Recently in Planning / Land Use Category


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:
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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.




2010 Shanghai Expo Closing Summit

We all need to reinvent urban planning for the 21st century.

Never has the need been greater for integration across urban management, systems, experts, policies and technologies. The world is rapidly becoming more urban, especially in Asia, where hundreds of millions have begun moving to cities. This massive migration, largest in human history, will produce colossal impacts--including innovation--in energy use, transportation, housing, water and resource use. Economies will be impacted at every scale, especially beyond burgeoning metro areas in national and global markets.

Add climate change and adaptation issues to the development of Asian cities, where more than 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emission increases are expected to occur over the next 15 years, and we are faced with the urgency--and opportunity--to reinvent urban planning. Planning for the future of cities needs to now embody a process combining sustainability strategies with information and communications technologies (ICT), supported by the sciences (natural + social) in concert with engaged participation: from the slum to the boardroom to the ivory tower.

Considering such needs, the United Nations is announcing capacity building for sustainable urbanization, with an initial focus on Asia. On Nov. 7, the UN will release its "Shanghai Manual for Sustainable Urbanization" (where else but in China's largest city, Shanghai?). The Shanghai Manual, developed in conjunction with the Shanghai Expo 2010 (photo above), represents not only the knowledge legacy of dozens of symposia held throughout the Expo, but also new research, case studies and policy recommendations targeted for mayors and other urban executive leaders.

The Shanghai Manual and its subsequent planned UN sustainability capacity building for mayors represents a thematic lead-in to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, which will be held June 2012 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 marks the anniversary of the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ("The Earth Summit") and will draw upon the broad themes of The Green Economy and Sustainable Development. In Rio, the UN 193 Member States, along with groups such as business and NGO representatives, will evaluate global progress made and setbacks encountered in achieving sustainable development, and will try to define ways to create a more sustainable future for all.

My contributions as co-author of the Shanghai Manual include chapters on "Delivering Effective Urban Management", "Economic Transformation", and "ICT for Smart Cities". Other chapters are devoted to:

  • Towards a Harmonious City
  • Transport
  • Waste Management
  • Green Buildings
  • Science & Technology
  • Culture and Sustainable Cities
  • Mega Events

Release of the Shanghai Manual will be rapidly followed by training for mayors of 20 cities from 15 Asian nations. Invited to this training are Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam: they will meet at the UN Centre For Regional Development in Nagoya, Japan, where I, along with other experts from the UN, will lead instructional sessions in November. The United Nations expects the training in Nagoya will influence:

  •   "Enhanced awareness of participants about feasible and attractive policy options for a green economy for rapidly growing cities of Asia
  •   Increased exchanges between local and national levels of government in the participating countries, thus contributing favorably to the preparation for the (Rio+20) Conference by Member States themselves
  • Enhanced national capacity to identify common challenges and opportunities associated with a green economy and sustainable urban development" (photo by Warren Karlenzig) 
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, and co-author of the forthcoming United Nations Shanghai Manual on global sustainable city planning and management.  
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San Francisco's parklets (left, from top to bottom: #1, Valencia Street, #2 and #3 Divisadero, and #4, Castro and 17th, bottom) are a vibrant testimony to the city's Pavement to Parks Program, managed by a non-profit, the Great Streets Program. The city's 15 parklets all started with two to three parking spaces, or other poorly-utilized urban space (the city says 25% of its space is taken up by streets or auto rights of way, while only 20% of the city is parkland--still one of the highest totals in the nation). With the help of architects, artists and landscapers, the asphalt is converted into living, breathing social settings.
The parklets do continue to provide parking space for the non-polluting form of transit: bicycles. I took a cycling tour this weekend of the city's parklets, which offer cyclists a safe and convenient place to park their two wheels and take a rest with their steed.
In the Valencia parklet (top photo), which included edgy canopy steel structures, I counted 19 people hanging out, and 31 bicycles parked. The space was much livelier, more functional and attractive than any three cars could have ever been in the same space.
San Francisco is now analyzing the numbers, behind its parklets, which were started in 2010. The analysis includes the number of users, maintenance costs, and neighborhood economic benefits.
The City by the Bay admits it was inspired by New York City's public plazas, just as it confessed using Bogota's Sunday car-free streets Ciclovia concept for its own Sunday Streets program.
Imitation is of course the sincerest form of urban innovation these days. The beauty of such experimentation is that it can be adapted for local conditions, including climate, public tastes and zoning.
The Pavement to Parks program is one of the most exciting deployments in the trend of enabling reduced urban dependency on cars, while fostering artistic and nature-enhanced community. There are other major trends portending that the future of cities (and suburbs) is beyond cars: the increase in mixed-use zoning, transit-oriented development, car sharing and light rail.
To wit: adaptable use of public spaces has become a key indicator of urban resilience. (Photos by Warren Karlenzig: click on each photo for larger format view)
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, and co-author of a forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management.  

