January 20, 2014

The Chapters of ‘Happy City’ – 11

Selected quotes from each chapter in Charles Montgomery’s new book – Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.  happy-city

Today: Everything is connected to everything else.’

” … ‘hedonistic sustainability’ – the idea that sustainability is not a burden, but that a sustainable city in fact can improve our quality of life.” – Bjarke Ingels.

We have all heard skeptics who warn that serious action to fight climate change and energy scarcity will lead us into decades of hardship and sacrifice.  When it comes to cities, they are absolutely wrong.  In fact, sustainability and the good life can be by-products of the very same interventions.

The happy city plan is an energy plan.   It is a climate plan.  It is a belt-tightening plan for cash-strapped cities.  It is also an economic plan, a jobs plan, and a corrective for weak systems.  It is a plan for resilience.

… the dispersed city that nudges millions of people toward inactivity – and exposes them to air pollution and traffic crashes – simultaneously creates financial burdens for all of society.

Bogota’s TransMilenio, New York’s bike lanes, and Vancouver’s laneway housing project are all exercises in long-term austerity.

… the city is a fantastically complex organism that can be thrown into an unhealthy imbalance by attempts to simplify it in form or function.  … The dispersalists saw order and efficiency in their segregated systems, but in many cases they were merely transferring energy costs from industry to regular citizens and governments.  … classic sprawl depends on cheap energy, and lots of it, to function. … The relationship is clear: as emissions go up, operational affordability goes down.

Many North American cities are just waking up to the fact that they have been engaging in a massive urban Ponzi scheme, with new development creating short-term benefits in development fees and tax revenues but even bigger long-term costs that pile up faster than cities’ ability to pay them off.

… thanks to the relationship between energy and distance, large-footprint sprawl development patterns can actually cost cities more to service than they give back in taxes. The result?  Growth that produces deficits that simply cannot be overcome with new growth revenue.

… when regular people and city builders alike embrace complexity and the inherent interconnectedness of city life, when we move a little closer, we begin to free ourselves from the enslaving hunger for scarce energy.  We can live well and save the world at the very same time.

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  1. My Goodness you’re up early! For me it’s early evening!

    I just wish you could see some of the things I see in Moscow. You’d be horrified!

    See you soon. Cheers.

    PS. Don’t let me forget to bring you your Sochi mitts before the Olympics start!

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