November 2011 Archives


Seems like my chapter "The Death of Sprawl" from The Post Carbon Reader is taking on a life of its own. Friday, Christopher Leinberger had an Op-ed in the New York Times, titled "Death of the Fringe Suburb," which built upon concepts I had published (and sent Leinberger last year) namely, that the US mortgage crisis and Recession were set off by upsidedown economics of sprawl speculation in US exurbs or "Boomburbs" and we can't ever do that again.

The site Adapturbia also recently put together a nifty visual presentation of "The Death of Sprawl" that localized my content to provide context for sprawl issues confronting Sydney, Australia.

What's important here is that the research and the real estate sales figures are becoming ever clearer: people increasingly prefer to live in mixed-use, transit-oriented walkable and bikeable neighborhoods over drive-everywhere bedroom communities. Those preferences will not change and we will not go back, which is affirmed by the abandoned exurban housing and development that are fast becoming the nation's newest slums: for the first time in the nation's history, suburban poverty now outweighs urban poverty

One need only take a look at the foreclosure heavy areas such as California's Inland Empire: my chapter provided a case study of Victorville, CA, one of the last gasps of the residential car-centered Boomburb economy of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Leinberger's piece hit on the changing real estate taste in demographics (retired Boomers and upcoming Millennials) while my thesis examined how cheap energy fueled nearly 100% car-dependent exurban growth. We both concluded that denser, mixed-use metro areas are the wise investments of the future because: more people want to live that way so that is where investment will occur. Developers know that strip malls, sidewalk-less mini-mansions and business parks that cater to cars only are poison in this economy.

To get where this is going, one need only look at the three cities out of 20 that have had positive real estate sales in the past quarter: Portland (free public transit, leading US city bicycle transit rate), New York (leading US public transit rate, active bikeway development) and Washington, DC (one of highest transit rates behind New York and high walkability).

The national foreclosure capitals, on the other hand, are testimonials to sprawled, exurban, car-dominant development: Las Vegas, Phoenix and California's Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside counties, including Victorville). See map of 2011 US foreclosures below:
Thumbnail image for US foreclosures 2011.jpg

Sprawled communities, exurbs, fringe suburbs, whatever you call them, are underwater in terms of money invested and will remain so. Some of these communities will make themselves more resilient with car-free transport, local food production, water and wildlife conservation and other acitviites that restore local resources, jobs and social interaction.

But many will become abandoned slums and will need to be torn down, just as Victorville did with some of its "high-end" residential neighborhoods. Other monuments of sprawl, particularly in desert communities, will remain as stark monuments to the follies of our distant past.
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, author of How Green is Your City? and co-author of the United Nations Shanghai Manual on global sustainable city planning and management.



expo carbon.JPG

A powerful triumvirate, the United Nations, Bureau International Des Expositions and the mayor of Shanghai, released this week the Shanghai Manual: A Guide for Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century. This timely (and free!) manual is aimed at helping leaders of the world's cities use integrated urban planning, management, financing and technology to green their economies and build climate and economic resilience.

"The Shanghai Manual details the experience and practices of cities across the world in addressing common challenges and achieving harmonious development...and is therefore of great theoretical and practical value," Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said at Monday's launch, according to the Shanghai Daily.

Aimed at a target readership of mayors and executive leaders of developing nation cities, the bilingual (English and Chinese) Shanghai Manual is the basis for capacity building and training being rolled out in Asia next week by the United Nations. City leaders representing 12 Asian nations will attend the United Nations Center for Regional Development in Nagoya, Japan, where UN officials and I will lead urban sustainability training for leaders ranging from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Karachi, Pakistan, to Makati (Manila), Philippines. In addition smaller cities including Chiang Mai, Thailand are participating.

Shanghai, China's largest city (17 million+ in the city proper), earned the street cred of being the manual's namesake by hosting the 2010 World Expo (photo above), so its mayor was honored with the manual's unveiling. Also attending the launch was Sha Zukang, United Nations Undersecretary-General as well as Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development known as Rio+20. The Shanghai Manual is credited by the UN as an important contribution to the Rio+20 agenda.

The Shanghai Manual, which I co-authored with colleagues at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, emerged from the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the largest world's fair in history. Devoted to the theme of "Better City, Better Life," the expo was the first global event of its kind to recognize climate change, and was dedicated to sustainability education. The expo featured demonstrations on resource efficiency and new approaches in transportation, water and material use, biological restoration, industrial ecology and low-carbon, low-impact development.

