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Urban food–energy–water systems: past, current, and future research trajectories

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
May 5, 2020

With cities producing 80% of global GDP and housing more than half of the world's population (United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-Habitat 2016, p. 264), urban processes now drive global flows of food, energy, and water, causing unprecedented disruptions to the planet's biogeochemical cycles. The procurement of food, energy, and water (FEW) often occurs outside urban boundaries, leading to geographic and sectoral interactions from local to global scales. These unforeseen and complex interactions degrade air and water quality, drive resource use, and exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). FEW-provisioning systems also have profound impacts on the economy and on human health and well-being. The linkages between the systems that supply FEW to cities and the outcomes related to human and planetary well-being are the focus of this special issue.

The issue consists of nine articles, each of which presents emerging research on interconnected FEW systems as they relate to cities and regions. The papers are interdisciplinary, multiscalar, and cross-sectoral as they consider the effects of FEW interactions on the health of cities, their inhabitants, and the distant peoples and places from which they source their resources. As a set, including this introduction, the special issue covers the following topics:

1. Research to date on urban FEW systems and promising approaches
2. Urban agriculture and energy–water dynamics
3. Conventional agriculture and FEW dynamics
4. The energy foodprint of the American diet
5. Key areas for future research

Anu Ramaswami
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation
Newell, Joshua P. and Anu Ramaswami. (2020) “Urban food-energy-water systems: Past, current, and future research trajectories.” Environmental Research Letters 15(5) (05201): 1-5.