The Future of the Suburban City
6 x 9
25 illustrations, 15 photos
6 x 9
25 illustrations, 15 photos
There exists a category of American cities in which the line between suburban and urban is almost impossible to locate. These suburban cities arose in the last half of twentieth-century America, based largely on the success of the single-family home, shopping centers, and the automobile. The low-density, auto-centric development of suburban cities, which are largely in the arid West, presents challenges for urban sustainability as it is traditionally measured. Yet, some of these cities—Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake, Dallas, Tucson, San Bernardino, and San Diego—continue to be among the fastest growing places in the United States.
In The Future of the Suburban City, Phoenix native Grady Gammage, Jr. looks at the promise of the suburban city as well as the challenges. He argues that places that grew up based on the automobile and the single-family home need to dramatically change and evolve. But suburban cities have some advantages in an era of climate change, and many suburban cities are already making strides in increasing their resilience. Gammage focuses on the story of Phoenix, which shows the power of collective action — government action — to confront the challenges of geography and respond through public policy. He takes a fresh look at what it means to be sustainable and examines issues facing most suburban cities around water supply, heat, transportation, housing, density, urban form, jobs, economics, and politics.
The Future of the Suburban City is a realistic yet hopeful story of what is possible for any suburban city.
"One of the sanest looks at our suburbs."
"Gammage is one of the few observers of the urban scene that really gets suburban cities. Unlike so many others who negatively judge and chastise suburban cities in the Southwest, Gammage seeks to understand these places on their own terms. This book greatly advances our knowledge of how these places work and shows how suburban cities proved far more resilient and sustainable than critics had expected."
Robert E. Lang, Executive Director, Brookings Mountain West/The Lincy Institute, Professor of Urban Affairs, UNLV Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
“Nobody knows more about Phoenix than Grady Gammage. The Future of the Suburban City is a good yarn about what it has taken to create a postwar Sunbelt metropolis—and what it will take to keep it going.”
William Fulton, Director, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University
Table of Contents
Prologue. Getting Through the Haboob
Chapter 1. Suburbs, Sprawl, and Sustainability
Chapter 2. Just Add Water
Chapter 3. Coping with Heat
Chapter 4. Transportation and the Suburban City
Chapter 5. Houses, Shopping Centers, and the Fabric of Suburbia
Chapter 6. Jobs and the Economy of Cities in the Sand
Chapter 7. Politics, Resilience, and Survival
Afterword. Planning to Stay
Join Grady Gammage at the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday, April 2 at 10:30 am.
Join The Future of the Suburban City author Grady Gammage at the American Planning Association's National Conference for a session entitled "Water Resources and Land-Use Planning." You’ll learn about:
More details here.
Join Grady Gammage at the Phoenix Convention Center on Sunday, April 3 at 2:30 pm.
Join The Future of the Suburban City author Grady Gammage at the American Planning Association's National Conference for a session entitled "Drought, Drought Everywhere: Arizona's Planning." You’ll learn about:
More details here.
Tuesday, April 26 at 7:00pm.
Phoenix native and Senior Sustainability Scholar at ASU Grady Gammage, Jr. discusses his new book The Future of the Suburban City: Lessons from Sustaining Phoenix with Sarah Porter, the director of the Kyl Center of Water Policy. Co-presented by Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy. More details here.
April 28, 2016 – 1:15 to 2:15 PM ET
Places that grew up based on the automobile and the single-family home need to dramatically change and evolve. But suburban cities have some advantages over denser cities in an era of climate change, and many suburban cities are already making strides in increasing their resilience.
On April 28, join the Security and Sustainability Forum and Island Press for a webinar about the promise and challenges of the suburban city. Panelists include Grady Gammage, Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and author of The Future of the Suburban City: Lessons from Sustaining Phoenix, and Nico Larco, Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Oregon and author of Site Design for Mulitfamily Housing. Take a fresh look with Grady and Nico at what it means to be sustainable and examine issues facing most suburban cities around water supply, heat, transportation, housing, density, urban form, jobs, economics, and politics.
