(620b) Assessment of Urban Sustainability: An Exploration Based on Two Metrics for the Chicago Metropolitan Area

Authors: 
Argoti, A., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Demeke, B., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Dewey, A., U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
Cities and urban agglomerations are undeniably becoming humanity's habitat as they embody the centers of economic, educational, and social activities; in fact, about 70% of the world's population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. These urban areas significantly deplete natural and environmental resources. Consequently, it is essential that urban systems be sustainable to minimize the excessive depletion of such resources. In this regard, the assessment of urban sustainability becomes critical and it should be performed with metrics capable of elucidating the sustainability trends of urban systems rapidly. Herein, we deploy the Ecological Footprint (EF) and the Green Net Metropolitan Product (GNMP) for exploring the sustainability trends of the Chicago Metropolitan Area (CMA) between 1990 and 2015. The CMA is formed by seven counties in northern Illinois under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). Our exploration is in line with those research efforts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) concerning the quantification of regional sustainability based on multidisciplinary assessments. First, the EF aims at capturing the impacts (expressed in space units) of human consumption on the regenerative capacity of ecosystems via an ecological accounting system. Second, the GNMP is an economic measure of sustainability that adjusts the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a classical indicator of economic well-being, for the degradation of natural and environmental resources. We compute the regional EF and GNMP with data collected from publicly available, secondary sources regarding variables such as population, land area, per-capita consumption of various items, Gross Metropolitan Product, net income, pollution emissions, solid waste, etc. The preliminary results of our analyses appear to indicate that there is no evidence the region is moving away from sustainability. We expect that the results of this exploration will serve as a basis for a refined computational framework that might assist CMAP in crafting policy aimed at maintaining the sustainability of the CMA.