Green Urban Innovation: Solarize Portland and the Power of Communities

I was in New York earlier this month to present at the Association of American Geographers big annual conference. As well as an excellent stroll along the High Line (thanks Gena!), I got to talk about Solarize Portland -- one of my favourite examples of how people can reshape their cities in unexpected ways. I've posted a slidecast below.

View another webinar from Alex Aylett
Solarize – as you can guess from the name – is a neighbourhood-scale solar energy program. I've written about it here before. It's an empowering example of what people are capable of when they work collectively in their communities.

Farming in the City: Make environmental legislation flexible!

Cities are blanketed by a mesh of rules. Some of them are well known and clearly signaled (think traffic lights). Others only become visible when you start asking questions about your city.  "Why aren't there trees on my street?" "How come there aren't any corner stores in my neighbourhood?"

On narrower streets in the Mile-End neighbourhood of Montreal (where I live) when old trees die they aren't replaced. Seems strange not to replant, until you find out one thing: to plant a street tree you need sidewalks that are a minimum of two meters wide. Now you know.

In Copenhagen other kinds of regulations are slowing the spread of urban agriculture. Afton Halloran, a researcher that is part of the SCI research network that I direct, has just come out with an interesting analysis of the situation. Writing in Politiken (Denmark’s largest newspaper) she and two colleagues from the University of Copenhagen argue that overly cautious environmental regulations are sacrificing the many benefits of urban agriculture. I've posted an excerpt after the jump and you can read the full translation of the article over on the SCI blog.

Chicago Kills Coal

Great news out of Chicago yesterday. After a two-and-a-half year campaign, a well networked citizens campaign has managed to secure the closure of two outdated and heavily polluting coal-fired power plants.

The Fisk and Crawford power plants are located in residential neighbourhoods on Chicago's Southwest Side. They are relics from a time when horses and carriages still out-numbered cars on the city's streets. Built in 1903, their emissions are the cause of high levels of respiratory illness, asthma, cancer, and heart disease. They are a significant source of carbon emissions.


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.