Building smarter, greener cities

[The Montreal Gazette just ran on opinion piece that I wrote on the results from the Urban Climate Change Governance Survey that I ran at MIT.  There is a lot more still to say about the data. But it is nice to see some of these early results getting out there!]

MONTREAL — Everyone loves talking about the weather — but it seems no one likes talking about climate change. It’s too bleak. Unless we are talking about cities. Unlike most countries, cities actually seem to be doing something.

From Copenhagen to Vancouver, we are surrounded by great examples of what smart green cities look like. That gives us hope. It also gives us a much-needed break from the depressing geo-political mire that bubbles to the surface with every new round of climate-change negotiations.

So far, though, successful responses to climate change have been confined to a relatively small group of celebrity cities. There are more than 1,000 large and mid-size cities in the world. Only a small fraction of them are taking effective action.


ecoHackMTL: Totally Awesome!

Almost 100 participants,  12 projects, 4 specially proposed challenges, 6 newly released data sets and lots of happy faces at the end of the day. 

A huge thank-you to everyone who came out for the inaugural ecoHack in Montréal last weekend!

écoHackMTL set out to bring together programmers, community activists, and urban environmentalists to design digital tools that allow for deeper citizen engagement with urban spaces and urban sustainability.

It grew out of the fact that the amazing energy of the hackathon and opendata scenes had yet to be effectively applied to building greener cities.  (Not just in Montreal, but anywhere.)


Crowdsource Climate Solutions: Last Week to Vote on MIT Climate CoLab!

All this year I've been working on MIT's Climate CoLab, which is crowdsourcing responses to some of climate change's toughest challenges. We received submissions from all over the world on everything from Geoengineering to urban adaptation strategies.  (The contest that I am overseeing has to do with how civil-society groups can help us adapt to the impacts of climate change. )

The shortlists of submissions were selected by expert judges earlier this summer.  Since then just over 2500 people have voted for their favourites so far.   

VOTING ENDS THIS WEEKEND!  Anyone can vote.  Just click here to get started.    You can also test your luck, and see if you can predict which project will win the Judges' Choice award and/or the Grand Prize. 

Urban Studies, 50 years + A New Publication

Urban Studies just marked 50 years as one of the top journals in the field.  To celebrate they've launched a new blog along with a free digital issue compiling their top articles from the last half century.

As it happens, the inaugural post on the blog is by Mark Whitehead, a colleague from the University of Aberystwyth.  It's a nice meditation on (paradoxically) the insights he gained while looking at an advertisement for petrochemical giant Total (see image).  

His post also serves as an introduction for a special issue on "Cities, Urbanisation and Climate Change" that he edited along with Aidan While.  It's a great collection of work.

I contributed an article titled "The Socio-institutional Dynamics of Urban Climate Governance: A Comparative Analysis of Innovation and Change in Durban  and Portland."  It was a real milestone for me.  For the past five years I have been publishing about climate governance in both cities -- but always separately.  This article is the first time I have had the chance to dig into a good comparative analysis of what has been happening in both municipalities.  

Want to take a look?  You can find the full text on ResearchGate or here. Read more...

écoHackMTL: An excellent launch

We had an excellent turnout for the écoHackMTL launch.  A big thank-you to everyone who helped me put it together!  If you missed the action you can see a few photos over on our facebook page.

With close to 75 people in the room the energy was phenomenal, and we had a good mix of developers, community activists and NGOs, and representatives from the city.  Those were exactly the connections that we were trying to make possible.

Now the questions is how much of that momentum we can translate into concrete projects between now and the hack itself in October.

Stay tuned.  And for more info check out


This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.