Welcome to the book of blogs, a collection of diverse works from researchers across the globe who all have something important to say about the way in which our world is changing and how we can strive towards a more sustainable future. This book emerged from an International Social Science Council (ISSC) meeting in November 2014 of early career researchers, who gathered in Taiwan to discuss transitions to urban contexts from a social science perspective. The seminar involved weeklong discussions about sustainable urbanisation and the contribution of social science research to sustainable urban futures. Yet a week was not long enough to hear the diverse perspectives within the room, let alone incorporate the plethora of viewpoints beyond it. Within the ISSC discussions we concluded that one definition of sustainable urbanisation is not possible and that sustainable urbanisations are in play. The transitions to urban contexts taking place, and those that are anticipated within our futures, were characterised in terms of their plurality, diversity, fluidity, and change. This book embraces such uncertainty by welcoming dialogues, rather than a monologue, on the urbanisation processes taking place across the world and what to do about the places we build, and the impacts of human activity on the environment, health and climate.
This book is also about being heard. The call for contributions was therefore open to people at any career level, based within any organisation and not restricted to academics. We took a crowdsourced approach to generate a book of blogs with the aim of breaking through some of the boundaries set by traditional publishing formats. Therefore posts have not been peer-reviewed in the traditional way and only ‘light touch’ editing has taken place to ensure that individual voices remain as unfiltered as possible. Despite this lighter touch approach there were still some posts that have not been included in the final version, as there was a need to guarantee that clarity and a standard of writing was present to help ensure the book is well used and referenced by all. Relatedly, we also recognise that publishing this book in English excludes many voices and frames sustainable urbanisation in that meaning system; but perhaps this could be a future project for someone to take on and produce a multiple language format. We hope that the blogs within the book can be used and referenced accordingly to support work, lead to collaborations, or spark ideas for future initiatives. Within the e-version of this book, many authors have included hyperlinks; we recognise these will not work in printed copies but would encourage you to also engage with the e-version to access additional material in blogs of interest.
The strength of this book and the interest in this area is highlighted by the overwhelming response received in relation to the call for contributors. This book includes the work of over 80 researchers. To help facilitate readers going through the book it has been organised into sections: definitions of sustainability, urban governance, engaged citizens, urban divides, movement and mobilities, China, making places, environment, low carbon futures, alternative economies, and digital futures.
As the editors we would like to thank all those who have taken the time to contribute and responded so well to emails. It has led to an eclectic mix of articles that cover aspects of sustainable urbanisation globally and in relation to a huge variety of topics. We would also like to thank Kandy Woodfield, who edited the NSMNSS Book of Blogs for guidance and reassuring words through this process and the ISSC for their support in making this project happen.
Finally, on behalf of all those who have included their work here, we really hope that you enjoy the read; dip in and out, and use it to encourage others to blog their work. We hope it inspires other collections on urban and environmental issues in the future. Each post is accompanied with the author’s contact details so that you can get in touch with them – long may our dialogues continue.