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PIRE: Promoting Urban Sustainability in the Arctic


Project start
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Type of project
Project theme
Education & Outreach
Project topic
Computer science & e-learning
Education & Outreach

Project details

Science / project summary

Arctic PIRE: Promoting Urban Sustainability in the Arctic As Arctic ice continues to melt, humans will enter the high north in growing numbers to develop local resources and expand transportation links. The result of this increased activity will be intensified urban development in extreme conditions. The purpose of this project is to promote greater urban sustainability in the Arctic so that the ultimate human impact on the larger environment will be as small as possible. To achieve such a broad international goal, this Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) will bring together scientists from the U.S., Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway and Russia. Developing strong cooperation among the various Arctic countries, as well as other European and Asian countries with growing interests in the north, is necessary to ensure that future development in this polar region is managed effectively. With the U.S. chairing the Arctic Council from May 2015 to May 2017, this PIRE will improve the ability of policy-makers to promote sustainability by providing tools to measure progress, identify areas of most urgent need, select verifiable best practices, examine opportunity costs, and determine where external actors can have the greatest impact. Specifically, this project will develop an Arctic Urban Sustainability Index, which will make it possible to assess the consequences of human activities in the region across a number of important dimensions. The Index will be used to measure sustainability outcomes and progress toward achieving those outcomes in a wide variety of Arctic cities. Key elements of the index will include thawing permafrost, a boom-bust economic cycle, and an influx of migrant workers with the resulting increase in social tensions. Our central hypothesis posits that: Measuring sustainability efforts across the full range of scale and mechanisms and compiling the results in the form of an index will trigger efforts to improve urban planning. The project will be multi-disciplinary in nature, incorporating the analytical tools of geography, climatology, architecture, design, sociology, and political science. Importantly, the Index will not be limited to use in the Arctic. It could be effective in measuring sustainability in other extreme climate conditions, such as in the new cities rising in the Persian Gulf and in places like Phoenix, Arizona.