Green Cities, Open Data

[How the Open Data movement can fuel the push for more sustainable cities is something that I been mulling over for years. I finally had the chance to write something on it for Sustainable Cities Canada.]

Toronto is the least bikeable of Canada's large cities, and we've got the numbers to prove it. Released earlier this month, Bikescore is an online calculator that ranks the overall bikeability of North American cities. Victoria, Vancouver, Montreal lead the pack in Canada (T.O. comes in at 7th place, well after Saskatoon, Calgary and Halifax). With eye-catching “heat maps” Bikescore also looks inside the top 10 Canadian and American cities to show where cyclists will feel most at home.

The maps themselves are excellent and well worth a browse. But beyond that, Bikescore is an example of what is happening at the overlap of urban sustainability and another force that is reshaping how we inhabit our cities: the open data movement. [keep reading @SSC or...]

Beyond Urban Agriculture

[Here's the next installment in the ongoing series that I am contributing to the Sustainable Cities Canada site. It plays on some of the same issues that Afton mentioned in her earlier post.  But I wanted to push the accepted boundaries of what we discuss under the heading "urban agriculture" and make the case that the new interest in growing food in cities can also energize broader regional food strategies.]

Growing food in cities has become sexy. Sexy to a degree that I would never have predicted even a few years ago. The internet is overrun with pictures of futuristic farmscrapers and creatives in Manhattan are growing hydroponic lettuce in their loft windows. In parts of Montreal heirloom tomatoes are as much of a status symbol as purebred pets.

But underneath this glossy skin there is a potentially profound change in how we think about cities. Largely seen as places of consumption, more and more people are beginning to open their eyes to the productive potential of urban spaces. Spurred by concerns over food security, climate change, or just plain nutritional value, urban agriculture is maturing into an established part of cities across Canada and around the world. But its true impact is still to come. Continue reading @ SSC or...

Cities and Food Systems Planning - Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

[Recently back from Tanzania, Afton Halloran is an Affiliated Researcher in the research program that I direct for Sustainable Cities International. She has an interesting post over on the SCI blog about why cities need to engage with food systems planning, and how urban agriculture figures in that equation. A taste is below.]

“We live in cities because rural livelihoods are no longer viable, but who produces the food?”

Although the modern city provides a multitude of opportunities, we are now on our way to creating a negative feedback loop that is more visible in the global North than South – we are ignoring what fuels our society: Food. So what do we do?

Obviously, de-urbanisation is out of the question. We are now left to acknowledge the rural-urban continuum and the interconnectedness of agriculture at the regional level.

Experimental Cities

[Below is a post that I just wrote for I've been thinking about this idea that cities can function as laboratories for developing policies for a while now. It's an interesting alternative or complement to more traditional top-down approaches to planning. But beyond novelty, I think if used well it has the possibility to  push urban sustainability policies past their often modest beginnings.]

There is still a lot we don't know about building cities that are truly sustainable. Sure we've got a basic outline: effective public transit, dense mixed-use neighbourhoods, local renewable energy, green buildings...

Those are essential general principles.

But figuring out how to apply them at scale within our existing cityscapes is an enormous challenge. And even then they will only get us part of the way. We also need to ask how we can go beyond current best practices to spark even more transformative change?



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.