Grady Gammage, Jr. is well known for his book, Phoenix in Perspective: Reflections on Developing the Desert and just recently published, The Future of the Suburban City: Lessons from Sustaining Phoenix. In his new book, Gammage offers a personal perspective on the explosive growth and development of Phoenix. In this talk, he will delve into the history of real estate, water, and urban and suburban development in the Valley of the Sun, with an emphasis on how water, air-conditioning, and the car have shaped the metropolis. Following the talk, there will be a book signing with books available for purchase. More details here.
With the end of COP 21 and the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, it’s not just countries that are thinking about how to reduce emissions—individuals are reflecting on how their habits and actions impact climate change as well.
Island Press authors shared what they’re doing to reduce their carbon footprints and, in some cases, what more they could be doing. Check out their answers and share your own carbon cutbacks—or vices—in the comments.
Jason Mark, author of Satellites in the High Country:
Very much like the Paris Climate Accord itself, ecological sustainability is a process, not a destination. Which, I'll admit, is a squirrely way of saying that I'm doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint. I ride my bike. I take mass transit. Most days my car never leaves the spot in front of our home. Most importantly, I have sworn off beef because of cattle production's disproportionate climate impact. The (grass-fed, humane) burger still has a siren song, but I ignore it.
Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City:
I drive a hybrid, ride light rail to the airport and don’t bother to turn on the heat in my house (which is possible in Phoenix). My greatest carbon sin is my wood burning fireplace. I don’t use it when there’s a “no burn” day, but otherwise, I have a kind of primordial attraction to building a fire.
John Cleveland, co-author of Connecting to Change the World:
We just installed a 12 KW solar array on our home in New Hampshire. At the same time, we electrified our heating system with Mitsubishi heat pumps. So our home is now net positive from both an electricity and heating point of view. We made the solar array large enough to also power an electric car, but are waiting for the new models that will have more range before we install the electric car charger. The array and heat pumps have great economics. The payback period is 8-years and after that we get free heat and electricity for the remainder of the system life — probably another 20+ years. Great idea for retirement budgets!
Dan Fagin, author of Toms River:
Besides voting for climate-conscious candidates, the most important thing we can do as individuals is fly less, so I try to take the train where possible. I wish it were a better option.
Darrin Nordahl, author of Public Produce:
The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, and how we produce food in this country is responsible for much of those emissions. From agriculture, to the fossil fuels needed to produce bags and boxes for pre-packaged food, to the burning of gas and oil to transport both fresh produce and pre-packaged food, I have discovered I can reduce my carbon footprint with a simple change in my diet. For one, I avoid processed food of any sort. I also grow a good portion of my vegetables and herbs and, thankfully, local parks with publicly accessible fruit trees provide a modicum of fresh fruit for my family. We also eat less meat than we used to and our bodies (and our planet) are healthier because of it.
Yoram Bauman, author of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change:
I try to put on warm slippers or other extra layers around the house in order to not have to heat the house so much, but I still like to take long hot showers. (Maybe those two things are connected).
Rob McDonald, author of Conservation for Cities:
I try to pay attention to my daily habits that make up a lot of my carbon footprint. So I bike to work, or take mass transit. That gets rid of the carbon footprint of driving. I also try to only moderately heat or cool my home, so I’m not burning a lot of energy doing that. The biggest component of my carbon footprint that I haven’t managed to cut is for travel. I have to travel once or twice a month for my job, and unless it is a trip in the Northeast (when I can just use Amtrak!), I am stuck travelling. The carbon footprint of all that air travel is huge. I try to do virtual meetings, rather than travel whenever I can, but there still seems to be a big premium people place on meeting folks face to face.
Emily Monosson, author of Unnatural Selection:
We keep our heat really low in the winter (ask our teenage daughter, it's way too cold for her here!) and I hang my clothes on the line in the summer. Because it’s so cold, I love taking really hot long showers. I should also hang my clothes in the winter too, and ditch the dryer.
Jonathan Barnett and Larry Beasley, co-authors of Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs:
We both live in a town-house in the central part of a city – on opposite sides of the continent: one in Philadelphia the other in Vancouver. Our neighborhoods have 100% walk scores. We each own one car, but don’t need to drive it very much - most of the time we can go where they need to on foot. We wrote our book using email and Dropbox. What they still need to work on is using less air travel in the future.
