It is vitally important to recognize that galloping planetary urbanization is the main driver of major, and often irreversible, socio-ecological transformations. Planetary urbanization refers to the fact that not only the majority of the world’s seven billion people live in cities (and set to rise to 70% by 2050), but – more importantly – that a much greater number of people, often not living in places defined as cities, are directly or indirectly involved in assuring the continuation of the global urbanization process. Indeed, the sustainability of contemporary urban live – understood as the expanded reproduction of its socio-physical form and functioning – is responsible for 80% of the world’s resource use (Bulkeley and Betsill 2005) and most of the world’s waste. The ecological condition and the socio-ecological problems spurred on by accelerating urbanization render the city indeed the pivotal site for grappling with the environmental conundrum we are all in and the combined and uneven socio-ecological apocalypse it engenders. What we wish to foreground in this contribution is not to show the urban roots of the environmental conditions, but rather why and how these urban roots are customarily ignored in much of urban theory and practice, and how the feeble techno-managerial attempts to produce more sustainable forms of urban living (understood in terms of a more benign socio-ecological urban relationship) actually continue to sharpen the combined and uneven socio-ecological apocalypse that marks the contemporary dynamics of planetary urbanization. (…)
Erik Swyngedouw is Professor of Geography at Manchester University. His research interests include urban governance and politics, democracy and political power, water and water resources, the political-economy of capitalist societies and globalization.Maria Kaika
Maria Kaika is Professor of Human Geography at the School of Education, Environment and Development at Manchester University. She is Editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.