Letter from the Editor

Urbanization in Anthropocene

npj Urban Sustainability will address some of the most challenging questions humanity has ever faced, including how urban regions around the world could radically transform to address current environmental crises and the ways cities and their regions are reshaping to meet major economic and social challenges, developing new pathways to sustainable urbanization.

The journal is targeting an intentionally very wide audience of urban scholars, policy makers and practitioners and welcomes critical studies, comparative case studies and impact studies, including policy solutions for existing cities and regions.

At the onset, npj Urban Sustainability seeks to focus on three major drivers of the conversation on the global role of cities:

First, we will encourage submissions from researchers studying urbanization in the Global South. It is now evident for many practitioners and scholars that much of the future of urbanization and its associated challenges, opportunities and innovation will depend on the Global South. Therefore, rapidly expanding knowledge for, of, and most importantly with the global south is an urgent imperative for sustainability science. Empirical and theoretical analyses of the implications of urban change in relation to inequality will be especially welcome.

Second, the interplay of urbanization, climate change and the biodiversity crisis are also highlighted themes for us since these global environmental changes have multiple and far-reaching effects on cities and continued urbanization and since many of the solutions to these challenges may be found in urban regions.

Third, we also strongly encourage submission of papers on the role of data and innovation in urban research. This is both from the perspective of integration of innovative technology and solutions that emerge from collection and analyses of urban data and case studies, including both large and fine-grained spatial and temporal data, as well as from case studies that seek to recast the boundaries of urban research for planetary sustainability.

We also encourage submission of papers that make critical reflections on what has happened since the decisions were taken on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and their explicit acknowledgement of urban issues, and New Urban Agenda. Here, we specifically prioritize research related to the Sustainable Development Goals 11 ('make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable'), and how this goal interacts with the other Sustainable Development Goals in urbanization processes.

The first inaugural issue has the theme “Urbanization in the Anthropocene” where a set of papers are setting out some of the dimensions of how urbanization may not only accelerate the global processes underlying the Anthropocene, but also how cities and urban regions may be a positive force in contributing to a “good” Anthropocene. The set of papers highlight both challenges and opportunities of cities, urban regions in forming a more resilient sustainable future addressing demography, biodiversity, climate change, bushfiresinfrastructure (particularly water) and how to mobilize knowledge and science for sustainability, giving perspectives on co-production in data-scarce circumstances in the global south.

In coming issues, we will strive to encourage broad perspectives on localized implementation of a number of global policy initiatives and address questions like: How has the UN system so far dealt with the urban age? What are strategic plans for the future? What institutional reforms are needed? How have nations and cities progressed? What are short-term and long-term consequences of COVID-19 on urban development? What have been the main obstacles and barriers to transformations for urban sustainability? What can perspectives, new methods and voices from the global south do to drive and recast this conversation?

We believe that, in a time of pressing urban questions of a global nature, the best urban science needs to have a stake in its tangible implications and the major international exchanges that are set to shape the very cities this research engages with.

This is what we aim to achieve with npj Urban Sustainability.


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EiC Thomas Elmqvist introduces the journal and two papers in the launch issue: a Comment piece called "Urbanization in and for the Anthropocene" and Barbara Norman's Perspective on Australian bushfires.