Urban sustainability is the challenge of the century as more of the world's population becomes urbanized (50 percent in 2008, 60 percent by 2030), at an ever-faster rate. Global climate change has been caused in large part by the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy, materials and food for metro areas. Yet urban culture also constitutes a powerful response capability by which to cope with the diminishing socio-economic options forced by climate change, especially in megacities, metro areas of more than 10 million people.

Upon this tableau, I am collaborating with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in conjunction with other UN agencies (United Nations Environment Program, UN Development Program, UN Habitat and UN Center for Regional Development) and the Shanghai World Expo Bureau on a sourcebook for sustainable urban management in developing nation megacities.


The sourcebook will consider sustainability advantages to urbanization along with disadvantages. It will cover broad topics including greening the urban economy, effective management, as well as solution sectors (land use and planning, water, buildings, transportation, information and communications technologies). Case studies will be provided to illustrate how solutions have already overcome a host of urgent challenges, or how they may soon be able to help do so.


With the acute rise of urbanization in developing nations, megacities will increase in both number and economic-environmental influence. There are between 12 and 15 developing nation megacities (cities of 10 million population in their metropolitan areas), with 19 developing nation cities in total expected to reach megacity status by 2025


During the next ten years, according to the McKinsey Global Institute (pdf), 90 percent of urban population growth will take place in developing countries. In India, for example, cities are forecast to garner 85 percent or the nation's total tax revenue (up from current level of 80 percent), which will be the primary source for financing economic development on a national scale. Seventy percent of all new jobs are projected to be created in India's cities by 2030, though cities are expected by that date to represent only 40 percent of the nation's total population.  

In terms of impacting climate change, consider that the cities of Asia alone are expected to contribute more than half the global greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2027.


Besides the threats and risks that megacity growth poses to global humanity and regional resources, trends in developing nation megacities will also strongly define emerging economic opportunities for large-scale low-carbon and resource-efficient technologies, services and strategic approaches. Whether in Delhi or Mexico City, megacities are devising more effective methods of integrated sustainability management using everything from social networks and crowdsourcing, to paticipatory budgeting and comprehensive green planning.


Cities are the most powerful economic engines in the world for advances in information and communications technologies, health care, education and energy systems. These combined capacities have provided urban areas with anywhere from 55 percent (developing nations) to 85 percent (developed nations) of total national income, significantly surpassing per-capita income averages, and trending even more upward during the next two decades of hyper-urban growth.


Megacities and urbanization, in other words, should be the cause for global concern that needs to be tempered with concerted strategy, actions and ultimately, hope for humanity. 


The complete United Nations study is expected to be released on 1 May 2011, the first anniversary of the opening of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo-which has a theme of "Better city, Better life."

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active consultancy based in San Anselmo, California. He is a Fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute and author of How Green is Your City?: The SustainLane US City Rankings.


Black tarballs and goopy oil are washing up on the summery white sands of Florida's beaches. The Gulf oil gusher has reached a pivotal moment, not unlike Cleveland's Cuyahoga River catching on fire during the summer of 1969.

The burning Cuyahoga River became a symbol for a national ecological and industrial system so out of kilter anyone living at the time could see things were really screwed up. News reports and even songs, including Randy Newman's "Burn On," about the flaming chemical-contaminated water blazed into the public consciousness--I remember as a six year old in Chicago hearing talk about the burning river over in Cleveland.  

Partially because of the talismanic Cuyahoga, the United States was forced to enact clean water and clean air legislation that helped reform poor corporate and government management practices. Earth Day was also launched within a year and a potent social moment was hatched. The Nixon Administration supported the passage of new clean water and clean air legislation in Congress, and President Nixon even proposed in late 1969 a new oversight agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, for independent industry oversight, with stiff penalties for those that violated regulations. One of the first cities the agency "went after" when formed in 1970 was Cleveland, precisely because of its burning river.

We are facing the nation's worst environmental disaster, and it is becoming visceral.  Models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict that oil from the Gulf spill will travel from off Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida's panhandle, toward South Florida, the Florida Keys and the Atlantic Seaboard by summer (NOAA model image below). So don't be surprised to see more shots of tarballs, oily birds, turtles and greasy human feet. If you live in the Southeast or vacation there, expect to smell, see and feel them in real life.


