Urban environmental degradation: realities and historical illusions

  • Athena Christina Syrakoy Sporadon 7b, Thessaloniki
Keywords: contemporary urban degradation, health and urban degradation, history of urban environmental design, urbanization problems


Every day citizens and visitors in Greek cities often find themselves constantly struggling with impediments: obstacles to their movement, their vision, to breathing air, etc. One cannot walk without being cautious so as not to stumble over a poorly repaired sidewalk, although it would have been easy to repair. You may find yourself next to the sea, but blocks of flats may hide it from you, restricting you to an endless maze, even though studies highlight the benefits for human health when coexisting with the natural bodies of water. One almost seems to be always close to roads with many car lanes and high traffic volumes; again despite the fact that studies highlight the adverse effects of car emissions on health. Why is this happening? Why do we choose and create such conditions? This paper attempts to shed some light on these questions by examining selected historical references to the ‘promised lands’ and some of the causes of the contemporary urban environmental degradation. The discussion focuses on an effort to comprehend the gap between the existence of urban environmental proposals and their lack of implementation at a greater scale, by (a) examining theories and proposals of major scholars concerning the environmental upgrading of urban space and by (b) examining the causes of the existing environmental urban degradation that currently affect many cities.