Jan Gehl, author of Cities for People:
I live in Denmark where 33% of the energy is delivered by windmills. A gradual increase will happen in the coming years. As in most other countries in the developed world, too much meat is on the daily diet. That is absolutely not favorable for the carbon footprint. It sounds like more salad is called for in the future!
Suzanne Shaw, co-author of Cooler Smarter:
Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low Carbon Living provides a roadmap for consumers to cut their carbon footprint 20 percent (or more). My approach to lowering my carbon footprint has gone hand in hand with saving money through sensible upgrades. Soon after I purchase my 125-year-old house I added insulation, weather stripping and a programmable thermostat. When I needed a new furnace, I swapped a dirty oil furnace to a cleaner, high-efficiency natural gas model. And now have LED bulbs in every fixture in the house, Energy Star appliances throughout, and power strips at my entertainment and computer areas. This summer, I finally installed solar panels through a 25-year lease (zero out-of-pocket expense). In the month of September, I had zero emissions from electricity use. Living in the city, I am fortunate to have access to public transportation and biking, which keeps our household driving to a minimum.
Peter Fox-Penner, author of Smart Power Anniversary Edition:
I’m reducing my footprint by trying to eat vegan, taking Metro rather than taxis or Ubers, and avoiding excess packaging. Right now I travel too much, especially by air. P.S. Later this year I’ll publish my carbon footprint on the website of the new Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy. Watch for it!
Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars:
Our family has a (small) car but I cycle pretty much all of the time. My kids cycle to school (some days) and my wife cycles to work (sometimes). It’s useful to have the car for some journeys, long ones mostly, but having a family fleet of bikes means we don’t need a second car. Reducing one’s carbon footprint can be doing less of something not necessarily giving up something completely. If everybody reduced their car mileage (and increased their active travel mileage) that would be good for the planet and personally: win/win.
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.
Last week, President Obama had this to say about the future of transportation at his final State of the Union Address: “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”
We wanted to know—what will this 21st century transportation system look like? We turned to some of our authors to find out:
Ray Tomalty, co-author of America's Urban Future (forthcoming February 2016)
The president was of course alluding to a carbon tax, which he is known to favor over cap-and-trade systems. Economists estimate a carbon tax could raise $1.2 to $1.5 trillion per year in the US, and if even a small part of this were spent on developing innovative transportation technology, a 21st century transportation system would be a real possibility in the US. At present, only about $2.3 billion in federal spending is devoted to transportation research. This is helping to test new technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which has great potential to avoid accidents and improve traffic flow, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve travel times, and obviate the need for road infrastructure expansion. This technology is being tested on small stretches of urban highways across the country, but at the present rate of investment, it will be decades before fully automative vehicles are widespread in the US.
Many transportation experts believe the most pressing application of driverless technology is in driverless buses, which can greatly reduce the cost of public transit and vastly improve service. Unfortunately, little research and development is being dedicated to this purpose, something that could be addressed with funding from a carbon tax. Drone technology is another research and development area in need of greater public investment, a technology that is bringing the driverless movement to aviation and creating new possibilities for personal and goods transportation. Beyond research, new investment is needed in innovative transportation infrastructure. High-speed train service is a proven technology all over the developed world but in its infancy in the US (only one high-speed route in the country, the Acela Express linking Boston to Washington).
More thinking and research is also needed to explore the link between new transportation technologies, behavioral responses, and land use planning. This will require greater cooperation among local, regional and state planning authorities and cross-sectional cooperation among planning and transportation agencies. As the soon-to-be-released book, America’s Urban Future, written by Alan Mallach and myself shows, this is a field in which Canadian metropolitan areas have a long history of experimentation, so there may be something to be learned by looking north of the border for ideas on moving forward on this front.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City (forthcoming April 2016)
By about 2050, driving your own vehicle will be a recreational activity like off-road four wheeling. Routine travel in autonomous, mostly electric vehicles will be commonplace. The cars will be smaller, lighter and often shared use but mostly they will still have only one or two people in them at a time. Transit in all forms will dramatically increase, but in most cities people will still be living in houses with driveways and garages and they’ll use personal mobility vehicles to get around.
Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars
Cars? Where we’re going we won’t need cars. The past can tell us a lot about the future, and the past tells us that we’re very poor at predicting the next transport revolution.
