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Summary - Lecture 10: Urban Metabolism: Conceptualizing the City as an Organism

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2018 ProSPER.Net Young Researchers' School
Lecture summary prepared by Arlene Gonzales (Asian Institute of Technology) & Hongru Hong (University of Tokyo)

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Summary - Lecture 10: Urban Metabolism: Conceptualizing the City as an Organism

  1. 1. ProSPER.NET Arlene GONZALES Young Researchers’ School 2018 Hongru HONG Lecture #10 by Dr. Gasparatos Urban Metabolism and the Environmental Impact of Activities Urban metabolism refers to the family of methodology to understand impacts of material consumption. It is also used to frame and to understand urban capacity by examining the materials flow input and output. This concept actually views cities as a living being that consumes materials (energy, resources), some are circulated within the city itself, and wastes are produced as end-products. Urban metabolism and cities are based on industrial ecology and traces the consumption and the emission that can be accounted using different techniques. It quantifies the mass of the resources consumed by a population. Among the popular measures used are the Material Flow Analysis (MFA) that uses the approach of resource accounting. The second technique is through emergy, where it assesses the relationships between human-dominated systems, and uses system ecology which looks into the different processes in the city along the materials and of fundamental energy transfer. The third approach is through exergy to improve the efficiency analysis and avoid wasting of input flows. The methodology of looking into the impact of cities can be relatively easily done even without field data, which have an implication in policy making and implementation. This could actually lessen the period devoted for field collection since it makes use of available secondary data as references for the development of accounting and models. In the second part of the lecture, Dr. Gasparatos made use of a research on Tokyo’s meat consumption trend to illustrate how the concept of a city as a living organism could be understood. The results reveal that as the population of Tokyo and people’s appetite for meat increased, coupled with the decrease of available lands, this leads to an increase in industrialised husbandry and import. In view of the needs to reduce ecological footprint, there are implications for the government to promote short distance transportation of domestically produced meat for megacities like Tokyo. Having shown a practical application of material and energy flow, Dr. Gasparatos went to talk about the uncertainties, challenges, and limitations of this kind of research, but also potential for future research. For example, the dependency on data and inconsistency of data are among the uncertainties and challenges. This kind of secondary data analysis often gives us impacts and trend with variables rather than the actual situation of, for example, geophysical or biodiversity changes.