Urban Environmental Sustainability

Humanities & Social Sciences
Geography and the Environment
Course Code
GEOG 2311
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
What are the ecological footprints of urban areas? How will climate change and sea level rise affect cities? How can planning and design assist in creating environmentally sustainable cities? This course examines the impact that urban development has on the natural environment and explores concepts and tools for creating more environmentally sustainable urban areas using global and local case studies.
Course Content
  1. Evolution and Growth of Urban Regions: an overview of the factors affecting the growth of urban regions globally and locally.
  2. Environmental Sustainability: perspectives of sustainability and sustainable development, UN Sustainable Development Goals, Design with Nature, and Greening of Cities Movement
  3. Natural Systems of Urban Regions: aquatic ecoystems (rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal environments), terrestrial (land and forests), atmosphere, and agro-ecosystems. Natural capital, ecosystem services, carrying capacity and urban wildlife habitats.
  4. Impacts of Urban Growth on Natural Systems: water, air and land pollution; urban heat island; loss of agricultural land; impacts on fish and wildlife habitats; parks and open space; urban sprawl; hardening of shorelines; transportation infrastructure; and liquid and solid waste management.
  5. The Role of Cities in Global Climate Change: urban contributions to carbon emissions, as well as climate change impacts on cities (e.g., sea level rise), and adaptation strategies.
  6. Environmental Design and Planning: designing with nature; green infrastructure (e.g., buildings, transportation); best management practices; role of different levels of government in managing the environmental sustainabily of urban regions through legislation, policies and planning; and global and local case studies.
  7. Environmental Citizenship: role and growth of citizen led environmental concern and stewardship.






Learning Activities
  • Lectures
  • Guest speaker presentations
  • Local field work or field trips
  • Videos
  • Small group discussions
  • Individual or group projects
  • Practical in-class exercises
  • Map and data analysis
Means of Assessment

The evaluation will be based on course objectives and be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written syllabus outlining course objectives and evaluation specifications during the first week of class. An example of an evaluation scheme is as follows:

Midterm Exam     25%

Final Exam          25%

Field Trip Report  15%

Research Project  25%

Participation        10%




Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe some of the important natural systems found in urban areas (e.g., water, air, land, vegetation, wildlife)
  2. Understand the factors affecting the growth of urban regions both globally and locally.
  3. Explain the concepts and applications of environmental sustainability with particular emphasis on urban regions.
  4. Analyze the impacts of urban growth on natural systems (e.g., air and water quality, fish and wildlife habitats, waste management, transportation, energy use, climate change).
  5. Identify and describe solutions and alternatives to achieve environmental sustainability through application of environmental assessments, policies, planning, and urban design.
  6. Explain the role of governments and nongovernmental organizations and citizens in achieving environmental sustainability of urban regions.
  7. Use both qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g., interpret and utilize maps, graphs, tables and charts) to analyze impacts of urban growth on natural systems and to communicate this information orally and in writing.



Textbook Materials

A textbook or coursepack may be used. Texts and coursepack readings will be updated periodically. Examples of typical textbooks and readings include:

Adler, Frederick and Tanner, Colby. Urban Ecosystems: Ecological Principles for the Built Environment. Cambridge University Press. 2013.

Barnett, Jonathan and Beasley, Larry. Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs. Island Press. 2016.

Bulkeley, Harriet and Betsill, Michele. Cities and Climate Change: Urban Sustainability and Global Environmental Governance. Routledge. 2005.

Douglas, Ian and James, Philip. Urban Ecology: An Introduction. Routledge. 2015.

Farr, Douglas. Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature. Island Press. November 2007.

Filion, P., Moos, M., Vinodrai, T. and Walker, R. (ed.). Canadian Cities in Transition: Perspectives for an Urban Age. 5th Edition. Oxford University Press. 2015.

Forman, Richard. Urban Ecology: Science of Cities. Cambridge University Press. 2014.

Francis, Robert A. and Chadwick, Michael. Urban Ecosystems: Understanding the Human Environment. Routledge. 2013.

Gould, Kenneth A. and Lewis, Tammy L. Green Gentrification: Urban Sustainability and the Struggle for Environmental Justice. 2017.

James, Paul. Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of Sustainability. Routledge. 2014.

Palazzo, Danilo and Steiner, Frederick. Urban Ecological Design: A Process for Regenerative Places. Island Press. 2011.

Ragazzi, Marco. Improving Urban Environments: Strategies for Healthier and More Sustainable Cities.Apple Academic Press. 2016.

Ruddick, Margie. Wild By Design: Strategies For Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes. Island Press. 2016.

The Worldwatch Institute. Can a City Be Sustainable? Island Press. 2016.

U.N. Habitat. Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011. United Nations. 2011.




Any 1000 or 2000 level Geography course





Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for GEOG 2311
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX SOSC 2XX (3)
Athabasca University (AU) AU GEOG 3XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU GEOG 2XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU GEOG 2XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG GEOG 1XXX (3)
North Island College (NIC) NIC GEO 2XX (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC GEOG 2XX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU GEOG 2XX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU GENV 2XX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW GEOG 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV GEOG 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC ENVS 2XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV GEOG 2XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC GEOG 2XX (1.5)
Vancouver Community College (VCC) No credit
Vancouver Community College (VCC) VCC GEOG 2XXX (3)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU GEOG 2nd (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023