18th-century folk thought canals would last forever. Early 19th-century folk thought the same about turnpike roads. And for those who grew up in the "railway age," the only future imagined was of steel rails and steam trains. Few predicted the motor car’s eventual dominance, and it’s reasonable to assume that the same inability to accurately predict the future afflicts us, too. As "car age" people, we tend to extrapolate into the future of transport using what we know, and that’s car-shaped objects on roads. The Tesla is a wonderful thing but the technology that underpins it is hardly new – electric cars were more popular in the 1890s than gasoline cars. And electric cars may appear to be “cleaner,” but this is only true if they’re replenished by solar power – all other recharging methods involve traditional power sources so, really, most electric cars are coal-powered cars.
And what of autonomous cars? Again, this is hardly the disruptive technology that many think it is. I’ve been using driverless cars for 50 years, cars which scuttle away and hide when not needed. Taxis. I can summon one with an app when in a meeting and it will appear outside and whisk me to wherever I want to go. When I use taxis, including Uber, I can kick back and let the driver – a silent automaton if I so will it – worry about the road ahead. I fiddle on my smartphone without even raising my eyes. Where autonomous vehicles might change the world – if we let them, and I’d rather we didn't – is over who has priority on roads. Currently, driverless cars are programmed to avoid cyclists and pedestrians. In a city full of cars driven by onboard computers it will be a great game to ride or step in front of them, safe in the knowledge they’re programmed not to touch you.
Because cities are expected to fill with more and more people I don’t see how driverless cars will be able to navigate around these empowered pedestrians or emboldened bicyclists, at least not in central business districts. It’s far more likely that there’s another technology waiting in the wings that we can scarcely even imagine. That is certainly what happened to our forebears. Until then (and, if I’m allowed to, even after then) I’ll continue to ride my bicycle. A driverless car has clear user benefits, but an autonomous bicycle would be rather dull and pointless.
Richard Willson, author of Parking Management for Smart Growth
Just as we need to stop subsidizing the past in energy policy, we need to stop subsidizing the past by favoring driving and parking over more appropriate transportation modes. Parking should be priced to cover both its actual cost and the costs it imposes on others and the planet. This is rarely the case in US cities, where the dual legacies of excessive minimum parking requirements and parking subsidies have distorted vehicle ownership and travel choices. These distortions have in turn, undermined land use efficiency, design, social equity, and livability. The 21st century transportation system will have fewer privately-owned cars and less parking. New technologies will ensure that we have all the mobility we want with fewer cars. Car companies know this – that’s why they are redefining themselves as mobility companies.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Jeffrey Kenworthy, co-author of The End of Automobile Dependence
New technologies will clearly be part of any 21st century transportation system, including autonomous cars, but they should not be embraced in the way they are currently envisaged. A car is a car and takes up space with roads and parking, as well as helping to facilitate the continued destruction of agricultural land and natural areas through sprawl. This can be said of autonomous cars as well as electric cars, so ideally a 21st century transportation system will not look like the current automobile-dependent system in the USA, where cars are still responsible for around 96% of all the motorized passenger travel in cities.
A 21st century urban transportation system will have a multitude of modes (walking, bikes, car-sharing, transit, car-on-demand, private cars and probably other innovative technologies such as pedelecs, Yikes, etc.) seamlessly linked together. This will be achieved increasingly through the use of smart communications technologies, which will give people instant access via smart phones and tablet computers, for the best combination of modes for any trip.
In all the excitement over autonomous cars, we must not forget that electrically powered conventional transit modes such as light rail (LRT) and metro systems are still vastly under-provided for in US cities, due to being starved of adequate funding over the last 80 years. With advances in design, materials, comfort, on-board facilities, wireless networks and many other improvements, especially more protected rights-of-way, using transit in the future will be very different from what we know today. 21st century transportation systems should not only see more transit, but much more non-motorised movement, such as walking and cycling, leading to a less obese nation. This change alone will see billions shaved off US health care costs, not to mention the cost savings of a "road diet.”
