Sustainable Urban Resilience: A Contradiction in Terms?

David Bello, Associate Editor over at Scientific American, has an interesting post up today looking at the supposed tensions between “resilience” and “sustainability”. His argument in a nutshell is that precisely the characteristics that make many urban systems resilient can also make them deeply unsustainable from an environmental point of view.

He's right, sort of. But really what's at stake here is a redefinition of how we build resilience into our urban systems.

It's not so much a contradiction as an evolution. Let me show you what I mean.

Seriously Cycling: Bikes Are Getting More Attention All Across Canada

[Here's my latest post over at @SustainableCitiesCanada ]

Anyone who has been cycling in Canadian cities over the past fifteen years knows that things are changing.

When I left Montreal for Vancouver in 2002 the city's streets were still an aggressive dance between bike couriers, cars, and cyclists who wanted to ride like couriers (I'll sheepishly admit to being one of them). Downtown cycling was only for the brave.

But by the time I returned in 2010 a sea change had occurred: in less than a decade the city had added over 600 kms of bike paths, many covering crucial commuter corridors that connect the length and breadth of the island.

It was like being in another world. Instead of weaving through traffic, I found myself in a curb separated lane with my own set of traffic signals. Cycling – in other words – had become an integral part of the city's transportation strategy.

Live in Montreal Tonight at 7pm

If you are in Montreal and would like to hear me speak, tonight is your chance!

I'll be giving a talk called "Exceptions that change the rules." I'll be using stories from cities in Canada, the US, and South Africa to look at how municipalities and communities go beyond marginal changes and help create what I'm calling "deeply sustainable" cities.

 i.e. cities that do more than make minor tweaks around the edges and start to get at more transformative and innovative goals.

It will be at 7pm, Oct. 3, at the Westmount Public Library (4574 Sherbrooke O., Westmount).  All the details are also in the poster (.pdf) Read more...


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.