the renewed city.

book review: clive doucet’s “urban meltdown”
May 29, 2008, 7:32 pm
Filed under: reviews

urban meltdown is a discussion about major issues facing canadian urban regions today, namely climate change, air pollution and social disenfranchisement. instead of merely describing them, however, doucet, a city of ottawa politican, writes about why he feels these problems have emerged. doucet points the finger and blame at the underlying, systemic political and cultural values in cities. he posits that governments and normal citizens alike have become so consumption-driven and economically-centric that what we define as progress, growth and development has been achieved at the cost of the natural environment, social capital and sustainability in general.

the result of this angle is a passionate, well-written book whose key message is that a complete paradigm shift in government, decision-making and cultural values in needed in order to make our cities both locally and globally sustainable. doucet draws heavility on examples from his native ottawa – clogged streets and highways, poor and biased land use planning, spiraling social services and poor air quality to name a few – to illustrate government failure to plan for a better city.

at times, however, the book suffers from the authors poetic voice and background. there are chapters after chapters of personal stories and reflection that seem out of place. this has the potential for the books message to become dilluted or get off-track.

neverthless, urban meltdown is an important read. doucet takes a new angle on what is, sadly, becoming an increasingly common and scary problem in our cities. this fresh and much needed perspective avoids the well-explored “band aid” solutions. doucet’s book should serve as a rally cry towards attaining more appropriate cultural and political ideals.


shrinking the carbon footprint of metropolitan and rural america
May 29, 2008, 10:58 am
Filed under: commentary

the brookings institute released a research report today documenting carbon footprints in america. their findings suggest that while cities are hot spots for global warming, people living in them turn out to be much greener than their rural neighbours. the authors note that each resident of the largest 100 metropolitan areas is responsible on average for 2.24 tonnes of carbon dioxide in energy consumption each year, 14 per cent below the U.S. average of 2.6 tonnes. yes, those 100 cities still account for more than half of the country’s carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas pollutions but their greater use of public transit and population density results in a reduction of the per person average.

this research is timely in that it brings clarity to the somewhat misunderstood carbon footprint landscape and geography in america. while we’ve made great strides to reduce carbon footprints in urban areas and continue to do so today, we appear to be plagued by tunnel vision. strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide need to be more holistic and expanded to include suburban and rural landscapes into plans and policies. this will be challenging. these areas often have a bias against transit or higher densities. federal and state policies, too, are non conducive to appropriate energy-efficient planning and housing strategies.

in this light, any new approach will have to be multi-faceted and far-reaching. rural areas need to become educated about and introduced to the benefits of smart growth policies, alternative transportation choices and electricity conservation. the report authors highlight the importance of federal leadership in this regard. doing so will give impetus for rural municipalities and states to rethink their longer term growth and development.

“che obama. che obama t-shirts.”