John Renne, co-author of Transport Beyond Oil
Rapid changes in technology, such as self-driving electric cars and trucks, hold promise that the transportation industry will continue to innovate during the 21st century. Combined with a societal move towards an information and sharing-economy there is no doubt that marginal efficiencies will allow for a less carbon-intensive transportation system. However, the scale and intensity of weather impacts due to climate change necessitate a more drastic approach to achieve the key goal of limiting global temperature rise. The good news is that the path is simple. Anything we can do to promote walkable and bikeable communities will have the greatest impact. Therefore, we need to prioritize mass transit, which is the only transportation technology that has been proven to create walkable communities at the local level and deliver regional connectivity with the lowest consumption on carbon and emissions.
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.
Grady Gammage is the author of The Future of the Suburban City.
Q: You write that “The ultimate question of sustainability is how a particular place deals with its particular challenges over time.” With this in mind, how can other suburban cities extract lessons from Phoenix’s successes to work towards their own sustainable future?
A: I think it probably works better to think about the resilience of cities in reacting to particular challenges. The advantage of “resilience” over “sustainability” is that it focuses on the unique dilemmas of individual places. So, first, identify unique threats to your city: fires; hurricanes; earthquakes; long term water supply; air quality; flooding, etc. If you want New Orleans to be sustainable, work on how to deal with hurricanes and sea level rise. If you’re in Phoenix, think about heat and water supply.
Don’t get lost in how many LED light bulbs you have in City Hall. It’s good to convert to lower energy use and it’s great to recycle more trash. Every city needs to do those things. But it doesn’t define how sustainable your city is. Here’s a recent example of a misguided rating of risk preparedness by “State at Risk.” California got an A for drought preparedness while Arizona got a D+. The reason? California has more policies called “drought preparedness plan.” But Arizona has banked 10 years-worth of urban water consumption to protect against drought. The rating totally missed that point.
Q: Water is an issue that plays a big role in the southwest. How have or should suburban cities be managing water? How do agricultural and development needs stay in balance?
A: The big issue in arid region suburban cities is the use of water in landscaping. That’s where future conservation must occur. Balancing that with lifestyle and climate is a tricky equation. I think it’s important that agriculture survive in the arid west. It’s been too easy in Central Arizona, for example, to convert farms to subdivisions and assume that the water savings will make everything ok. Urban water use is much harder to curtail in times of drought, and therefore sometimes less resilient.
Most critiques of arid region American cities fail to realize how dramatic conservation has been over the last couple of decades. The State of Arizona today uses the same amount of water it did in 1957, with nearly 5 times as many people. Just extrapolating current trends, Phoenix projects their water demand will be basically flat for the next decade. Las Vegas has cut per capita water use by 35% in the last decade.
Q: You dive into a deep history of the Phoenix region. What can be gained from looking to historical policies and trends as a city looks to a more sustainable future?
A: Phoenix has done an extraordinary job of securing and managing its water supply. Historically the issue was simply viewed as too important to be politicized. There was an absolute bipartisan consensus about the need to acquire, store, deliver and protect water. That’s why the last time one state brandished arms against another was Arizona sending the National Guard to scare off California from building a diversion dam. “Absolute consensus” is hard to come by about anything today. We’ve lost sight of the fact that the point of government is to use collective action to manage through threats. The dramatic decline in urban water use throughout the arid west is the result of education, rate structures, incentives and regulation. All those things were policies of local governments that furthered the sustainability of the region.
Q: Suburban cities were built around the automobile. What will its role be in the future of the suburban city? What about self-driving cars and mass transit?
A: We cannot change the single family home fabric, in which 80% of Americans live, into Greenwich Village. Personal mobility vehicles are necessary to make suburban cities survive. They’ll be smaller, lighter, not powered by internal combustion and largely autonomous. It drives me crazy that transportation discussions tend to divide into red/blue camps based on “transit is a huge waste of money” vs. “cars are evil”. Both are necessary pieces of the future.
The future in a suburban city is getting in your Google car in the morning and either heading to a nearby co-working environment or going to a transit stop that gets you downtown. Multi modal isn’t just necessary for cities, it’s the way individuals will live.
Q: Do you think myriad transportation options will work in suburban cities? What impact do you think they will have on suburban sustainability?