"The smell is the worst thing," said NBC correspondent Anne Thompson Friday.  "Until you smell it, you haven't experienced it. It is so vile and it gets in your nose and your throat and your lungs and just stays there. The consistency is like a combination of molasses and chocolate syrup and it just stinks."

As Pensacola's famed white beaches are besieged by toxic fumes, tar balls and oil blobs, the first real audience reviews from average Americans are coming in, and they're not pretty. 

In the world's consciousness, it's one thing to have oil wash up on a coastal Louisiana "swamp"--though scientists and the fishing industry know that marine life, along with many bird species, depend on estuary wetlands for their existence.  It's quite another thing to prohibit Americans from enjoying their summer vacation at the beach, which endangers the Southeast's tourism and fishing industries, along with the service industries that rely on summer visitors for all or much of their livelihood.

What will happen next?  I wrote on early April 29 that the BP oil crisis could become larger in magnitude than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. How much worse can this get? No one knows, but eventually government policy, consumer habits, technology adoption, media, and even real estate markets will be changed as a result of the BP oil gusher.

Stopping the oil from spouting into the ocean is of course priority number one.  Sunday some 10,000 barrels of oil a day were being captured by BP, with cameras showing more oil still spewing. 

Here are urgent needs that should be prioritized:

  1. The Obama Administration must conduct a detailed risk assessment of the regional tourism industry, the fishing industry and regional services (haircuts, restaurants, plumbers, etc.)  that could be impacted by this tragedy. The geographic focus should include the Gulf Coast states, south Florida, Atlantic Coast (north Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina) and the open Atlantic. By my rough estimate below,  there could be an economic impact to the Southeast US economy of more than $52-78 billion, based on the following:

·         Gulf Coast commercial fish products $6.5 billion Total--$2-3 billion impact?

·         Gulf Coast and Southeast Coast share of $42 billion Total US recreational fishing equipment expenditures: $2 billion impact?

·         Gulf Coast $100 billion tourism industry Total --$30-50 billion impact?

·         Florida beach-related tourism $42 billion Total--$10 billion impact? 

·         Florida recreational fishing $5.4 billion Total--$1-2 billion impact? 

·         Florida commercial fishing: $5.5 billion Total--$1-2 billion impact?

·         Florida boating industry $18 billion Total:--$3-4 billion impact?

·         Georgia coastal tourism $2 billion Total--$.5 billion impact?

·         South Carolina coastal tourism Total $6.5 billion--$1-2 billion impact?

·         North Carolina coastal tourism Total $4 billion (estimate)--$1 billion impact?

·         Regional services associated with tourism?

·         Impact on Ecosystem services (wetlands that clean water, vegetation including mangroves that provide flood and hurricane buffer zones)--incalculable?

·         Heath Care costs for workers, and residents impact by air and water quality?

Such "full cost" accounting is now more than ever necessary to examine complete economic, climate, environmental and societal impacts.   

  1. US subsidies to oil companies--some $15 to $35 billion a year--need to be curtailed, and transferred to Gulf oil clean-up funds and Gulf economic restoration, and also redirected to fund alternative transportation fuel and technology research and deployment.  
  2. The Mineral Management Service agency needs to go. MMS's relationship to the oil industry is so incestuous it will be impossible to reform.  "Obviously, we're all part of the oil industry," one MMS official said to investigators who were looking into reports of graft, porn and drugs shared by MMS staff and oil officials. The feds need to create a completely independent oil and gas regulatory agency, similar to the EPA, but with greater power as energy is essential to the daily functioning of the overall economy. The EPA has already said that it might have a hard time penalizing BP because it is such as large supplier of fuel to the US military, including being the top supplier of military jet fuel.
  3. Higher-vehicle mileage and alternative technologies need to gain much faster traction. We need more miles per gallon (beyond current goals) for conventional engines, more plug-in hybrids, and the development of more biofuel-burning engines that don't use food as a fuel source.
  4. Can this finally be the time in our history when "recreational" cars and other joy-ride vrrooom vrrooms--at least oil and gas burning machines--stop being cool? That goes for jet skiis and race cars. After all, besides demanding all that gasoline, oil and oil-derived products (tires, hoses, asphalt roads), these machines are causing global climate change, not to mention regional and global air pollution, and water pollution from runoff.  Measures should be instituted so individuals using these machines purely for pleasure make the connection between their hobbies and the perilous quest for harder-to-justify oil.
  5. The United States needs to consider less-polluting domestically produced transitional fossil fuels for transportation, including compressed natural gas. Recent discoveries have shown a large supply of domestic natural gas can--if used for transportation--can offset some of the need for risky deepwater drilling (though natural gas drilling has been shown to pollute some local water supplies, and such activities need to be monitored closely).
  6. Here's the most obvious yet least discussed solution in public or the media.  Urban and community planning needs to be instituted that will reduce automobile dependence.  Cars use close to half of the oil used in the United States, with much of that use resulting from our national migration to poorly planned communities, which has been condoned and abetted by national, state and local policy. Yes, plug-in hybrids and electric cars will one day replace many of the gas-burning cars on the road today, but until then (15-20 years?)  transportation including cars and trucks will account for about 70% of oil used in the country, primarily in suburban/ exurban communities that lack public non-automotive choices for commuting to jobs, schools or for shopping, entertainment and errands.

