John Whitelegg on “Health in the sustainable city”

Some time back our very long time friend and associate, Professor of Sustainable Transportation and Sustainable Development John Whitelegg, was interviewed in Copenhagen and asked  how changes in transport systems can lead to a vast improvement in quality of life. We need to move from a world filled with metal and concrete to a world of green spaces and clean air, he explained.  Today, two years later, this short video has lost none of its validity or timeliness. Let’s have a look.

What are the three qualities that should characterize a sustainable city?

“There has to be a democratic element. We need people to express a view about what kind of city they want to live in, and what they want it to look like, and how they think it should develop over the next 10, 20, 30 years. And then a lot of that will then coincide with what experts and professionals call sustainability. So it would be a city, for example, that has a lot less noise, a lot better air quality, a lot less traffic, a lot more potential for people to stand around and talk and meet their neighbors and not be drowned by noise and disturbance and stink. The sustainable city is, first of all, a vast improvement in quality of life that ordinary people can detect and enjoy.”

What are the challenges that top the to-do list of cities around the world?
“The challenges tend to be things like how do we actually deal with the development of the city with growing population [and] growing levels of economic activity, things like water shortages and important resource problems that cities are facing. I would say that the main challenges are to actually reduce the amount of resources that we use, metal, concrete, and so on, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions—we have to tackle the climate change problem very significantly.”

What are the three most promising initiatives that would make living in cities more sustainable?

“The things that can be done and should be done are still a bit frightening for politicians, really, but they are about reallocating space, so that space is for people—and not for things that weigh a tonne and are made of metal and kill children when they hit them—and things that are green and things that are clean and things that are pleasant. We can look at car-free housing, getting rid of parking places, digging up and closing roads…. And people will have to adjust to that; they will have to adjust to a more pleasant, slower, more agreeable, healthier, friendly lifestyle.”

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About the author: 

Managing Director of Eco-Logica, John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor of Sustainable Development at the Stockholm Environment Institute, and founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. Research interests encompass transport and the environment, definition of sustainable transport systems and a sustainable built environment, development of transport in third world cities focusing on the relationships between sustainability and human health, implementation of environmental strategies within manufacturing and service industry and development of environmental management standards. He has published widely on these topics. John is active in the Green party of England and Wales and is the national spokesperson on sustainable development.

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About the editor: 

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and international sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport - . | Britton online:

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One thought on “John Whitelegg on “Health in the sustainable city”

  1. Pingback: What Makes a Sustainable City? « Pollution Free Cities

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