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Introduction

In 2009, the National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS) Program hosted a public workshop to engage representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, academia, and the private sector in a discussion of emerging research on urban systems, and on how understanding human-environment interactions and the interplay among energy, water, transportation, and other systems could help decision makers address complex sustainability challenges. Recurring themes from this workshop included cities as incubators of knowledge and that bottom-up, place-based solutions are important. Also discussed was how the federal government and research community have important roles to play by facilitating urban experiments and documenting the outcomes and lessons learned. Participants discussed how integrated research that includes social scientists, natural and physical scientists, engineers, public health professionals, and planners will be needed to address complex urban systems. Following this initial workshop, STS planned three place-based urban sustainability workshops—Atlanta, GA, Houston, TX, and Portland, OR. These public workshops gathered local, state, and federal officials, academics, and key stakeholders to examine how challenges due to continued growth in the regions can be addressed within the context of sustainability.

In 2010, STS convened the first of these workshops in Atlanta, which provided a compelling case study as the region’s rapid growth has had significant implications for water, land use, and transportation. In 2012, the second workshop was held in Houston, which is the nation’s fourth-largest city and is home to many oil and gas industries, which helped to make it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. But as in Atlanta, growth had deleterious effects on air pollution, public health, land-use, and natural ecosystems. Recently, Houston



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1 Introduction In 2009, the National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sus- tainability (STS) Program hosted a public workshop to engage representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, academia, and the private sector in a discussion of emerging research on urban systems, and on how understand- ing human-environment interactions and the interplay among energy, water, transportation, and other systems could help decision makers address complex sustainability challenges. Recurring themes from this workshop included cities as incubators of knowledge and that bottom-up, place-based solutions are important. Also discussed was how the federal government and research community have important roles to play by facilitating urban experiments and documenting the outcomes and lessons learned. Participants discussed how integrated research that includes social scientists, natural and physical scientists, engineers, public health professionals, and planners will be needed to address complex urban systems. Following this initial workshop, STS planned three place-based urban sustain- ability workshops—Atlanta, GA, Houston, TX, and Portland, OR. These public workshops gathered local, state, and federal officials, academics, and key stake- holders to examine how challenges due to continued growth in the regions can be addressed within the context of sustainability. In 2010, STS convened the first of these workshops in Atlanta, which pro- vided a compelling case study as the region’s rapid growth has had significant implications for water, land use, and transportation. In 2012, the second workshop was held in Houston, which is the nation’s fourth-largest city and is home to many oil and gas industries, which helped to make it one of the fastest growing metro- politan areas in the country. But as in Atlanta, growth had deleterious ­ ffects on e air pollution, public health, land-use, and natural ecosystems. Recently, Houston 1

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2 PATHWAYS TO URBAN SUSTAINABILITY has begun to promote many promising sustainability initiatives and has made advances in wind-generated power, installed a light rail system, and increased the number of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. The third of these place-based workshops was held in Portland. For more than 40 years, the Portland Metropolitan Region has been a national leader in urban policies and investments intended to revitalize the central city and a ­ djacent neighborhoods, preserve the environment, improve equity, and make the city more economically competitive and livable. The “Portland brand” has been both emulated as path breaking and discounted as overly idiosyncratic. Among the elements contributing to Portland’s success have been strong public- private partnerships, a culture of planning, and a willingness to implement diverse ideas generated by academics, consultants, companies, and government agencies. R ­ egionally, Portland has benefited from its location in the middle of the progres- sive Cascadia Corridor, stretching from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Francisco, California. ORGANIZATION OF THE WORKSHOP The workshop was convened to use examples from Portland and the North- west U.S./S.W. Canada region to explore critical questions about the future of urban sustainability. The meeting was organized into four sessions over 2 days. Session one provided background about Portland and Cascadia, emphasizing policy innovations and lessons that are potentially transferable elsewhere. Session two focused on ways to leverage local success through partnerships with state and federal agencies, companies, and nongovernment organizations. Session three examined academic and corporate scientific and engineering research that could help cities to become more sustainable. The final session addressed the challeng- ing question of how resource-constrained cities can become agents for achieving broader societal goals not directly linked to their operational mandates, such as climate change mitigation, energy independence, and improvement in human health, particularly in low-income communities. In developing the agenda, the planning committee chose topics that were timely and cut across the concerns of individual institutions, reflecting the interests of a variety of stakeholders. Panelists were encouraged to share their perspectives on a given topic; however, each panel was designed to provoke discussion that took advantage of the broad experience of the participants.