It is time to face the sobering truth.

We, or at least all of us that drive or use goods delivered by or that contain oil, are the root of the BP Gulf oil crisis. Until, we change the way our communities are planned, operated and valued, we will unfortunately encounter with numbing frequency disasters related to oil that may be even more horrific than BP's gusher.

Denial and guilt, combined with entrenched financial interests (Big Oil and the Auto industry), have been powerful forces chilling media discussion about the need for less-oil dependent community planning--walkable neighborhoods with mixed uses and good public transit.

It's time to step up the post-oil conversation while implementing full-cost risk and reparation analyses. The Obama Administration and our nation have their work cut out for them:  there is a need to clean up not just beaches, Gulf communities and wetlands, but also the dank bureaucratic swamps of institutional corruption.

The burning Cuyahoga River demonstrated that a crisis truly can present numerous opportunities. Let's link cause and effect to powerful solutions by taking bold national and local actions that will have lasting impact, long beyond the narrowly framed BP Gulf oil disaster news-of-the-day.

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author of How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings and a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.


Big surprise for me today, as the formidable Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has seconded my analysis of how communities need to prepare for changing conditions related to the economy, climate and resource availability.

Kaid Benfield, NRDC's director of Smart Growth reviewed my recent posts about the urgent need for urban resilience planning in a NRDC blog post today titled "What Cities Should do to Become More Resilient (and It's Not What they are Doing Currently)."  Benfield writes, "NRDC has chosen sustainable communities as one of its strategic priorities for the next five years. Karlenzig's advice seems right on target as we further refine that agenda."

That advice was recently provided for Green Flow readers here in a two-part series. Part 1 was "Urban Resilience Planning for Dummies" and Part 2 was "Urban Resilience Planning for Dummies: Failing the Milk Test."

These posts were teasers for a standalone publication I wrote that is coming out very soon from the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), titled, "The Death of Sprawl: Designing Urban Resilience for the 21st Century Climate and Resource Crises."

A shorter version of "The Death of Sprawl" will also appear in the Post Carbon Reader, which is being published by The University of California Press and Watershed Media this summer, alongside writings from PCI's other 27 fellows.

I'm honored to be profiled and credited by author Kaid Benfield, who besides his affiliation with NRDC, is one of the top thinkers, doers and writers in the urban planning realm.

A few months back when I published an excerpt from a case study on Victorville, California-- where sprawled finished luxury houses were demolished last year after the exurban foreclosure meltdown--I learned that Benfield was one of the first people to write about the incident in his NRDC blog, which includes graphic video footage of what may be a watershed moment in the end of exurbia.

Besides being ever-prescient, Benfield's "almost daily" blogging provides readers a detailed perspective of what's right, what's wrong and what needs to be drastically improved in the way our communities have been planned, developed and operated.

Thanks, Kaid.

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author of How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings and a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.



Last post I covered some guiding principles for urban resilience planning in the face of climate change and diminishing resources (especially fresh water and oil). Considering these guidelines, what aspect of U.S. metro development stands out as the most ill-advised and risky? Short answer: exurban sprawl.

If the "Great Recession" taught us anything, it is that allowing the unrestrained sprawl of energy-inefficient communities and infrastructure is a now-bankrupt economic development strategy and constitutes a recipe for continued disaster on every level.

"Shy away from fringe places in the exurbs and places with long car commutes or where getting a quart of milk takes a 15-minute drive," was the warning the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers gave institutional and commercial real estate investors in their Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2010 report.

I make the further case that the exurban economic model is an outright anachronism in the Post Carbon Institute's Post Carbon Reader, which comes out this summer from the University of California Press and Watershed Media.

