New Sustainable Cities Research Program - New Job, Exciting Prospects

Vancouver-based NGO Sustainable Cities International is an excellent outfit that runs a network of cities focused on green urbanism that spans the globe. The research that I've been able to do in South Africa, Canada, the States, Senegal (and other spots in between) has been in part thanks to their help.

I've been working with SCI for six years now, and in 2009 we started having conversations about increasing the amount of research going on in the network. SCI-affiliated cities include many international leaders in green-city-building like Curitiba, Durban, and Portland. It seemed to me that taking a closer look at their successes, and communicating that research to a broader audience was important work. But it was also well beyond what one researcher could do.


Green Democracy and Urban Agriculture in Montreal

We are all still trying to figure out what a sustainable city is. Yes, we've got some good ideas.  But to go beyond marginal changes and begin retrofitting, or building, cities in a way that truly responds to the challenges ahead requires ambitious changes.

What type of neighbourhoods do we live in? How do we get around? Where does our energy come from? How about our food?  For questions like that, no one has all the answers.

Tackling them means starting broad-based open conversations that help us determine the course for our collective futures. This week, making use of a new bylaw on public consultations, a coalition of community and environmental groups in Montreal has shown one face of what that process might look like.

Is Toronto Lost?

Has Toronto lost its way?  That's been the word on the street, and pretty much everywhere else, since Mayor Ford took office a little less than a year ago.

But as colourful as his first 11 months have been, it's a bit disingenuous to lay all the city's woes at his feet. In this month's issue of The Walrus, John Lorinc has written a detailed piece on the roots of T-dot's troubles. Beginning in the early 1970s, Lorinc tells a story of dysfunctional municipal/provincial relationships and “race-to-the-bottom” competitions between municipalities in the GTA. Above all, he argues, Toronto suffers from a culture of cheapness that has prevailed over municipal decisions for decades holding back necessary investments in transit, parks, urban design, and the public realm more generally. 

Cities are more than a patchwork of private property held together by some roads and sewer pipes. Neglect the common infrastructure of public services and spaces, and they begin to come apart at the seams. That, Lorinc argues, is the case for Toronto. It is an interesting article, and has some powerful lessons for anyone interested how we can build and sustain greener and more equitable cities. After reading it, I pulled together a few of my own thoughts about the city's trajectory.


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.