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Urban Development

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.

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.

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.

Amsterdam Smart City

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Amsterdam is aggressively developing its ‘smart’ electrical grid. The smart part is the inter-linked power system, and the efforts made to involve all parts of the community. The result to-date is impressive: in just two years 71 partners have joined (and growing), pilot energy savings of 13 percent were achieved, and a possible reduction of 1.2 million tonnes CO2e already identified if pilots scaled-up city-wide. The program grew from a smart electrical grid to a ‘smart city’; in eighteen months Amsterdam Smart City or ASC, hosted or attended more than 50 smart city conferences.

The four pillars of ASC program are: (i) cooperation; (ii) smart technology and behavior change; (iii) knowledge exchange; and (iv) seek economically viable initiatives. Much of the impetus of ASC came from the establishment of a Euro 60 Million catalytic climate and energy investment fund created when the electricity and gas company was privatized.

d’Urban: Cities leading at COP17

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I learned this week that Durban got its name in 1835 from Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the first governor of the Cape Colony. His name seemed particularly apt as COP17’s urban-in-Durban yielded important contributions. During the first weekend at Durban City Hall, just next to the COP17 venue, 114 local governments signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, committing signatory cities to accelerate local adaptation efforts, including conducting risk assessments and more city-to-city cooperation. An impressive complement to last year’s Mexico City Pact that calls for similar efforts to measure and promote mitigation in participating cities. More than 200 cities have now signed on to the Mexico City Pact.

Smart Cities for Dummies

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I grimace when I see those ads to ‘Build a Smarter Planet’. It seems to me the planet was working pretty well before we started messing with it. But ‘Build a Smarter City’ – now that’s something I can get behind. Cities are humanity’s grandest creation. They reflect us, sometimes smart, sometimes not. Cities reflect our civilizations, and when working well cities are the most efficient way to help the poor, the fortunate and unfortunate, and the environment. And without a doubt every city in the world would benefit from smarter design and smarter management.

Coffee House, New Delhi, IndiaThere’s a bit of smoke and mirrors on some of today’s smart city claims. Selling more IT and sophisticated algorithms might help a few of the very fortunate cities. Building a smart-city suburb next to a very unsustainable city can yield important lessons but can also be a useful distraction. Being really smart about cities is improving basic service delivery to the 1 billion urban-poor now going without clean water, or the 2 billion without sanitation. And we need big-time smarts as we build cities over the next twenty years for an additional 2 billion residents – this time locking in energy savings and a high quality of life for all.

Community Connections in a Changing Climate: Engineers Without Borders and the World Bank

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Community Connections Campaign logoI have a confession: I’m an engineer. Wandering the halls of the World Bank it’s sometimes best to hide this. After all economists, and more recently, graduates of international policy programs, run the world, and ‘thinking like an economist’ is a powerful skill. Engineers are usually not the glitzy ones; we are more akin to beavers - hard working, somewhat plodding, and dutiful.

Engineers are so innocuous we don’t even have a good set of jokes like lawyers. Everyone who’s gone to university with engineers will have a story or two about too boisterous an engineer, maybe with insufficient social graces, who was painted purple or put a cow in the library as part of some initiation right. When engineering first started there were only two types, military and civil. Civil was a discipline, not a character trait.

Cities and the Human Spirit

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I’m not Catholic. Not even much of a practicing Christian, but I must confess I felt a little chill the other night walking past Köln’s Cathedral. Not from the cold of the night, nor from fear. My engaging German hosts had just informed me the Cathedral was built with sufficient grandeur to house the relics of the Three Magi spirited away from Milan in 1164. For hundreds of years pilgrims from around the world have converged on the Cathedral, adding to the 20,000 visitors a day. The site is sacred and steeped in history. For a few years it was even the tallest building in the world until eclipsed by the Washington Monument in 1884. I couldn’t escape the Cathedral’s history as we walked past it on this cool, clear October night.

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