Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Policy, Clark University
There is much to be gained from taking a much more integrative view of the sustainability challenges of mega-cities like Mexico City, and designing projects accordingly. Three ‘conundrums’ for sustainable development (SD) can be articulated: 1) The Socio-Ecological Complexity Conundrum; 2) The Varying Temporal/Spatial Scales Conundrum; and 3) The Stakeholder Diversity Conundrum. These conundrums, and resultant gaps in effective SD practice can be addressed using an integrative framework of six domains: 1) project framing, concept and design; 2) development topics and sectors (including gateway topics/sectors that resonate with stakeholders); 3) stakeholder interests, relationships and capacities; 4) knowledge types, disciplines, models and methods; 5) temporal and spatial scales; and 6) socio-technical capacities, including education, research, technology and policy. With this perspective, we explore: 1) Has the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) become more sustainable since the 1990s (a retrospective view)? 2) What is its climate-change vulnerability? 3) How do the three conundrums manifest in the MCMA context? 4) How can the integrative framework help us address conundrums constructively, and fill the gaps in SD practice (a prospective view)?
Tim Downs is a specialist in environmental science and engineering with over 25 years field experience designing and managing collaborative projects in the UK, the United States, Latin America and Africa. His research focus is on how humans change the environment, and how those changes impact their health, wellbeing, and the ecosystems they inhabit. He works with diverse social actors to innovate through collaboration, both socially via new networks, and technically via new applications of science and technology. Downs applies risk and vulnerability science to identify priority problems with stakeholders, GIS and analytics to understand existing social and technical systems, then innovation theory and capacity building practice to design, implement and monitor more sustainable solutions. In a variety of settings – New England, Mexico, East and West Africa – he works with affected communities, NGOs, governmental agencies, public sector providers, the private sector and donors, applying multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary approaches within and across multiple sectors: health, energy, water supply & sanitation, food & agriculture, land-use, transportation, urban planning, climate-change adaptation & mitigation, biodiversity conservation & ecosystem stewardship.