Sustainability2015, 7(8), 10343-10364; doi:10.3390/su70810343 (registering DOI) - published 4 August 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: We propose an ethical analysis as a method to reflect on how companies’ decisions promote sustainable development. The method proceeds by first identifying the choice according to financial business interests, and by then scrutinizing this choice according to consequentialist and deontological ethics. The paper applies the method to the choice of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that a consortium of Brazilian companies (EGASUR) delivered as part of their project proposal for the realization of the Inambari hydropower dam in the Peruvian Amazon. We show that if an EIA is chosen based on the attempt to maximize the financial bottom line, it raises ethical issues both from a consequentialist perspective by involving negative consequences for various stakeholder groups, and from a deontological perspective by not complying with relevant rules, guidelines, and principles. The two ethical perspectives hence reveal where the consortium faces impediments to a genuine commitment to sustainability. Building on stakeholder interviews, observations of the project developments, and the executive summary of the actual EIA, we provide indications that EGASUR has indeed made a choice that resembles a decision based on financial interests.
Sustainability2015, 7(8), 10324-10342; doi:10.3390/su70810324 (registering DOI) - published 31 July 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The European Union is working on strategies in order to increase the energy efficiency of buildings. A useful solution is to identify the energy performance of buildings through the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), as it provides information for the comparison of buildings with different architectural typology, shape, design technology and geographic location. However, this tool does not assess the real energy consumption of the building and does not always take into account its impact on the environment. In this work, two different types of analysis were carried out: one based only on the energy efficiency and the other one based on the environmental impact. Those analyses were applied on a standard building, set in three different Italian locations, with the purpose of obtaining cross-related information. After the evaluation of the results, interventions on some parameters (walls insulation, windows frame, filler gas in the insulated glazing) have been identified in order to improve the energy behavior of the building with an acceptable environmental impact. The aim of this paper is to propose a methodology that integrates the EPC with green building rating systems, leading to a more conscious choice of retrofit interventions as a compromise between energy performances and environmental impact.
Sustainability2015, 7(8), 10308-10323; doi:10.3390/su70810308 (registering DOI) - published 31 July 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Collapsed gully erosion constantly plagues the sustainability of rural areas in China. To control collapsed gully erosion, an ecological and economic approach, which uses tree plantation to gain economic benefits and control soil erosion, has been widely applied by local governments in Southern China. However, little is known about the economic feasibility of this new method. The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness and economic benefits of the new method. Based on a case study in Changting County, Southeast China, two farms were selected to represent a timber tree plantation and a fruit tree plantation, respectively. The Annual Capital Capitalization Method and Return on Investment (ROI) were selected to conduct cost-benefit analysis. In contrast to previous studies, we found that the new approach was far from economic. The value of the newly-built forestland in Sanzhou Village and Tufang Village is 2738 RMB ha−1 and 5477 RMB ha−1,respectively, which are extremely lower than the costs of ecological restoration. Meanwhile, the annual ROI is −3.60% and −8.90%, respectively, which is negative and also far poorer than the average value of forestry in China. The costs of conservation were substantially over the related economic benefits, and the investors would suffer from greater loss if they invested more in the conservation. Low-cost terraces with timber trees had less economic loss compared with the costly terraces with fruit tree plantation. Moreover, the cost efficiency of the new approaches in soil conservation was also greatly poorer than the conventional method. The costs of conserving one ton soil per year for conventional method, new method for planting timber trees, and planting fruit trees were 164 RMB, 696 RMB, and 11,664 RMB, respectively. Therefore, the new collapsed gully erosion control methods are uneconomic and unsuitable to be widely carried out in China in the near future.
Sustainability2015, 7(8), 10281-10307; doi:10.3390/su70810281 (registering DOI) - published 31 July 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Urban development in China has attracted considerable scholarly attention. However, more work is still needed to examine and understand the mechanisms of urban land expansion, especially within the context of globalization/marketization, decentralization and urbanization. This paper analyzes urban land expansion and structural changes in the Yangtze River Delta (YRD). We find that cities in the YRD are experiencing urban land expansion mainly characterized by the growth of residential and industrial land. The dominant characteristics of urban land expansion in cities have also varied within different development and administrative levels. Based on our conceptual framework, we have used multi-models to investigate the driving forces of urban land expansion and structural changes in the YRD. The results reveal that six influencing factors—foreign direct investment (FDI), labor, government competition, institution, population, and job-housing relations—facilitate land use change in the economic transition process. However, their impacts differ in cities in different geographical locations, as well as with different administrative levels. Finally, this paper discusses policies to promote sustainable urban land use in the YRD.
Sustainability2015, 7(8), 10264-10280; doi:10.3390/su70810264 (registering DOI) - published 31 July 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This paper proposes to visualize acoustic comfort along tourist routes. Route-based tourism is crucial to the sustainability of tourism development in historic areas. Applying the concept of route-based tourism to guide tourists rambling along cultural and heritage routes can relieve overcrowded condition at hot scenic spots and increase the overall carrying capacity of the city. However, acoustic comfort along tourist routes is rarely addressed in academic studies and decision-making. Taking Macao as an example, this paper has studied pedestrian exposure to traffic noise along the cultural and heritage routes. The study is based on a GIS-based traffic noise model system with a high spatial resolution down to individual buildings along both sides of the street. Results show that tourists suffer from excessive traffic noise at certain sites, which may have negative impact on the promotion of route-based tourism in the long run. In addition, it is found that urban growth affects urban form and street layout, which in turn affect traffic flow and acoustic comfort in urban area. The present study demonstrates spatial techniques to visualize acoustic comfort along tourist routes, and the techniques are foreseen to be used more frequently to support effective tourism planning in the future.
Sustainability2015, 7(8), 10250-10263; doi:10.3390/su70810250 (registering DOI) - published 31 July 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This paper investigates the relationship between payments made under the REDD+ umbrella (Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation plus conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks) and the quality of institutions in countries that are expected to receive these payments. Using scatter plots and simple correlation analysis, we can see that countries receiving the most significant REDD+ payments (at least in relative terms) have the poorest quality of institutions. Although the REDD+ concept has evolved significantly since a similar analysis was carried out by Ebeling and Yasué in 2008, the institutional problems have remained equally important. This is also in line with the recently formulated “ecosystem service curse” and “REDD paradox” hypotheses, whereby payments for ecosystem services (including those offered within REDD+) might lead to socio-economic problems in recipient countries.