Much of US "economic growth" in the 1990s and early 2000s was based on the roaring engine of exurban investment speculation with gas at historic record low prices. That bubble popped on the spike of $4 a gallon; we now are paying the piper with abandoned tract developments, foreclosed strip malls and countless miles of roads to nowhere. Gas prices are forecast to head over $3 this summer, and likely much higher when a forecast global "oil crunch" hits by 2014 or so. 

Besides the economic risks, circa-twentieth-century sprawl has destroyed valuable farmland, sensitive wildlife habitat, and irreplaceable drinking water systems at great environmental, economic, and social cost. We can no longer manage and develop our communities with no regard for the limits of natural resources and ecological systems that provide our most basic needs.

A shining alternative is metropolitan areas that have begun to plan for the future by building their resilience with economic, energy, and environmental uncertainty in mind: top U.S. metro locations include Portland, Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Denver, and suburbs such as Davis, California and Alexandria, Virginia. These communities are employing some of the following key strategies that underpin resilient urbanism:

Build and re-build denser and smarter

Most U.S. suburban and urban population or use densities need to be increased so that energy-efficient transportation choices like public transit, bicycling and walking can flourish. Multi-modal mobility cannot succeed at the densities found in most American suburban communities today. Increasing density doesn't have to mean building massive high-rises: adding just a few stories on existing or new mixed-use buildings can double population density--and well-designed, increased density can also improve community quality of life and economic vitality.

Focus on water use efficiency and conservation

Our freshwater supply is one of our most vulnerable resources in the United States. Drought is no longer just a problem for Southwestern desert cities--communities in places like Texas, Georgia and even New Jersey recently had to contend with water shortages. As precipitation patterns become less reliable and underground aquifers dry up, more communities will need to significantly reduce water demand through efficiency, conservation, restrictions and "tiered pricing," which means a basic amount of water will be available at a lower price; above average use will become increasingly expensive the more that is used.

Global climate change is already thought to be melting mountain snowpack much earlier than average in the spring, causing summer and fall water shortages. This has serious planning and design implications for many metro areas. For example, Lake Mead, which provides 90% of the water used by Las Vegas (above photo) and is a major water source for Phoenix and other Southwestern cities, has a projected 50% chance of drying up for water storage by 2021.

Focus on food

Urban areas need to think much bigger and plan systemically for significantly increased regional and local food production. Growing and processing more food for local consumption bolsters regional food security and provides jobs while generally reducing the energy, packaging and storage needed to transport food to metro regions. In Asia and Latin America--even in big cities like Shanghai, China; Havana, Cuba; and Seoul, South Korea--there are thriving small farms interspersed within metro areas.

Gardens--whether in backyards, community parks, or in and on top of buildings--can supplement our diets with fresh local produce. Denver's suburbs, for instance, have organized to preserve and cultivate unsold tract home lots for community garden food production.

Think in terms of inter-related systems

If we view our urban areas as living, breathing entities--each with a set of basic and more specialized requirements--we can better understand how to transform our communities from random configurations into dynamic, high-performance systems. The "metabolism" of urban systems depends largely on how energy, water, food and materials are acquired, used and, where possible, reused. From these ingredients and processes (labor, use of knowledge) come products, services, and--if the system is efficient--minimal waste and pollution

Communities and regions should decide among themselves which initiatives reduce their risks and provide the greatest "bang for the buck." Like the emergence of Wall Street's financial derivatives crisis in 2007, if we are kept in the dark about the potential consequences of our planning, resource and energy use in light of climate change or energy shortages, future conditions will threaten whole regional economies when they emerge.

Imagine if Las Vegas informed its residents and tourists on one 120-degree summer day that they would not be able to use a swimming pool or shower, let alone golf, because there simply wasn't any water left. Odds are that the days are numbered for having one's own swimming pool and a large, lush ornamental lawn in the desert Southwest, unless new developments and desert cities are planned with water conservation as having the highest design priority. 

By thinking of urban areas as inter-related systems economically dependent on water, energy, food and vital material resources, communities can begin to prepare for a more secure future. Merely developing a list of topics that need to be addressed--the "checklist" approach--will not prepare regional economies for the complexity of new dynamics, such as energy or water supply shortages, rising population, extreme energy price volatility and accelerating changes in regional climate influenced by global climate change.

Next Steps? Time to fold the climate action plan into a resilience action plan, so communities can addresses not only global climate change emissions, but also more urgent economic risks posed by climate change adaptation and resource availability.

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author of How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings and a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.


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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Planning / Land Use category.

Oil Depletion is the previous category.

Resiliency is the next category.

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