Patrick M. Condon, the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments at the University of British Columbia, has just written a new book Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post-Carbon World. The book aims to be an easy-to-use guide to basic urban design rules that, if followed, can help begin to halt the buildup of greenhouse gasses and create a more livable world for future generations.
It starts from a premise that Worldchanging covers regularly: the transformation of cities and metropolitan regions "into places that strike a balance between their human inhabitants and the planet's air and water systems" with compact, energy-efficient, and pedestrian- and transit-friendly design is the key to a bright green future.
In his foreword, Condon argues that while cap and trade programs, reductions in power plant emissions, increasing use of alternative energy technologies, and more energy-efficient cars are good steps, they will "merely slow the rate of growth in greenhouse gas production"; whereas transforming our cities offers a greater potential for actually reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions:
"Eighty percent of American and Canadians live in metropolitan areas, and these place produce an equal amount of the continent's greenhouse gases. Current decentralized, auto-mobile-based patterns of development helped make North Americans the biggest generators of greenhouse gases in the world per capita. For this reason, transitioning to less land and energy-consuming patterns of development will be cruicial to reducing overall carbon production. Cities and regions, not national governments, will play the leading role in achieving these goals. This book shows how changes in the design of our cities and metropolitan areas can achieve dramatic reductions in carbon emissions while improving livability and competitiveness and at the same time reducing the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure systems."
One of Condon's central propositions is that cities return to a 'slow transit' model of development --a return to the streetcar city with jobs concentrated along corridors,which were once prevalent throughout North American cities.
This seems to echo what Worldchanging's Executive Editor Alex Steffen spoke about last night in terms of the "death of speed" and the need to accept the fact that cars are not the future; urban design must adapt to create places and destinations that are accessible through walking, biking and transit and the leveraging of walkshed technologies.
If you're looking for a succinct exploration of the complex issues facing urban design in a rapidly urbanizing world, and a good introduction to strategies for livable, more sustainable cities, then check out Seven Steps.
If you want these books to be read in Seattle, consider recommending/donating a few copies at Seattle Public Library. Once readers request a book SPL is pretty good about purchasing them. And library borrowing is environmentally sound.