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In this paper I sketch key episodes in the two thousand year history of interactions between society and environment that have shaped the City of London and its hinterlands. My purpose in writing it has been to provide an empirical puzzle for use in teaching and theorizing about the long term coevolution of social-environmental systems and the potential role of policy interventions in guiding that coevolution toward sustainability. I undertook it because while a lively body of theory has begun to emerge seeking to explain such coevolution, rich descriptive characterizations of how specific social-environmental systems have in fact changed over the long time periods (multi-decade to multi-century) relevant to sustainable development remain relatively rare. One result is that the field of sustainability science lacks a sufficient number of the rich empirical puzzles that any field of science needs to challenge its theorizing, modeling and predictions. This paper reflects the beginning of an effort to provide one such characterization on a topic central to sustainability: The long term development of cities and their hinterlands. (A revised version of this paper is included as Appendix A in Matson, Pamela, William C. Clark and Krister Andersson. 2016. "Pursuing sustainability: A guide to the science and practice." Princeton Univ. Press. pursuingsustainability.org)
Clark, William C. "London: A Multi-Century Struggle for Sustainable Development in an Urban Environment." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP15-047, August 2015.