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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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    Is there a Travel-Time Limit to City Growth?

    Planners have suggested that cities may have an optimum size beyond which they start to become dysfunctional. However no such size limit has been found predicated on societal, economical, health or environmental variables. The Megacities of the world have continued to grow by becoming more and more packed and continuing to sprawl out. Lately some cities like Mexico City have started to slow down in those cities that do not densify begin to slow in population growth and their growth outwards. This can be described by the travel time budget. Road rage is just one of these symptoms. The limit depends on a combination of densities and journey rates. A city having an average speed of 100 people per hectare and 40 kms per hour would become dysfunctional after 12 million; 2 million people will be become dysfunctional after by a city of 10 individuals per hectare and 50 kms per hour average speed. Such limits are starting to be seen and no apparent technological changes are going to alter this. Electronic communication isn't altering the importance of human contact in cities. City limits are just one of the driving forces on the other side of the move to build railway and bus rapid transit in several developing cities and to assemble rail systems that are speedy in over 100 US cities.

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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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