Towards Urban Sustainability: A Framework for Understanding the Applicability of SDGs to small and medium size cites (SMSC)
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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United Nations (UN) News states that understanding upcoming urbanization trends is crucial to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda consists of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that the UN hopes all countries will achieve by 2030. Research has shown the importance of involving stakeholders and practitioners in solving sustainability challenges. However, doubts remain about the feasibility of implementing SDGs at all spatial levels, especially in small and medium-sized cities (SMSC) involving citizens in decision-making. This research aims to fulfill four objectives sing various techniques: (1) creating survey instruments to gather residents’ awareness/familiarity, concern/urgency, perception, involvement, behavior, and intended behavior about sustainability; (2) evaluating the same characteristics within different groups and their relationship with each other; (3) analyzing land use and land cover (LUCC) changes in 10 cities in Alabama, a southeast US (SEUS) state, to understand the impact of the changing urban landscape; and (4) creating a data reporting platform for a growing small city in Alabama, Auburn to serve as a centralized location for viewing and collecting information about the area's goals. The first study creates a validated survey instrument that can be used by cities to evaluate the awareness/familiarity, concern/urgency, perception, involvement, behavior, and intended behavior of their residents towards sustainable practices based on the UN SDGs. The second study conducts a multigroup comparison of different demographic subgroups' attitudes towards sustainability practices and creates a model to evaluate the relationship between the aforementioned variables. The results reveal different responses among demographic groups and concern/urgency being the most influential factor 3 leading to behavior changes, although other factors are also significant. The third study analyzes LUCC changes in 10 cities in Alabama and predicts future growth with a business-as-usual scenario using a cellular automata model. The fourth study documents the creation of a data reporting and visualization platform for reporting SDG information for Auburn, Alabama. This platform uses the Open SDG Data Reporting Platform provided by UN, Python, Ruby, GitHub Pages, Jekyll, and ArcGIS Online to provide a current picture of how applicable the SDGs are at a city level and how a city like Auburn performs on the scale of SDGs. Overall, this study provides a framework for SMSC in the SEUS to promote citizen engagement, understand the physical changes due to the exponential increase in population, and provide a centralized platform for reporting progress towards sustainable development.