Photo Credit: Glen Canyon Dam and Colorado River - Page, Arizona by Flickr.com user Jim Trodel

Cities Must Adapt or Face Collapse

In my first blog post, I suggested that we need to respond to the present economic crash in ways that do not undermine the basic cause of our dysfunctional global urban economy. The issues of peak oil and climate change are exposing the weakness of building our cities with growing car dependence. Resilient Cities is a new approach to how cities must adapt or they will collapse in the light of the major challenges of peak oil and climate change. Fundamental reductions in fossil fuel use are now being driven by demand constraints imposed by climate change governance and supply constraints due to production declines in petroleum fuels. Resilient Cities suggests how cities can respond to such challenges as an economic opportunity, though the book also outlines how "Collapse City," "Ruralized City," and "Divided City" responses are also possible though highly undesirable. "Collapse City" is the only option for a number of people who see the history of cities that do not adapt quickly enough. This can happen but is more terrible than even the most pessimistic can imagine. "Ruralised City" is how permaculture advocates believe that cities must be broken down into self sufficient food production areas rather than continuing as cities. Cities are most unlikely to diminish their historic role in providing new opportunity and innovation; spreading cities out into lower density because it will be good for food growing undermines their resilience. Local food growing will be more important but cities will not be replaced by food-growing suburbs. "Divided City" is where market approaches alone are used and the wealthy rapidly move into eco-enclaves with all the good transit, cycling and walking as well as green buildings; the rest of the city then descends into Mad Max suburbs desperately trying to cope with transport and land use no longer suited to a carbon and fuel constrained world. "Resilient City" will make available to everyone all that is beginning to happen in the eco-enclaves of cities growing in their demonstrations of resilience. My next blog post will start to show what this can mean and how we can begin to change our cities towards resilience... ———- Peter NewmanPeter Newman is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. He is the co-author of Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems, Green Urbanism Down Under, and Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change.