A: Places like Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake and San Diego are all having success with rail systems. Cities will change their character to react with higher density along rail lines. Bus rapid transit is a more affordable way to connect “sprawling” urban fabric. And smaller lighter vehicles will solve the “problem of the last mile” connecting single family homes to transit options. We also need to recognize that transportation issues are often being solved with non-transportation solutions. Most of my law partners do not commute at rush hour any more. They get up, turn on their laptop at home, and work until the traffic has cleared. We don’t have to forever accommodate peak rush hour by building ever wider freeways.
Q: The federal government is lagging behind in enacting strong policies that tackle climate change. Do cities, specifically suburban cities, have advantages over bigger government for creating innovative, transformative policy?
A: Most sunbelt cities have nonpartisan municipal elections, and many have the council/manager form of government. That means their decisions tend to focus on practical solutions rather than scoring philosophical points. Most of the time city government actually still works the way it is supposed to. If it were up to me, I’d get rid of the two party system for managing government. I think it’s an anachronism from a time when communication was slow, clunky and lacked feedback loops. Times have changed. Millennials are increasingly voting as independents.
Local government is about efficiency and responsiveness, not ideology and rhetoric. That sometimes makes the decisions seem small and less consequential. But small decisions getting actually decided matters a lot more than big decisions that sit in gridlock.
Q: Is there anything that urban cities can learn about sustainability from suburban cities?
A: Suburban cities are inherently scalable: single family homes and roadways are easy to add in manageable and easily adaptable increments. When your college aged kid needs to move back home, it’s easier to enclose your garage or put him in the basement, or add a guest house on the back of your lot. The future of multi-generational living is far easier to accommodate in the single family fabric. Densifying suburban cities is a trend that will accelerate.
And affordability is an inherent part of making a place sustainable—if only rich people can live in your city, you have to question its long term viability, and recognize the impacts it has on surrounding areas. The average working person in Phoenix can afford the median priced home. That isn’t true in San Francisco. That difference needs to factor into the sustainability equation
Q: Was there anything you found in the course of researching and writing this book that surprised you?
A: I was surprised by the simplistic analysis of a number of sustainability rating systems. For example, cities where infrastructure needs are lagging behind are often dinged as unsustainable. That means growing cities are unsustainable because they’re always playing catch up. So cities people are leaving, and which have shrinking populations look more sustainable. That seems crazy. But none of the rating systems that found this result seemed interested in asking: “Why are the cities we think are unsustainable the ones that are booming? Could we be missing something?”
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A: Cities aren’t unsustainable because of climate or geography. The reach of technology and a global economy means that particular challenges like heat or less rain won’t necessarily doom the future of places. The verdict of sustainability is written in the capacity to react and adapt. It’s ultimately about politics and the continuing viability of the social compact.
Grady Gammage, Jr. is a Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and Senior Fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute of Public Policy. He also teaches at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. Gammage is also a practicing lawyer, a real estate developer, and a former elected official.
As we continue to break global heat records and deplete our water resources, the criticism that cities like Phoenix are unsustainable grows louder. Yet Phoenix and other suburban cities—those that developed around the automobile and the single-family home—continue to increase in population. In The Future of the Suburban City, lawyer and professor Grady Gammage, Jr. takes a fresh look at what it means to be sustainable, arguing that the true measure of sustainability is how a particular place deals with its particular challenges over time. For many suburban cities—Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake, Dallas, San Diego, and others—this means overcoming challenges of heat, drought, and suburban sprawl.
An Arizona native, Gammage uses the story of Phoenix to illustrate how suburban cities are using innovation to tackle these challenges. Passionately argued and backed by research, The Future of the Suburban City is a realistic yet hopeful story of what is possible for any suburban city. Check out Chapter 1 from the book below.
View the PDF here.
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.
The environment is facing tough times in a Trump presidency. Within an hour of his inaguration, all mentions of climate change were removed from the White House website. Since then, key environmental regulations have been slashed, and a bill has been introduced calling for the abolishment of the EPA. So what's an environmentalist to do? Below, Island Press authors share their advice for agitating for action on climate change and continuing to push an environmental agenda forward in the face of an unsupportive administration.
Don't freak out. OK, maybe freaking out is in order. But do it judiciously. There are many gaps between administration pronouncements and actual policy. Do not react to every executive order, press release, or tweet. Find the connections between administration statements and real policies. For whatever issue you care about, there's a group - environmental, immigrants rights, etc. - that's been working on it for years. Find them, look to them for guidance, volunteer or give them money. Get involved.
