Monday, August 5, 2013

United States Part 1

What were the main motivations for forming a Federal Government in the United States? In terms of achieving sustainable urban outcomes, what are the positives and negatives in having a US-style Federal Government structure?


  1. The United States grew organically as immigrants set up shop wherever they pleased and began to make their new life. Because of these beginnings the USA was made up of many independent states that prettymuch ran all their affairs. However, as the population grew and unrest in the form of wars began breaking out the USA decided it needed a federal body so a bunch of leaders got together, wrote their constitution and formed a federal govt. This allowed them to have a unified body to monitor taxes, homeland security and environmental protection whilst still letting states run their business.
    From a enviro outcomes point of view this system works well as states can take things into their own hands and create more sustainable futures for themselves without having to wait for federal guidance(eg cali). However, it also works backwards as it creates great disparity between states when it comes to urban sustainability outcomes since just as states are free to blaze trails ahead, fed govt is almost powerless to stop them dragging their feet (eg texas)
    Courtney Bennett

  2. The US Constitution states that the federal government was formed “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty...” The sacrifice of some freedoms and rights to the federal government would deliver wide common benefits that states alone could not. US-style federalism involves multi-tiered governance, which spreads out power. This is advantageous to local sustainability initiatives which can work from the bottom up and get results from empowered local and state governments. However, this is also disadvantageous to regional, inter-state sustainability initiatives which may suffer from a lack of uniformity and coordination among local and state governments.

    United States National Archives. (2013). The Constitution of the United States: A Transcript. Retrieved from

    Dallas Learning Solutions. (2013). Federalism. Retrieved from

    Tom Chi

  3. After the United States had won its independence it then had to defend itself from its hostile neighbours including Britain, France and Spain. This was not something that could be done effectively by each individual state so a federal government was needed in order to organise collective defence. In terms of achieving sustainable outcomes retaining much of the resource management authority with the state governments helps to avoid a one size fits all approach. This is particularly important in a country as large and varied as the US. However this approach can come at the cost of integrated management of cross border issues as the policies of state may be inconsistent with the policies of its neighbours.

    Chris Groom (2988294)

  4. The purpose of the constitution is to enable common justice, tranquillity, defence, welfare and liberty. It’s good for sustainable outcomes because it allows national management – ecosystems aren’t constrained to state boundaries! Some federal programmes include EPA, Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, Endangered Species Act, and the Coastal Zone Protection Act.
    However, states are generally free to manage themselves as they wish – they are not heavily restricted by federal controls. Do the states have too much freedom though? They do things quite differently (Texas and Washington are like two different countries!) Perhaps the federal govt. doesn’t have enough power to step in if things turn sour…

    Kahlia Jemmett (2313174)

  5. The federal government was established as a means of uniting the independent self-governed 'states' of America into a "more perfect Union", with the constitution written to balance decision making powers. Only matters that have the potential of jeopardizing the overall justice, tranquillity, safety and welfare of all states are governed by the federal government.

    The independence of state governance allows the development of sustainable planning initiatives that is suited to the conditions of each state, which is essential to a large country with contrasting socio-economics and landscapes. However, federal government lacks the power to actually unite the states in one urban sustainability plan, causing great difference between states that may lead to issues like prejudice or social inequality.


  6. The US is a large country and it is fragmented into 50 states. Each state has its own laws and so the establishment of a federal government was necessary to ensure consistency, equality and fairness across all states. The states are not dictated to by the central government because they generate a lot of their own funding. Therefore, a state like California can take a positive environmental stand and an integrated approach to economic and social issues without a national legislation to support it. Contrarily, since there is no government intervention, a state may choose to favour market solutions for planning regulations and may only meet the minimal federal standards, increasing social inequality and environmental damage.

    Manasi Vaidya
    ID: 5985611

  7. The evolution of the US was a fragmented process. States developed with their own governmental and organisational systems, each independent from one another. Independence from Britain raised the need for a federal government that could “form a more perfect union” and deal with matters such as national defence, welfare, domestic peace and justice.

    The fragmented nature of the US still remains in the structure of the US government system. Although the federal government can place requirements upon states for clean water, clean air, contaminated sites, the states have the power to determine how they are going to meet these (and other) sustainability requirements. This freedom creates problems with achieving nation-wide outcomes – essentially states can pursue entirely different pathways under the same requirement. In saying this, the power that states have in managing their own systems can create much faster processes in achieving sustainable outcomes.

    Constitution of the United States. 12 August 2013 .

    Lecture 3: Knight-Lenihan, S. (2013, August). North America – with an emphasis on the United States. Published Lecture Notes, University of Auckland - National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand.

    Emma Chandler
    ID: 2920994

  8. In 1787 countries such as Britain and Spain posed as major threats to the US and they could no longer defend their sovereignty as an independent nation. As a result the US Constitution states that the federal government was made “in order to form a more perfect union” in the hope it would facilitate aspects of freedom, justice, national defense, civil peace and welfare. It is a federal government of liberty and union, now and forever.

    In terms of sustainable outcomes the federal government allows for states to take their own approach to cater for their individual needs this is important in such a large country. The federal government also has a number of environmental programmes that can influence the states including: National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. The downside to having a federal government system in relation to sustainable outcomes is that they do not have a lot of power to create an integrated nation wide sustainable management plan. It can also lead to conflicting policy and boundary views between neighbouring states.

