Following on the heels of the recently completed Israel Sustainability Outlook 2030
(undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection), JIIS has launched a new research project to address the critical state of the environment, “Urban Sustainability.”
“A lot of the research to date, both in Israel and abroad, has focused on innovative technologies and finding ways to incorporate environmental parameters in economic models,” says Tami Gavrieli, project director and head of the new Urban Sustainability Center at JIIS. “We are taking a different approach here: we will view cities as the focus of most human activity and determine how patterns of behavior can be modified so that the result will be more sustainable lifestyles. To do this, we will take a broad academic approach that goes beyond environmental and economic parameters to include sociological and behavioral science aspects and so on. Among the long-term goals of the project are to build models for sustainable lifestyles, not merely to recommend that people change their ways.”
The new project is essentially a continuation of Outlook 2030, which stressed the need for developing models for “sustainable urban lifestyles” in its strategic recommendations. It follows the now-widely recognized understanding that, despite increased resource efficiency in production processes and the promotion of pro-environmental products, the world is still far from attaining the targets necessary for the protection of planetary ecosystems for future generations.
Urban Sustainability will be carried out over the coming three years in two stages. In the first, a team of researchers and experts in the fields of social and behavioral sciences (social psychology, sociology and behavioral economics) will review the international literature and data relevant to creating more sustainable urban lifestyles and assess the characteristics of Israeli society which determine lifestyles, highlighting areas which could facilitate the transformation. Key issues include new aspects of design, possibilities for changing user patterns of transportation and energy, and the resilience of urban communities. A set of indicators will then be developed to monitor and evaluate specified areas and to identify communities which have more sustainable lifestyles and the factors which influence their choice of lifestyle.
Elsewhere in this context, says Gavrieli, “such indicators have addressed physical infrastructures; our project will focus on social parameters, such as social organization and governance, culture and religion and what role social media might have in promoting more sustainable patterns of behavior.”
In the second stage, and with the cooperation of the scientific community, regulators, the business community and civic organizations, the team will build strategies for achieving sustainable urban lifestyles. Experts and other stakeholders will join together to build a vision and models of urban sustainability through a series of workshops.
“Our assumption is that change is not effected by individuals but by social organizations and institutions,” Gavrieli adds. “We will thus seek to identify opportunities for effecting organizational and institutional change in the public and private sectors, bringing as many relevant actors as possible on board, with the intention of promoting sustainability in the broadest possible contexts.”
Recently the team held its first meeting with the steering committee, led by Raanan Dinur, and with the participation of experts from the public and business sectors, local authorities and civic organizations. The many fields of research to be covered in the project were presented and discussion ensued regarding how best to achieve its varied goals. The range of participants' expertise added depth and perspective to the discussion.