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Planning for Urban Ecosystem Services: Generating Actionable Knowledge for Reducing Environmental Inequities in Santiago de Chile

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Cities are hubs for economic and social development, but they are increasingly becoming hotspots of environmental problems and socio-economic inequalities. Because cities result from complex interactions among ecological, social and economic factors, environmental problems and socio-economic inequalities are often spatially

Cities are hubs for economic and social development, but they are increasingly becoming hotspots of environmental problems and socio-economic inequalities. Because cities result from complex interactions among ecological, social and economic factors, environmental problems and socio-economic inequalities are often spatially interconnected, generating emergent environmental inequity issues due to the unfair distribution of environmental quality among socioeconomic groups. Since urban environmental quality is tightly related to the capacity of urban landscapes to provide ecosystem services, optimizing the allocation of ecosystem services within cities is a main goal for moving towards more equitable and sustainable cities. Nevertheless, we often lack the empirical data and specific methods for planning urban landscapes to optimize the provision of ecosystem services. Therefore, the development of knowledge and methods to optimize the provision of ecosystem services is essential for tackling urban environmental problems, reducing environmental inequities, and promoting sustainable cities. The main goal of this dissertation is to generate actionable knowledge for helping decision-makers to optimize the allocation of urban vegetation for reducing environmental inequities through the provision of ecosystem services. The research uses the city of Santiago de Chile as a case study from a Latin-American city. To achieve this goal, I framed my dissertation in four linked research chapters, each of them providing methodological approaches to help link environmental inequity problems with the development of urban planning interventions promoting an equitable provision of urban ecosystem services. These chapters are specifically aimed at providing actionable knowledge for: (1) Identifying the level, distribution, and spatial scales at which environmental inequities are more relevant; (2) Identifying the areas and administrative units where environmental inequities interventions should be prioritized; (3) Identifying optimal areas to allocate vegetation for increasing the provision of urban ecosystem services; (4) Evaluating the role that planned urban vegetation may have in the long-term provision of ecosystem services by natural remnants within the urban landscape. Thus, this dissertation contributes to urban sustainability science by proposing methods and frameworks to address urban environmental inequities through the provision of ecosystem services, but it also provides place-based information that can be readily used for planning urban vegetation in Santiago.

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2017

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Multi-scale analysis of the opportunities and threats of large-scale land acquisitions (LaSLA) to the sustainable development of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a focus on Tanzania)

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Large-scale land acquisition (LaSLA), also called "land grabbing" refers to the buying or leasing of large tracts of land, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by foreign investors to produce food and biofuel to send back home. Since 2007, LaSLA has

Large-scale land acquisition (LaSLA), also called "land grabbing" refers to the buying or leasing of large tracts of land, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by foreign investors to produce food and biofuel to send back home. Since 2007, LaSLA has become an important development issue due to the opportunities and threats for SSA countries. LaSLA has the potential to create local jobs, transfer technology, build infrastructure, and modernize SSA's agriculture. Nonetheless, it can also aggravate food insecurity, perpetuate corruption, degrade ecosystems, cause conflicts, and displace local communities. What drives LaSLA, what are its impacts on local people, and under what circumstances can we consider it as just and ethical?

To examine what drives LaSLA, I used country level data from 2005 to 2013 on economic conditions, natural resources, business practices, and governance to estimate LaSLA models. I find that LaSLA increases with increasing government effectiveness, land prices, and the ease of doing business, and decreases with stronger regulatory regimes. To assess LaSLA's impacts on local people, I conducted a comparative case study in Tanzania. I compare changes in peoples' livelihood between treatment villages (those experiencing LaSLA) and control villages (those without LaSLA projects). The results show that under current practices, the risks of LaSLA outweigh the benefits to local livelihoods, yet there are potential benefits if LaSLA is implemented correctly.

To philosophically examine whether LaSLA can be considered just and ethical, I apply John Rawls' theory of justice. The analysis indicates that from both procedural and distributive justice perspective, LaSLA currently fails to satisfy Rawlsian principles of justice. From these analyses, I conclude that if implemented correctly, LaSLA can produce a win-win outcome for both investors and host countries. I suggest that strong governance, rigorous environmental and social impact assessment, and inclusion of local people at all levels of LaSLA decision making are critical for sustainable and equitable outcomes.

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2017

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Disconnected: investigating the social and political conditions shaping Mexico City's air quality regulatory environment

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Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables

Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables contributing to this persistent problem. A historical background reveals current programs and policies implemented to improve Mexico’s City air quality. Mexico City’s current systems, infrastructure, and policies are inadequate and ineffective. There is a lack of appropriate regulation on other modes of transportation, and the current government system fails to identify how the class disparity in the city and lack of adequate education are contributing to this ongoing problem. Education and adequate public awareness can potentially aid the fight against air pollution in the Metropolitan City.

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2018