SMART’s Distinguished speakers
The Sustainability of Urban Environments: Perspectives from Industrial Ecology
Thomas TheisDirector, Institute for Environmental Science and Policy
University of Illinois at Chicago
Moira ZellnerUrban Planning and Policy Program
University of Illinois at Chicago
November 17, 2006
Work of Dr. Theis and Dr. Zellner was presented by Moira Zellner
SMART Presentation Summary
Urban scholars in all disciplines concur that cities exist fundamentally for economic reasons; cities form and grow in scale from the economic surplus that these urban systems capture. The complex spatial energy, mass, and information implications resulting from the capture of economic surplus are not obvious, however. Hence, one of the key intellectual challenges for ensuring the sustainability of urban systems is a fuller understanding of the dynamic spatial interaction between the urban economic system and the urban environmental system at spatial scales. This can inform legal and policy regimes.
The percentage of the global population living in urban regions has grown steadily in the past 200 years, with about half of the world’s population now living in urban areas (79% in the US). There is a growing awareness of resource use problems created by market-driven urbanization and the fragmentation of development decisions within a metropolitan region; nevertheless the relationship between an expanding regional economy and the impact on both regional and global resources on which it depends is not well understood. The growth and associated costs of continued urbanization raise several concerns regarding the sustainability of the modern urban environment: efficient transportation alternatives, public health and quality of life, infrastructure growth and renewal and the nature of the built environment, and the role of comprehensive design, management, and policy. Such a growth and urbanization also highlights the need to see the interactions between the human built environment and the natural environment differently.
We propose a set of complementary analytical tools and measures to assess and support the sustainability of urban systems, including
a) flow accounting to understand the stocks and flows of materials, energy and pollution in urban systems,
The proposed set would thus constitute a framework for evaluation and adaptation of policy.
Professor Theis is Director of the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy (IESP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. IESP focuses on the development of new cross-disciplinary research initiatives in the environmental area. He was most recently at Clarkson University, where he was the Bayard D. Clarkson Professor and Director of the Center for Environmental Management. Professor Theis received his doctoral degree in environmental engineering, with a specialization in environmental chemistry, from the University of Notre Dame. His areas of expertise include the mathematical modeling and systems analysis of environmental processes, industrial pollution prevention, industrial ecology, the environmental chemistry of trace organic and inorganic substances, interfacial reactions, subsurface contaminant transport, and hazardous waste management.
Dr. Theis has been principal or co-principal investigator on over fifty funded research projects totaling in excess of ten million dollars, and has authored or co-authored over one hundred papers in peer reviewed research journals, books, and reports. He is a member of the USEPA Science Advisory Board (Executive Committee), is past editor of the Journal of Environmental Engineering, and serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Contaminant Transport. From 1980-1985 he was the co-director of the Industrial Waste Elimination Research Center (a collaboration of Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Notre Dame), one of the first Centers of Excellence established by the USEPA. In 1989 he was an invited participant on the United Nations’ Scientific Committee on Problems in the Environment (SCOPE) Workshop on Groundwater Contamination, and in 1998 he was invited to by the World Bank to assist in the development of the first environmental engineering program in Argentina. He is the founding Principal Investigator on the Environmental Manufacturing Management Program.
Dr. Moira Zellner is an Assistant Professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Program, and a Research Assistant Professor in the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Having completed her undergraduate degree in ecology in Argentina, she pursued graduate studies at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Masters in Urban Planning, a Certificate in the Study of Complex Systems, and a Ph.D. in Urban, Technological and Environmental Planning.
Dr. Zellner has extensive work experience as a consultant for environmental engineering and planning firms in the US and in Argentina, and as advisor to the undersecretary of Environment in the City of Buenos Aires, on projects related to domestic and hazardous waste management, river remediation and restoration, greenway development, industrial pollution control, and environmental impact assessments. She also participated in interdisciplinary and international research projects to create urban air pollution indexes and to model the spread of tuberculosis through public transportation. Her more recent academic work involves using agent-based models as exploratory tools for policy analysis and implementation, addressing the complexity of urban and regional processes and their environmental impacts. Her research focuses on the effects of public policy on individual and collective decision-making, and their impacts on land-use change, resource sustainability and human well-being.