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The Connection Between Sustainable Development, Smart Growth, and Agenda 21: A Guide for Planners

In the last few years, urban planners and many organizations that support planners' efforts to promote sustainability have come under attack, as allegations circulate that the profession is part of a United Nations conspiracy to reduce national sovereignty and control local land uses. This presentation summarizes the concerns of the detractors and the foundation of their claims, and then looks at the missions, activities, and relationship to the United Nations of three sustainability focused organizations that are regularly denounced by anti-sustainability entities: the American Planning Association (APA), ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and Smart Growth America (SGA).  We find that in direct contrast to detractor’s claims about the homogenizing force of sustainable development and the role it plays in directly influencing local land use policies, planning organizations instead advocate strategies that are tailored to local contexts, involve local stakeholders, and are reflective of local needs and priorities.  However, we note that planners should engage detractors’ compelling concerns as a useful challenge to their own arguments and an opportunity to ensure that their advocated reforms are not only effective but also reasonable and fair.

These sessions are a response to requests from faculty and students to learn more about what’s going on in the field in an informal environment. We hope this can inspire emergent thoughts and connections that will inform our scholarship. If you have research you would like to present, or a provocative article you would like to discuss, please speak with Larissa LarsenDavid Weinreich, or Carla Kayanan.

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