Kunstler on The City of the Future and "Yesterday's Tomorrows"

I'm no apocalypse junkie; visions of the end of days don't do much for me. But I am going to recommend James Kunstler's most recent article anyway. 

Kunstler is a major figure in discussions of both Peak Oil and New Urbanism. In the July/August edition of Orion Magazine, he lays out a nightmarish scenario of derelict skyscrapers, massive human mortality, and suburbs turned into burnt out salvage yards. (I've pasted a few excerpts below.)

I don't usually spend much time looking at grim scenarios for the future. Dwelling on catastrophe tends to shut down people's ability to think and act creatively – exactly the opposite of what this blog hopes to do.

But in a “know your enemy” kind of way, there is value in checking in with the possible future to see if what we are doing today measures up to the real scope of the challenge. And Kunstler, one of the few people writing about the combined impacts of Peak Oil and Climate Change, provides a convincing depiction of what we are up against.

Solar Map of New York City

New York City's new Solar Map has gone live, and it's a beauty. With a googlemap style interface, you can zoom into any building in the greater NYC area. Click on the building and up pops  an estimate of the solar power you could generate on its roof, and what that would mean in terms of monthly savings on your energy bill and carbon emissions.

[If your city has, or is planning, a solar map please let me know by e-mail or leave a the comments below]

Playing with the map is addictive. (So far my high score is two thousand kwh from the roof JFK airport – if you find something bigger put it in the comments below!) But maps like these - already being used in other cities - are also gateway technologies helping building owners to understand and take advantage of the potential that is right over their heads.

Montreal Guerrilla Gardening: "Tour de Guerrilla" Silent Film

OuVert is an open urban sustainability lab that I'm helping to start  here in Montreal. Below is an occasionally Chaplin-esque video of our first event - a seedbomb workshop and guerrilla gardening ride - that we ran a few weeks ago.

Before the ride, we used facebook to crowd-source targets. Connecting the dots gave us a route (mapped here) that wound it's way through the Mile-End neighbourhood, and then focused on a series of semi-derelict spaces that border a freight rail line.

Post C40 Summit Cities Need to "Go Big or Go Home" on Climate Policy

[I've got a new piece running over at The Mark News. The latest Clinton C40 urban climate summit just wrapped up in Brazil, and as always there's been a flood of optimistic news coverage. I'm all for optimism.  But I wanted to provide some perspective on what it will really take for cities to have an impact on climate change.]

If you haven’t already, you'll probably see some version of the headline “Cities To Save Global Climate” at least once over the course of this week. From May 31 to June 2, representatives of some of the world's greenest metropolises were in Sao Paulo for a C40 climate-change summit hosted by the Clinton Foundation. As a result, newspapers will again be full of optimism about the environmental potential of the world's cities – and for good reason.

Over 50 per cent of us live in cities, and cities generate 70 per cent of our greenhouse-gas emissions. So far, though, few municipalities have put in place actions that are on par with that kind of impact.

Look beyond the boosterist headlines and you will find descriptions of energy-efficient streetlights, retrofitted local arenas, and showcase modifications to landmarks like New York's Empire State Building. Let's stop here for a moment. If it seems unlikely to you that energy-efficient crosswalk signals are going to do anything to curb climate change, that's because it is. [Read More @ The Mark]



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.