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    Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change

    Peter Newman, Tim Beatley, and Heather Boyer

    Half of the inhabitants in the world live in cities. In the following twenty years, the number of urban dwellers will swell to an estimated five billion people. Using buildings that are poorly designed and their ineffective transportation systems, many cities particularly in the United States use up enormous amounts of fossil fuels and emit high levels of greenhouse gases. But our planet is quickly running from the carbon-based fuels that have powered urban growth for centuries and we seem to be not able to check our greenhouse gas emissions. Are the world's cities headed for unavoidable failure?

    The authors of the energetic book do not consider that oblivion is essentially the destiny of urban areas. Rather, they believe that direction is visionary and sensible planning that can help cities meet with the impending disasters, and look to existing initiatives in cities around the world. Rather than responding with fear (as a legion of doomsaying prognosticators have done), they choose expectation. They confront the issues, describing where we stand now in our usage of oil as well as our contribution to climate change. They then present four potential results for cities: collapse, ruralized, divided, and resilient. In response to their scenarios, they say a new sustainable urbanism could replace today's carbon-consuming urbanism. They address in detail how buildings and new transportation systems can be feasibly developed to replace our low efficiency systems that are present.

    That is not a publication filled with blue sky theory (although blue skies are going to be a welcome result of its recommendations). Rather, it's packed with practical ideas, a few of which are working in cities today. It implies these problems are solvable, although it frankly confesses that our cities have issues that may worsen when they are not addressed. And the time to begin solving them is now.

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    Solara: Solar-Powered Affordable Housing in San Diego County, CA

    In spring 2007, an advanced green affordable housing complex situated CA, in Northern San Diego County, in the city of Poway, was finished. A collaboration between Community Housing Works, a non-profit housing developer, the Poway Redevelopment Agency and Global Green USA, the complex will be the primary net zero energy housing in California. This 56-apartment complex will be 100%-powered by rooftop photovoltaics, at times sending more electricity to the grid than it needs (hence "net zero energy"). Under the county's revolutionary "zero utility allowance," residents, who are able to rent the flats at considerably below market rates, will not have any energy bills to pay. The rooftops of this multi-component home feature 141 kw of photovoltaic panels, and per the states of the city, can't be seen from street level.

    The flats comprise a number of other green elements, including usage of non-hazardous paints, energy efficient appliances and water saving plumbing, utilization of recycled stuff, as well as a landscape plan that includes "no mow" grass and native species of trees (and a citrus grove, as well). The complex also carries a community center, office space, and is situated near public transit. Residents should walk to nearby shops and every unit was given their very own metal shopping cart. Housing County work in addition has commissioned the preparation of a Green Curriculum for the community, a green management/maintenance guide, as well as require all residents to attend a preoccupancy briefing on the green features of the locality.

    The PV panels added $1.1 million to the cost of the job, but was financed in creative ways. Funding was provided through the California Energy Commissions Zero Energy New Homes program in part with a national solar power tax credit.

    Global Green USA points out the ultimate and impressive green benefits from Solara:

    The end result: SOLARA has the lowest carbon footprint of any apartment complex in California, 95 percent lower than a conventionally powered community, avoiding more than 1800 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is the equivalent to planting 5,446 trees or taking 300 cars off the road annually. (Global Green, 2007, p. 1).

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    "Resilience in our personal lives in about lasting, about making it through crises, about inner strength and strong physical constitution. Resilience is destroyed by fear, which causes us to panic, reduces our inner resolve, and eventually debilitates our bodies. Resilience is built on hope, which gives us confidence and strength. Hope is not blind to the possibility of everything getting worse, but it is a choice we make when faced with challenges. Hope brings health to our souls and bodies. 

    Resilience can be applied to cities. They too need to last, to respond to crises and adapt in a way that may cause them to change and grow differently; cities require an inner strength, a resolve, as well as a strong physical infrastructure and built environment." 
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