Cities as Forces for Good in the Environment: A Systems Approach

  • M. Bruce Beck
  • Dillip K. Das
  • Michael Thompson
  • Innocent Chirisa
  • Stephen Eromobor
  • Serge Kubanza
  • Tejas Rewal
  • Everardt Burger


Background: The various elements of infrastructure in cities and their systems of governance—for transport, buildings, solid waste management, sewerage and wastewater treatment, and so on—may be re-worked such that cities may become forces for good (CFG, for short) in the environment. The chapter is a study in the lessons learned from implementing and pursuing research into how a systems approach can be employed to meet the challenges of achieving CFGs. Methodology: Four case studies in CFG are presented within the framework of the methods and computational models of Systems Dynamics (SD): transport infrastructure for the Kanyakumari city-region in India, resource recovery from wastewater infrastructure in the city of Harare, Zimbabwe, environmental injustice in the handling of solid municipal wastes in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and improving the use of energy in university campus buildings in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Application/Relevance to systems analysis: The chapter presents the successes and the difficulties of undertaking Applied Systems Analysis (ASA) in demanding urban contexts. Policy and practice implications: Policy for CFG derived from ASA often appears to be a matter of determining better technological innovations and engineering interventions in the infrastructure of cities, while practice often demands that infrastructure improvements follow from social and institutional improvements. Conclusion: The first of three conclusions is that combining the rigorous, logical, non-quantitative, more discursive and more incisive style of thinking derived from the humanities, particularly, social anthropology, with better computational modelling will yield better outcomes for ASA. Secondly, in a global context, cities—as opposed to nation-states—are increasingly becoming the locations and scale at which today’s environmental, economic, and social “problems” might best be “solved”. Third, and last, we conclude that South Africa, while it may not have a long tradition of problem-solving according to ASA, has for us emphasised (through our experience of the South African YSSPs) the limitations of an historical over-reliance on hard, quantitative methods of systems analysis.


Governance systems Computational models Systems dynamics Transport infrastructure Wastewater infrastructure  Solid municipal waste Applied Systems Analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Bruce Beck
    • 1
  • Dillip K. Das
    • 2
  • Michael Thompson
    • 3
  • Innocent Chirisa
    • 4
  • Stephen Eromobor
    • 2
  • Serge Kubanza
    • 5
  • Tejas Rewal
    • 6
  • Everardt Burger
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Civil & Environmental EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Civil EngineeringCentral University of TechnologyBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  3. 3.Risk and Resilience ProgramInternational Institute for Applied Systems AnalysisLaxenburgAustria
  4. 4.Department of Urban and Regional PlanningUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe
  5. 5.School of Geography, Archaeology, and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  6. 6.Department of Architecture and PlanningIndian Institute of TechnologyRoorkeeIndia

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