Last week, Alex Steffen met up with Stephen Beard from American Public Media in Copenhagen. On the radio show Marketplace, the two discussed our favorite solution for fighting climate change: reinventing cities.
Making cities more compact and walkable can drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and make it easier for citizens to share information, resources and services. And lacing those cities with smart technology can give invisible systems, like water and energy use, the transparency necessary to encourage high levels of conservation.
Here's some of what Alex told the listeners:
Most of us have heard of engineering fixes, like swapping coal plants and SUVs with wind turbines and hybrid cars. Clean energy and green tech are critical, but they're being eclipsed by a more system-wide approach: building bright green cities. Cities offer us powerful leverage on our most stubborn, wasteful practices. Long commutes in our cars, big power bills from our energy-hogging buildings, shopping trips to buy stuff that'll spend a few short months in our homes and long centuries in our landfills.
These are unsustainable behaviors. And they're so difficult to change because they're spun into the very fabric of our cities and sprawling suburbs. Reweave that fabric, and we find change much easier.
To hear the interview or read the full transcript, please visit the Marketplace website.
Think about this for a second:
"In 1970, Los Angeles became the first place where the total acreage used for roads and parking exceeded the amount of space given over to habitation."
Whether it's green alleys or green roofs we need to "reinvent" our cities, as Alex mentions, in order to prepare for population growth, decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, and make cities an enjoyable place to live, work, and play.
Can anyone name a city which, to become sustainable, wouldn't need the outputs of a huge area of sustainably managed countryside and, probably, of ocean too ?
To put it the other way round, how many reading this actually believe that digging up urban lawns for veg is going to provide more than a minor fraction of the food needs of a city for just a fraction of the year, let alone yield the firewood, lumber, leather, wool, cotton, paper, and the rest of temperate country produce ?
While the growing fashion urban veg gardening is a welcome development, if it is hyped out of proportion then it will only generate disappointment and disillusion. We need to recognise that it is the labour intensive sustainable management of rural ecologies to nurture their abundance that is the starting point for a sustainable culture.
Lewis, what you say is true, but like MLK said he's still plant a tree if the world would end tomorrow. So it's all we can do for now... follow Cuba's lead and all become more self-sufficient on a neighborhood/town basis. We will still have trade in the future, maybe just less. There will always be cities and rural areas, maybe not continuously. (during periods of chaos -> feudalism) But this is far in the future right? :)