During the international symposium, Global Pressures on Local Autonomy: Challenges to Urban Planning for Sustainability and Development, held in early September in Louisville, Ky., many presentations dealing with local efforts to advance sustainable urban development around the world encouraged equally interesting discussions by participants from 22 countries. The event was sponsored by the International Urban Planning and Environment Association.
A major theme heard throughout the symposium was the necessity to make trade-offs-the dialectics of dealing in practical terms with sustainability. Sustainability is commonly defined as a balance between economic, social and environmental concerns that takes a long-term view. When these objectives are in conflict, acceptable trade-offs are difficult to identify and agree on, but necessary.
In addition, several sub-themes or findings frequently emerged from the symposium sessions:
Reflecting on the symposium as a whole, the most interesting and useful presentations were based on one or more actual cases, and so were inductive in their approach. Many participants noted that the specific treatments of problems and responses were more useful to them than were abstract and general presentations. Additionally, the papers were especially interesting to participants if the presenter had first-hand experience with the case or process, as opposed to being a third-party observer.
This symposium provided an exceptional venue to bring together governmental officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations and researchers to exchange experiences and information on how to use urban planning for sustainability and development. The next symposium in this series is scheduled for Bangkok in early January 2007.