Vicente Loscertales, secretary general of the World Expo Bureau called the Shanghai Manual, "The most precious legacy of the Expo Shanghai."

China now recognizes that its future is bound up in seriously grappling with sustainability issues: the country accounted for half the entire world's construction activities in 2010. Over the next 30 years, China's massive planned urbanization is adding hundreds of millions more people, so it must continually innovate low-carbon and resource-efficient urban planning and development.

The integrated sustainability approaches highlighted in the Shanghai Manual include the use of activities such as participatory budgeting and in-situ slum revitalization, while other planning investigates non-motorized transport, transit-oriented development, dedicated cycling tracks, as well as congestion and demand management of transportation.

Management strategies include coordination of the formal and informal sectors (i.e., the  rag-pickers of Pune, India), city-scale rainwater harvesting and zero-waste applications.

Social-cultural issues covered include the use of social networks, micro-finance and mobile communications, and bridging the digital divide with e-governance and e-learning. Technological investigations focus on distributed renewable energy, smart city applications including remote sensing and smart grids, along with analytical tools such as carbon-footprinting, eco-mapping and city sustainability dashboards.

Based on 47 case studies from a range of cities, the Shanghai Manual highlights successful integrated long-term urban planning, economic development, program and project implementation and multi-stakeholder participation.


Thematically divided into ten chapters it covers (case studies are listed for each):

·         Towards a Harmonious City: Sustainable Sydney 2030; Nairobi Metro 2030

·         Delivering Effective Urban Management:  New York City's Integrated Sustainability Planning and Management; Slum Upgrading in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Mexico City's Plan Verde; Porto Allegre, Brazil's Participatory Budgeting

·         Economic Transformation: Baoding, China's Clean Energy Economy; Bilbao, Spain's Ria 2000; South Korea's Smart Grid 2030 Roadmap; San Jose, United States' Green Vision; Germany's Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy

·         Transport: Guangzhou, China's Bus Rapid Transit System; Bogotá, Colombia and Copenhagen, Denmark's Planning for Cycling; Goteborg, Sweden's Planning for Multi-Mobility; Singapore's Traffic Congestion Management;  Berlin's Low-Emission Zone

·         Waste Management: Pune, India's Rag-picker Cooperative; Bogotá, Colombia's Contracting of Formal and Informal Sectors; Extended Producer Responsibility in Mauritius; Dhaka, Bangladesh's Community-based Composting to Convert Organic Waste to Resource and Generate Carbon Credits

·         Green Buildings: Madrid's Bamboo Ecobuilding; Hamburg, Germany's Haften City;  US Green Building Council's LEED Program; Masdar City, United Arab Emirates' Hot Climate Appropriate Design; Washington, DC's George Washington University's Landscape and Building Water Management

·         Science & Technology: Sophia Antipolis, France's Science & Technology Park Development;  San Diego, United States' Biotech Cluster Development; Mexico City's Biometropolis Medical Park; Singapore's Media 21 Global Media City; China's Torch Program Development; Gautang, South Africa's Innovation Hub 

·         Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for Smart Cities: Singapore's Digital Master Plan 2015; Mumbai, India's e-Governance; Leeds, United Kingdom's e-Learning Vision; Bridging the Digital Divide in Zambia, Africa; Dhaka, Bangladesh's Monitoring of Land Use and Land Cover Change Using Remote Sensing; Eco-Maps in Amsterdam and San Francisco

·         Culture and Sustainable Cities: Quito, Ecuador's Historic Preservation; Frankfurt, Germany's Office of Multicultural Affairs; Development of a Bengali-British Identity in Spitalfields, United Kingdom; London and Toronto's Creative Spaces Project;  Johannesburg, South Africa's Creative Industries

·         Mega Events: 2010 Shanghai Expo's Global Platform for Future Urban Development; Ningbo, China's Leveraging Shanghai Expo 2010 to Boost Urban Transformation;  Aichi, Japan's World's First Eco-Expo; Beijing, China's 2008 Olympics; Torino, Italy's Managing Multilevel Partnerships; Lille, France's 2004 Olympics; Rio De Janeiro's Preparation for UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

(Photo: Shanghai Expo 2010, copyright Warren Karlenzig)

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, author of How Green is Your City? and co-author of the Shanghai Manual on global sustainable city planning and management.


About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2011 is the previous archive.

December 2011 is the next archive.

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