The Next Urban Giants: Building Resilience and Equity into Growing Megapolitan Regions by Greening the Urban Human-Natural System

Primary author: Julie Padowski
Co-author(s): Patricia Townsend; Brad Gaolach; Anand Jayakaran; Martha Aitken; Maggie Anderson Fasy; Kevan Moffett; Kim Zentz

Primary college/unit: Center for Environmental Research, Education & Outreach
Campus: Pullman

Urbanization has played a profound role in shaping human society over the past century leading now to the rise of Megapolitan regions (defined as having >10 million people by 2040). Understanding the economic, social, and environmental challenges associated with megapolitan development would benefit from robust and coordinated urban sustainability initiatives and will be critical for helping to shape a sustainable future.

In July of 2019, the WSU Metropolitan Center hosted a workshop funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Sustainable Urban Systems Conference and Workshop Awards. The workshop brought together a select and diverse group of 40 experts responsible for implementing sustainability initiatives across academia, industry, local governments and non-profits to: 1) identify the key challenges megapolitan regions and their adjacent communities and natural spaces face as urbanization continues, 2) explore the myriad approaches used in megapolitan regions to address these challenges, and 3) synthesize this information to identify priority research areas that a research network could promote for improving urban systems sustainability.

Group perspective, knowledge, experience, connections, and collaborative and big-thinking mindset were the greatest asset for thinking about those most critical megapolitan challenges and opportunities. The workshop produced three products that were shared across participants’ networks a (1) white paper to NSF, (2) “Green Print” for work managers and practitioners to help them transition material from the conference into their daily work, and (3) scope of work for informing future education and outreach products. A peer-reviewed synthesis journal article is currently in progress.