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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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    What Do We Do About New Vehicles?

    Lester Brown, through his Worldwatch Institute and today his Earth Institute, is among the few commentators that are extensive who have caught hold of the peak oil problem, but can give a relatively positive perspective which integrates vehicle changes with other policy problems; he suggests:

    The typical new car sold in the USA got 22 miles to the gallon, compared with 55 miles per gallon for the Toyota Prius. When the United States determined for oil security and climate stabilization motives to replace its entire fleet of passenger vehicles with super-efficient gas-electric hybrid vehicles over the next 10 years, gasoline use could readily be cut in half. This might include no change in the amount of cars or miles driven, only a shift to the most efficient automotive propulsion technology available these days.

    Beyond this, a gas-electric hybrid vehicle with the additional storage battery as well as a plug-in capacity would allow us to use electricity for short distance driving, such as the daily commute or grocery store shopping. This may cut U.S. gasoline use by an additional 20 percent, for a total decrease of 70 percent. Subsequently if we invest in thousands of wind farms all over the nation to feed cheap electricity into the grid, we could do most short-distance driving with wind energy, drastically reducing both carbon emissions and the pressure on world oil supplies.

    We've not only an inexhaustible alternative to dwindling oil reserves of oil, but an amazingly affordable one.

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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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