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Urban Development

My Father’s Ford – A New Model for Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Ford ShowroomMy father is a Ford man he's driven nothing but since 1958. When I was a kid I would go with him every fall to the new models showroom party at Lange and Fetter Ford Motors in Trenton, Canada. I would get a balloon, some cake and maybe get to sit in a new car (spilled the cake on the new seat one year). Since being a kid I’ve always been amazed how car manufacturers manage to come out with yet another new version every year. Some years it would just be the lights that changed, in other years there might be a whole remake of the model, or an entirely new model might be introduced.

Now I’m a boring old man and drive a 2008 Toyota Camry. The back seat’s spacious enough for the girls, and I really would look like a fool with a middle-age crisis if I bought that red Mustang I coveted as a kid. Also, I now work on city issues, and let’s face it: an electric car (where electric generation has low carbon emissions) or a Smart Car is the way to go (after we get a smaller dog). But the way car manufacturers have provided new models every year for more than 80 years is a very important lesson for those of us working on cities.

Cleaner Bricks for Better Air Quality in Dhaka

Maria Sarraf's picture

Dhaka. Chittagong. Khulna. Just a handful of cities where construction is booming. In Bangladesh, the construction sector is driven by a single fuel: bricks. But making bricks is not neat. It is messy and backbreaking. In Bangladesh, most bricks are manually made from mud, and then burnt in kilns. Workers have to use hammers to break up tons of coal every day. Then they carry the coal on their shoulders to the ovens used to fire bricks. There are more than 4,500 traditional kilns in Bangladesh that operate this way.

The country’s capital, Dhaka, is surrounded by more than 1,200 kilns. Most kilns operate only 6 months during the year (between November and April). Because more than 90% are located in low-lying areas which experience flooding during the rainy season. During the 6 months of operation, Dhaka becomes one of the most polluted cities in the world. Every day, the chimneys blow black smoke that clouds the city’s sky. The smoke is dense and contains fine particulates, which are very damaging to health. They cause no less than 20 percent of the premature deaths related to urban air pollution in Dhaka. 

How long can the country afford to make bricks in this way? The current status is by no means sustainable. To make 100,000 bricks, one needs to burn 20 tons of coal, which has high sulfur content. China, the world’s leading brick producer, uses only 6 tons of coal to make the same amount of bricks. China’s experience suggests that adopting cleaner and more energy-efficient technologies is key to success.

Creating a level playing field

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Throughout the slums of this world, poor children are dreaming of becoming football stars and playing in the World Cup. Some of them from Kibera—Kenya’s largest slum—had a shot last weekend, when the International School of Kenya hosted the third “Mini World Cup”.

The event involved more than sixty teams made-up of Kenyan and international children from all walks of life. Two teams from Kibera made it to the top eight teams of the tournament, keeping their dream alive to win the “Cup” in one of the next years. The great thing about football is that all teams, no matter what their social background, have an equal opportunity to win. They start on a level playing field, and they all play by the same rules. When the final whistle blows, there is no reason why one of the teams from Kibera should not lift the Mini World Cup next time, just as Ghana’s Black Stars overcame Team USA in the 2010 World Cup, despite the huge disparity in wealth between the two nations.

In economic development, the equivalent of having a level playing field is equality of access to basic services.

The North American Urban Agriculture Experience

Rana Amirtahmasebi's picture

In a country where, in some places, a burger barely costs a dollar while a bag of baby carrots is priced nearly thrice as much, there’s plenty of work to be done to make healthy foods affordable – and accessible. There is no denying that food insecurity (of which cheap and nutritionally inadequate junk food is a major manifestation) is a concern in the US. In fact, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nearly 14.5 per cent of Americans experienced food insecurity at some point in 2010.

To fight this, many cities across the US are assessing their food production potential and creating special legislation for promoting urban agriculture. Let me clarify that “urban” agriculture does not imply turning down high-density buildings in the city centers to build farms. As an urban planner I am a supporter of higher densities. However, the leftover land around the cities or the residential open spaces with no other obvious use could be used as productive fragments of land within the cities. But more on this later - maybe another blog entry!

In the US, urban agriculture began at the grassroots level as a social justice movement to combat food insecurity among under-privileged communities. Within a couple of decades, a growing demand resulted in local governments making an active effort to support urban agriculture. Sometime ago I documented some of New Orleans’ urban farms with my video camera.