    Lecture 3: Knight-Lenihan, S. (2013, August). North America – with an emphasis on the United States. Published Lecture Notes, University of Auckland - National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand

    Kayla Versey

  9. The formation of the U.S Federal Government was necessary due to an inability to deal with nationwide issues effectively as individual states, as mentioned above, while still maintaining a separation of powers that allows state and local governments to deal with local issues as they see fit. In a nation as diverse as the U.S, this ability to respond to the local context is vital. In terms of sustainability, having a Federal Govt allows minimum standards to be set for all 50 states. The minimum standards provide a baseline, which states can choose to exceed depending on the political desires of the voting populace. However, if I were an American, and I really wanted my city to be sustainable, should I vote for a Green party member for my state governor and still vote Obama (maybe...) for President, or should I vote a Green party member for President, and vote for a local governor who's all about getting things done and aligning with the Fed Govt, OR should I just move to California???? Obviously, the issues mentioned above are far more significant, but this shows how it can be difficult for individuals to feel that the powers that be are responding to their concerns.

    George Winship

  10. The US Federal Government was established under the US Constitution in order to "form a more perfect Union” between the states of America. It was intended to increase cohesiveness and foster greater security for the states against both external and internal threats. The US-style Federal Government structure supports sustainable urban outcomes by stimulating policy innovation at the state level and encouraging states to learn from the mistakes/successes of other states. It also devolves decision-making and sustainability initiatives to a local level, empowering communities and ensuring local government is accountable to the citizens. On the other hand, policies of one state may undermine sustainability efforts of neighbouring states, and issues that require cooperation between states (e.g. water quality in the Mississippi Catchment, which crosses multiple states) may be left unresolved because the federal system does not foster an integrated approach.

    Michaela Davidson

    Constitution of the United States: A Transcription. Retrieved from

    Lecture 3: Knight-Lenihan, S. (2013, August). North America – with an emphasis on the United States. Unpublished lecture notes, University of Auckland - National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand

  11. Historically the US evolved as independently governed states. The federal government was created under the Constitution as a way to "form a more perfect union" between states and address matters of security and the economy.

    The US government structure enables the management of resources at a local level. Each state is able to address the issues specific to their area in which they govern. This is essential to a country with a huge variety of environments. By addressing issues at a local level sustainable outcomes may be more effective and achieved in a shorter period of time. On the other hand environmental issues can cross over state boundaries. The inability for the federal government to implement a nation-wide approach to resource management may lead to inconsistencies and contradicting policies between states in their attempt to achieve sustainable urban outcomes.

    Teresa George

  12. Powers in the US are shared between the federal and state governments. The motivation for a federal government came from a need to deliver common benefit, to create greater union between states and a need for collective defence. The role of the federal government is limited by the Constitution- it presides over matters to do with justice and welfare of the country as a whole.

    This creates positives and negatives for the US achieving sustainable urban outcomes. The independent states have a high level of power and therefore a great level of control over their urban sustainability outcomes. This can lead to fragmentation of outcomes and loss of integrated management. This is particularly key at borders where states have differing policies. This does however, allow for a greater bottom up approach to management and can lead to faster more appropriate outcomes.

    Lecture 3: Knight-Lenihan, S. (2013, August). North America – with an emphasis on the United States. Published Lecture Notes, University of Auckland - National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, Auckland, New Zealand

    Kirsten Wood

  13. The Federal Government was established as a limited central government body with the purpose of unifying the individual states left after independence was gained from Britain. U.S.A’s diverse population, environment, and cities require stronger local government policy-making powers to respond to the specific requirements of each state, county, or city. However, ecosystems don’t follow political borders. The federal government allows legislation to cross state borders to ensure urban sustainability effectiveness at a local level. For example, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, largely as a result of mismanagement of the Mississippi river catchment. In response, Federal Government level management allowed co-operation between the ten states that the Mississippi River flows through.

    On the other hand, some would argue that the Constitution fails to enforce the limited aspect of the Federal Government.

    Leo Mclay

  14. The US Constitution is the founding document of the United States of America. The first three articles embody the doctrine of ‘separation of powers’, which outlines the government structure for America, making what we know today as the ‘Federal Government’. Federal actions should be limited to problems that are truly national in scope and sensitive to each state’s ability to bring a unique blend of resources and approaches to achieve sustainable urban outcomes. Positively, each state can focus on its weaknesses to achieving sustainable urban outcomes and avoid blanketing the entire country with policies that may not be relevant to all states. On the contrary, individual states may not value these goals as highly and therefore put in minimal efforts to achieve the basic standards. These minimal attempts cannot be challenged easily by the national government nor can a coordinated and uniformed approach be met as the possibility of conflicting policies between neighbouring states arise under the Federal system of governance.

    John McCall

  15. In order to achieve a ‘more perfect union’, A Federal Government was formed in the United States. This formation of government allows for Justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, welfare, blessings of liberty and for each state to develop independently.

    Each state is responsible to meet the expectations that the federal government sets, however, due to the independence of the states, the way in which the states meet these requirements may differ, as each state has the power to manage its resources at a local level. This can be effective as there is variety amongst the states, and having local management allows them to consider their own issues weaknesses and strengths relevant to the state, not just one way for everyone.

    This can also be a problem, as people may disregard the requirements at a local level, and consider them to be less important.

    Jared Bartlett