Reflect on the syndrome approach as a way to analyse complex systems How did it help

Environmental Studies Syndrome Approach: A Way to Solve Complex Problems Introduction Kates and Parris (2003, p. 566) refers to a number of syndromes also described as nightmares that should be avoided if the emphasis is on sustaining the environment and therefore protecting the wellbeing of different groups of people. These syndrome are described as “Sahel Syndrome,” “Aral Sea Syndrome” and “Favela Syndrome”. Sahel Syndrome relates to the nightmares associated with the overuse of marginal lands. Aral Sea Syndrome refers to the damage of landscapes as a result of large scale projects. Favela Syndrome refers to social-ecological degradation through the inability of the authorities to control urban growth.
The Problem of Suburbia
In an attempt to reduce these nightmares another nightmare has been created. Hayden (2004) indicates that suburbia promised the ‘triple dream’ of community, house and land with back yard pools and flowering trees. However, it has led to a rather complex problem. This is described as the “Suburbia Syndrome”. The Suburbia Syndrome has been linked to a number of ills including obesity. The suburbia has also been linked to the crisis that unfolded in the recent past with the housing bust and the collapse of many financial institutions. Wasik (2009) has described the situation as the worst housing bust of all times and has linked it the realization of the American dream. The quest by every American to live in the suburbs is unsustainable as there is a connection between, economics, home ownership and the environment. The price of energy and other factors make it very clear that the present course of suburbia is unsustainable. Suburban conditions have been linked to a situation of wastefulness and unsustainability.
Jackson (1985, cited in Hayden 2004) indicated that the lengthy process of suburbanization would slow down because of rising energy and land costs which would lead people back to urban centers. However, this was not to be as ‘Americans have settled on the fringes of metropolitan regions’ much faster than they have ever done (Hayden 2004). More Americans were living the suburbs in 2000 than those living in central cities and rural areas combined (Hayden 2004). Many of the key economic and cultures centers including corporate headquarters and regional theaters had relocated to the suburbs. This was so while space was becoming more abundant in the urban centers. This indicates moving from one problem to another as the move to relieve the urban centers of certain problems have created the same problems elsewhere.
Once a suburban area has been established the promoters of the area seek to get more business and therefore earn more profits by seeking greater levels of density. The hope for the ideal community then becomes only a dream as the open areas vanish with increasing development. As Hayden (2004) describes the situation: ‘Their hope of community is betrayed’ as rows of houses which is advertised as the ideal community lacks the well needed social and economic centers, parks, schools and all the necessary infrastructures that defines a community. In addition to the race and class conflicts which accompanies the growth of the suburbs there are also conflicts between those who which to enjoy suburbia and the developers whose goal is to make a profit.
Suburbanization has led to various nightmares which can be variously described as the suburbia syndrome or nightmare. In terms of the Sahel Syndrome the lands around the fringes of metropolitan areas are being used to build residential communities, office buildings and malls (Hayden 2004). Aral Sea Syndrome has resulted in a ‘suburban sprawl’ as the lack of environmental planning and control over land use has lead to a situation where ‘yesterday’s picturesque enclave may be sliced by today’s new highway leading to tomorrow’s edge node’ (Hayden 2004). Favela Syndrome has resulted from the authority’s inability to control growth which has led to the location of highways, shopping malls and office parks next to residential areas. This has been attributed to federal tax support since the mid 1950’s for commercial developers and federal direct support for highways (Hayden 2004). Wasik (2009) has suggested that the Cul-de-sac Syndrome will address the issue of a sustainable environment with green urbanized land and a real sense of community.
Hayden, D. (2004). Building Suburbia: Greenfields and Urban Growth 1820 – 2000. Kindle ed. USA: Vintage
Parris, T.M and Kates, R.W. (2003). Characterizing and Measuring Sustainable Development. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 28, p, 559 – 586
Wasik, J. F. (2009). The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning around the Unsustainable American Dream. USA: Bloomberg

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