[Pre-print] Urban environmental degradation: Causes and solutions
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This chapter summarizes the nature of urban environmental degradation, and its ideological and institutional roots. These have to do with the often pro-development orientation of municipal councils, the dependence of municipalities on development-related revenues for their operations, and the tendency for municipal departments to operate as ‘silos.’ This is further exacerbated by the lack of sufficient regulations, resources or enforcement at the provincial level, with provinces in turn often downloading responsibilities for environmental management without the requisite funding. Having identified the shortcomings associated with traditional municipal environmental planning in my home province of British Columbia (BC), I look at three case studies that show instances of municipal leadership that offer hope for a sounder future direction. In one instance, that of the Town of Gibsons, BC, a more holistic approach to asset management has been embraced that combines engineered infrastructure and natural capital infrastructure into a common framework. In the case of Surrey - the second-largest municipality in BC and one of the fastest-growing - a comprehensive Green Infrastructure Network (GIN) and Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (BCS) have been established. While making use of a broad range of policy tools for its implementation it does not cover as much terrain as originally identified for practical implementation reasons; nonetheless it breaks much new ground. The final case involves the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, a second-tier municipality in Ontario which has adopted a comprehensive framework for integrating sustainability into all of its policies and practices. In some areas, such as water conservation, it has experienced extraordinary gains. In others, implementation has been more challenging.