Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies

Arctic Research Coordination Network: Building a Research Network for Promoting Arctic Urban Sustainability


Develoment of Russia's Arctic Urban Environment

Typology of Arctic Cities

What is Urban Sustainabiity?

The National Environmental Policy Act defines sustainability as "creating and maintaining conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony for present and future generations." This approach focuses on three key pillars: ecological integrity, economic development, and socialy equity. Our efforts will focus on the way that climate change affects urban development in the Russian Arctic, the way that resource development (as directed by the Russian state) shapes the cities, and how demographic and migration trends influence the social fabric of Russian cities.

For this research project, the unit of analysis is the city. Naturally, sustainability can mean different things at the level of the individual, the country and the planet. Focusing on the individual would be too complicated in this context because of the difficulty in obtaining data, while work at the level of the country or internationally is too broad to understand the actual workings of the human impact on the environment. The city, along with associated oil and gas fields, mines, ports, and other industries, makes the most sense because it is the main site of human-environment interaction in the Arctic. Unfortunately, state of the art works on urban sustainability "sometimes fail to recognize urban areas as systems" (Schaffer & Vollmer, 2010). The problem is that human-environment interactions at the urban level are extremely complex and often researchers and policy-makers do not fully understand them. Given the complex nature of the problems, the set of policy solutions will be constantly evolving over time.

As we take our research further we want to explore the influence of social capital on sustainability in cities. The term "social capital" refers to the stock of trust, mutual understanding, shared values, and socially held knowledge that facilitates the social coordination of economic activity. Recognition of this concept is fairly recent, and has been strengthened by the observation that variations in social capital across communities and societies can help explain some of the differences in their development. Social capital is most often used to refer to characteristics of a society that encourage cooperation among groups of people whose joint, interdependent efforts are needed to achieve common goals such as efficient production. Studies suggest that strong norms of reciprocity lead people to trust and to help one another and that dense networks of civic participation encourage people to engage in mutually beneficial efforts rather than seeking only to gain individual advantage at the possible expense of others. (Goodwin, 2003)

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