Young people and environmental affordances in urban sustainable development: insights into transport and green and public space in seven cities (2020)
Type of ContentJournal Article
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC
- Arts: Journal Articles 
Background Cities are at the fore of sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century, and many, particularly in Asia and Africa, are predominantly youthful spaces. Understanding young people’s experiences in urban environments is therefore important as we strive to achieve both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Two amenities identified in the urban Sustainable Development Goal 11, transport and public and green space, are specifically recognised as applying to youth. Yet, there is little analysis that explicitly considers how youth experience these amenities across the Global North and South, and no current measures for understanding progress in youth experiences of green space and transport.
Results This paper provides a comparative analysis of young people’s experiences with local transport and green space in seven diverse urban communities (Christchurch, New Zealand; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lambeth/London, UK; Makhanda, South Africa; New Delhi, India; São Paulo, Brazil; and Yokohama, Japan). Our study contributes to a growing body of literature that seeks to listen to child and youth perspectives to understand their environmental experiences. We examine the ‘affordances’ young residents aged 12 to 24 years currently associate with green space and transport amenities. Affordances are defined here as the inter-relationships between what a local environment offers young people and their perceptions and actions. Drawing on focus groups and interviews conducted with 332 young people, we identify five affordances young people associate in relation to transport and public space across these diverse urban settings: (1) social inclusion and belonging; (2) autonomy; (3) physical comfort and security; (4) relaxation and reflection; and (5) health and fitness. Conclusions The paper contributes to growing interdisciplinary research interest in measuring affordances as a way to advance the Sustainable Development Goals in an urban context. In providing a comparative account of young people’s experiences across diverse contexts, our discussion highlights how affordances in relation to transport or public and green space can help understand the multiple interconnections between the well-being of young people and sustainability. In particular, we argue that it is not merely the provision of transport or public and green space that matters, but the nuanced meaning of places and experiences as understood by local communities that needs to be recognised if we are to better support urban youth wellbeing and advance sustainable development goals.
CitationNissen S, Prendergast K, Aoyagi M, Burningham K, Hasan MM, Hayward B, Jackson T, Jha V, Mattar H, Schudel I, Venn S, Yoshida A (2020). Young people and environmental affordances in urban sustainable development: insights into transport and green and public space in seven cities. Sustainable Earth. 3(1).
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KeywordsYoung people; Children; Environmental affordances; Sustainable development; Cities; Qualitative research
ANZSRC Fields of Research33 - Built environment and design::3304 - Urban and regional planning::330409 - Transport planning
33 - Built environment and design::3304 - Urban and regional planning::330411 - Urban design
33 - Built environment and design::3304 - Urban and regional planning::330413 - Urban planning and health
33 - Built environment and design::3303 - Design::330314 - Sustainable design
44 - Human society::4404 - Development studies::440408 - Urban community development
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