Rebel Gardens: Veggies that Change Policies

Last month I was interviewed by Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper about an unusual case of "guerilla" gardening.  A couple, in the nearby town of Drummondville, had transformed the grassy verge in front of their home into a stunning vegetable garden (and it really is a beautiful garden) [english coverage].

The city council was outraged.

In return for their efforts, the city threatened them with fines of up to $300 per day until they covered over their garden with what regulations said was supposed to be in front of their house... namely: grass. But the story ended well.


Hack Your City: An Interview with David Eaves

[I've turned to David Eaves many times over the past few years to swap ideas and get some insights into the goals and impact of the open data movement.  He's amazingly busy these days, but after a few tries (across multiple continents) we managed to find a time to do this interview. Thanks David!  -- originally @SustainableCitiesCanada).]

Earlier this Summer I blogged about what providing open access to public data could do for urban sustainability. Since then New York held its first green hackathon, and Montreal is set to follow suit.
The overlap between the green cities and open data movements is something of a terra incognita: there's lots of potential, but we are only just starting to explore it.

I recently caught up with open data expert David Eaves to talk about green urbanism and open data in more detail. Based in Vancouver, Eaves is an internationally recognized consultant and activist in the field. We've spoken a few times over the years. Despite being amazingly busy, I've always found him to be thoughtful and insightful. Squeezed in between back to back trips to China and Washington, our most recent conversation was no exception.

Alex Aylett: What are the best examples of what open data can accomplish in cities?

Biophilic Cities: This is Your City on Nature

[I wrapped up last week getting into research on biophilia and biophilic cities. The post originally went up over at @SustainableCitiesCanada. The impact that lush green spaces have on us is impressive. Well beyond what I would have expected. It seems, according to comments on the original piece, that even eating dirt is good for us.]
Another summer city weekend is almost here. Chances are there is a park in your future: urban parks offer the ultimate escape from the noise and the heat. Great parks are a defining feature of great cities – Montreal’s Mount Royal, Stanley Park in Vancouver, the Retiro in Madrid or whatever your favourite green spot is in your own neighbourhood.

But there is more going on than Frisbee and picnics. A growing number of studies show that time spent in natural settings measurably improves our ability to concentrate, our sense of wellbeing and even fights depression. We are, in a word, a biophylic species, hard wired to draw support from contact with the natural world.



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.