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The Environmental Impacts of Sprawl: Emergent Themes from the Past Decade of Planning Research

Author(s): Bev Wilson | Arnab Chakraborty

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 5;
Issue: 8;
Start page: 3302;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: sprawl | environmental impact | resilience | justice | urban planning

This article reviews studies published in English language planning journals since 2001 that focus on the environmental impacts of sprawl. We organise our analysis of the reviewed literature around: (1) the conceptualisation or measurement of sprawl; (2) a comparison of research methods employed and findings with respect to four categories of environmental impacts—air, energy, land, and water; and (3) an exploration of emergent and cross-cutting themes. We hypothesise that the trend towards breaking down silos observable in other areas of planning scholarship is also reflected in the recent sprawl literature and structure our review to test this proposition. International in scope, our work demonstrates how focusing on outcomes can facilitate balanced comparisons across geographic contexts with varying rates of urbanisation and affluence. We find that the sprawl research published in planning journals over the past decade frequently engages with broader themes of resilience and justice, increasingly considers multiple environmental outcomes, and suggests a convergence in the way sprawl is studied that transcends national boundaries as well as the developing-developed country dichotomy.

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