Session 52: Urban metabolism: The environmental impact of cities


Session Abstract

It is all too often reaffirmed that cities are major consumers of natural resources, leading to significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. An important avenue to understand these impacts is through the quantification of the flows of material and energy that enter and exit the city as well as their transformation within the city itself. Such urban metabolism studies are increasingly used to understand the environmental impact of cities. In a nutshell, urban metabolism studies conceptualize cities as 'living' organisms that consume energy, materials, food and other inputs, and in the process 'store' them, grow and produce goods/services (in the broadest sense), pollution and waste. Unraveling such metabolic patterns is important not only for understanding the impact of cities on resource use and the environment, but also for explaining other phenomena such as rural-urban linkages and land teleconnections. Furthermore, urban metabolism studies can provide rich insights that assist planning for sustainable and resilient cities in the face of global environmental change.

The session discussed how the concept of urban metabolism can be used to shed light on the resource consumption patterns and environmental impact of cities. After a brief presentation that outlined the main concept associated with urban metabolism, case studies from around the world demonstrated how urban metabolism studies elucidate the links between urban resource consumption and environmental impact.

Keywords: urbanization, land transformation, agriculture land change, agriculture production, impact mechanism



Alexandros Gaspartos, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Peter Marcotullio, Hunter College – City University of New York, New York, NY, USA



Stephanie Pincetl, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Presentation Title: Positioning urban metabolism to enable future transitions: An integrated infrastructure, economic and behavioral assessment of Los Angeles

Peter Marcotullio, Hunter College – City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

Presentation Title: Urban GHG emissions footprints: Meanings and methodological issues

Alexandros Gasparatos, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

Presentation Title: Diet changes in Tokyo and their environmental impact

Joshua Newell, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Presentation Title: Extending urban metabolism through a political-industrial ecology of water supply infrastructure for Los Angeles


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