Rivers Forgotten - The Underground World Beneath City Streets

I was in Toronto last week and finally had a chance to get my hands on Rivers Forgotten, Jeremy Kai's stunning book of underground photos (Koyama Press, 2011).

Kai has spent years exploring the cavernous system of storm sewers that run below Toronto's streets. Working in very challenging conditions, he has produced a book that is gritty, beautiful, and adventurous. There is something almost magical about the way he reveals a hidden world that has always been there, right beneath our feet.

Cities are in many ways a sort of illusion.

Community Scale Solar: Portland (OR) and Durban (South Africa)

[A piece I wrote is running in the most recent edition of UN-Habitat's Urban World magazine.  The article covers a gutsy and successful residential solar project in Portland (OR), and a similar project that I gave a hand with in Durban (South Africa). OK, I admit I'm a bit late putting this up. But the craziness of finishing my PhD in December meant that the edition initially slipped under my radar. You can download the article here (.pdf), or read a slightly expanded version below.]

Until recently, when we talked about urban responses to climate change, the focus was on what the city government was doing to improve its own operations. Mayors from around the world talked about the huge impact that cities could have, but concrete projects were more modest: energy-efficient traffic lights here, a few green municipal buildings there.

The discrepancy isn't hard to explain.

Yes cities have a huge footprint, but municipalities only control a small fraction of it. Really transformative change needs to happen at the level of communities all across a city – not just in city hall.


Quebec's New Electric Car Network: Therapy for Range Anxiety

Electric cars have always seemed like a natural for Quebec. Nearly all of the province's electricity comes from hydro, and 40% of its GHG emissions come from transportation. In a jurisdiction where electricity is coal-fired things are less straight forward and you end up debating the merits of running cars on coal. In Quebec electric vehicles (EVs) are a clear win. But the province had been lagging behind other spots like Oregon, California, British Columbia, or New York. 

What sense does it make that a city like Portland (where 44% of the electricity comes from coal) has electric car charging points and Montreal doesn't?  That question had been irking me for years.

But that all changed two weeks ago, when the province announced what will be the largest public electric car charging network in Canada.


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.