It’s Time to Scale Up - and Speed Up

Peter Head's picture

Prof Peter Head
Director, Arup and Executive Chairman, The Ecological Sequestration Trust

Ecological Sequestration Trust logoProf Peter Head will share his work with The Ecological Sequestration Trust through a monthly blog on sustainable cities. For more information on the Trust log on to http://www.ecosequestrust.org/

Earlier this month, I gave a presentation to the urban team at The World Bank about the work of our newly formed UK Charity, The Ecological Sequestration Trust.

I created the Charity in April 2011 because I could see, through the work of my brilliant global planning team in Arup that, while the path towards a low carbon resilient world was getting clearer, the overall rate of change is too slow to meet the required reduction of emissions and ecological footprint to create a more stable world for us to live in. We need to scale up - and speed up.

Cities and PPPs: I’ve got Ulaanbaatar on my mind

David Lawrence's picture
Photo courtesy of christahasenkopf.com

I recently read a quote by Edward Glaeser, an urban economist, in the latest issue of IFC’s quarterly journal on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), which caught my attention:

Statistically, there is a near-perfect correlation between urbanization and prosperity among nations. As a country’s urban population rises by 10 percent, the country’s per capita output increases by 30 percent.

LDC Migration and Climate Change

Matthew Kahn's picture

Originally posted on Matthew Kahn's personal blog: http://greeneconomics.blogspot.com/

At the World Bank yesterday, I learned about this impressive project. While there are a lot of papers to choose from at this website,  the "big picture" is sketched below in the report's Executive Summary.

The following is a direct quote:

"This report considers migration in the context of environmental change over the next 50 years.

The scope of this report is international: it examines global migration trends, but also internal migration trends particularly within low-income countries, which are often more important in this context.

Big Mac Dan and the Conversations of Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

My lovely wife recently gave me a MacBook Air for my birthday. She debated a Mac Air or iPad but went with the Mac Air since we had ‘free’ Microsoft Office software available from an earlier 3-copy purchase. All was going well until I went to install the software. After hours of trying to download the software, cryptic Microsoft internet messages, and a very unhelpful phone-in customer ‘service’, we were left with one remaining option: endure the Mac store and trade it in for an iPad or figure out the software. This is where we met Big Mac Dan (BMD).

BMD is a six-foot-six tall large man at Toronto’s Fairview Mall Mac Store. He was one of the many blue shirts in a very crowded store. After being delivered to BMD by a woman who politely pointed out to me, despite my surliness, that this really was a Microsoft issue, Dan and I proceeded to figure out how to install the software. After lots of trial and error, it turned out that both of us mistook a product-code ‘B’ for an ‘8’. Fortunately Dan (the other one) was incredibly patient.

How Can Development NGOs Go Urban?

Duncan Green's picture

Just spent a fascinating week in Nairobi, taking part in a review of our three-year- old urban programme there. Like many large development NGOs, Oxfam is deeply rural – goats, irrigation, drought, that kind of thing - but the world has gone urban, and so in a few countries, we are dipping our organizational toes in the water. Some impressions on the challenges of urban work:

Perhaps most striking are the multiple centres of power and association compared to the rural world. Tier upon tier of government, dense networks of clubs, traditional and tribal structures and militia, social and community organizations, churches, ‘merry-go-round’ savings and loans groups, youth groups, sports clubs, cultural groups – the list is endless. Power is dispersed and often hard to map or even detect. How to chart a way through the forest of organizations and identify potential partners and targets for influence?

City-wide Clean Development Mechanism: A Framework for Empowering Cities

Maggie Comstock's picture

Under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, certain cities in developing countries have begun adopting an integrated systems approach to emissions reduction and resource conservation. Lauding their efforts, Maggie Comstock, Policy Associate, US Green Building Council asks when developed countries like the US will follow suit.

This blog originally appeared in the Official Blog of the US Green Building Council

As the dust settles after the COP17 Climate Talks in Durban, a sigh of relief is released. The mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol have survived to see a second commitment period.

The mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol—the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and emissions trading—provide flexibility as participating countries attempt to comply with their emission reduction targets. Each of these mechanisms allows developed countries to fund emissions reduction projects outside of their borders in order to meet their domestic targets. The CDM has been universally embraced by the first and third world as a way to encourage sustainable development and green economic growth in developing countries.


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