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.