor die volhoubaarheid van sulke stadsgroei. Maar, dit kom voor asof amper almal in die hoofstroom literatuur oor verstedeliking net aanvaar dat verstedeliking net kan aanhou, en dat die nodige hulpbronne op een of ander manier gevind sal word om dit te laat gebeur. Niemand vra, “wat is die hulpbronvereistes van toekomstige verstedeliking?” nie. So, die doel van hierdie studie was om ‘n antwoord vir hierdie vraag te probeer kry. Maar, indien die hulpbronvereistes van wêreld-verstedeliking tot 2050 beraam wil word, dan moet drie data-stelle aanvaar word, naamlik: waarderings en projeksies van verstedeliking, populasie en hulpbronverbruik. En in the analise van die literatuur rondom hierdie drie data-stelle het fundamentele en wyd-rykende probleme na vore gekom. So, die fokus van hierdie studie het toe verander van een wat die hulpbronvereistes van toekomstige verstedeliking wil beraam, tot een wat die maniere om dit te doen krities analiseer. Om dit te doen was ‘n omvattende analise van die literatuur gedoen, met huidige waarderings en projeksies van verstedeliking, populasie-groei en hulpbronverbruik wat geanaliseer word oor drie hoofstukke. Die belangrikste vindings is dat: die onakuuraatheid, inkonsekwentheid en onsekerheid wat gekoppel is aan die verstedeliking waarderings en projeksies van die Verenigde Nasies (VN) is van so ‘n aard hulle data as te onrealisties en onvertroubaar beskou moet word vir ‘n studie oor wêreldwye verstedeliking; binne die komende dekades gaan ekonomiese faktore heel moontlik terselfdertyd die hoë vrugbaarheidsvlak van Afrika verhoed om vinnig te daal en ook verhogings in die vrugbaarheidsvlak van lande met lae vrugbaarheid veroorsaak – en, as dit verwesenlik word, sal die gekombineerde effek ‘n veel hoër wêreldpopulasie teen 2050 wees as wat enige van die huidige wêreldpopulasie-projeksies voorspel; die “domestic material consumption” (DMC) aanwyser wat gebruik word in materiaalvloei-analise (MFA) studies van stede en lande lewer nie ‘n realistiese prenjtie van ‘n stad of land se hulpbronverbruik nie, want dit reken nie die bo-stroom rou-materiale in wat benodig was om die eindverbruik moontlik te maak nie. ‘n Alternatiewe perspektief om die wêreld se stedelike hulpbronverbruik te bereken word voorgestel, wat “verstedeliking” van ‘n sosio-metaboliese perspektief her-definieer, en wat die “raw material consumption” (RMC) aanwyser en ‘n wyer verskeidenheid van populasie projeksies in sy metode gebruik.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98724
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