Green Cities and Smart Cities: The potential and pitfalls of digitally-enabled green urbanism

[Originally posted on the Urbanization and Global Environmental Change Viewpoints Blog]

Since its early days, the discourse around “smart cities” has included environmental sustainability as one of its core principles. The application of new digital technologies to urban spaces and processes is celebrated for its ability to increase the well-being of citizens while reducing their environmental impacts. But this engagement with sustainability has been limited to a technocratic focus on energy systems, building efficiency, and transportation. It has also privileged top-down interventions by local government actors. For all its novelty, the smart cities discussion is operating with a vision of urban sustainability that dates from the 1990s, and an approach to planning from the 1950s. 

This definition of “urban sustainability” overlooks key facets of a city’s ecological footprint (such as food systems, resource consumption, production related greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and the urban heat island effect). It also ignores the ability of non-state actors to contribute meaningfully to the design and implementation of urban policies and programs. But that doesn’t need not be the case. In fact, if employed properly, new information technologies seem like ideal tools to address some of urban sustainability’s most persistent challenges. Read the rest @UGEC Viewpoints.

Graduate Position: Urban Sustainability Governance @ INRS

A funded MA or PhD position in Urban Sustainability Governance has just been announced at the INRS University. The position is open to MA or PhD students interested in studying:

  • how cities plan and implement sustainability and climate change policies in Canada and internationally,
  • how public, private, and civil-society groups participate in horizontal and vertical networks of urban sustainability governance,
  • the tensions between path-dependency and innovation in urban sustainability planning and action.


Graduate Position: Innovation and Urban Sustainability @ INRS

A funded MA or PhD position in Innovation and Urban Sustainability is now open at the INRS University. The position is open to MA or PhD students interested in studying:

  •  the overlap between "smart" and "sustainable" cities,
  • the application of new technologies to urban environmental problems,
  • the socio-institutional and political factors that enable or block innovations in urban sustainability,
  • the impacts of "smart" approaches to green cities on governance, democracy, and public participation.


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.