-John Fleck, Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West
The threats facing big cats and their landscapes remain unchanged in light of the recent U.S. presidential election, but the urgency with which we need to protect them remains. There are many meaningful ways to take action on this front, whether it’s by supporting nonprofits like Panthera or purchasing goods from companies committed to using resources sustainably. Everyone should follow organizations whose missions speak to them and whose actions are in sync with their words. Share their work and start conversations about why and how animals and their landscapes are so important to the health of our planet and ultimately ourselves as well.
-Alan Rabinowitz, An Indomitable Beast and CEO of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization
In my book, I describe how food waste contributes dramatically to climate change, noting that food waste is the world’s third-leading contributor of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which trails only two whole countries—China and the United States—in that category. I also describe how government regulations promote food waste and, hence, climate change. The USDA's National School Lunch Program and food-grading standards both promote massive amounts of food waste, and should be overhauled and/or eliminated. Even if our unhinged president does nothing about either of these issues, regular people can vote with their forks by, for example, purchasing ungraded produce at farmers markets and packing a school lunch for their child (and a second lunch for a student in need).
-Baylen Linnekin, Biting the Hands that Feed Us
One would think the great coniferous forests of the Northwest could withstand just about anything nature had to throw at them. In truth, however, these forests have been drastically changed by human activities. Increasingly unusual temperature and rainfall patterns are ratcheting up the threat level. A person would surely be excused for thinking that a one degree Celsius rise in average temperature would have no effect on these magnificent trees and the animals they harbor, but consider that such a small temperature increase would raise the lower edge of the snowpack by about 500 feet. That’s a lot of water no longer contributing to spring and summer runoff when plants and animals are most thirsty. Such a temperature increase would also cause the vegetation to transpire a lot more water, drying out the soils and shrinking the creeks and waterways. Forests that have dried out too much are more susceptible to widespread pest and disease infestations as well as to fire.
All is not lost, however; there are ways to deal with climate effects. Probably the most straightforward of these is to maintain a diverse forest with a variety of tree species, tree ages, and vegetation layers. Openings in the forest canopy can help to support a healthy shrub layer. Vegetation around streams helps to cool them so they can support cold-water fish, such as salmon. Forest restoration efforts following fires or other disturbances can help. Planting diverse native species and perhaps using seed or stock from an area where temperatures are more similar to those predicted over next several decades can help these forests to be resilient to climate change and other disturbances that come with changing climate. Replacing small culverts with larger ones that are carefully set can accommodate spring floods while helping fish to navigate upstream when water flows are reduced.
People concerned about the future of these forests can get involved in local forest planning. Speaking up for the forests, and providing a voice for their future and that of the communities that rely on them, is a great way to roll up your sleeves and make a difference.
-Bea Van Horne, People, Forests, and Change
1.) Get involved locally. There are environment, climate change issues that are impacting your community. Get involved on the local, grassroots level.
2.) Don’t get discouraged. Get informed, know the facts (and yes, there is such a thing as factual information) and don’t lose your resolve.
-Alan Kolok, Modern Poisons
There are ample opportunities for everyone to get involved with local planning to address climate change. Tools you can use to make your communities or natural areas more resilient and resistant to climate change include: 1) retaining and restoring moist areas – such as by keeping downed wood and ephemeral wetlands, installing riparian buffer zones, and paying attention to shading including hill-shading which naturally increases moisture potential; and 2) a mixed approach to natural-area management can increase both habitat heterogeneity at larger spatial scales and consequently species diversity, and then think about linking those habitats together across larger areas with corridors to reduce fragmentation.
-Dede Olson, People, Forests and Change
As the federal government proceeds to put its head further into the sand on climate change, the action will increasingly shift to local policy. Cities can’t solve the problem through regulation—their jurisdictions are too limited. But they can help through purchasing policies, utility pricing and transportation planning. Think globally/act locally suddenly takes on more significance than ever.
-Grady Gammage, The Future of the Suburban City
You can’t stop human-caused climate change on your own, but you can slow it down a bit. And you can do it with a president in the White House who’s working to uncork new gushers of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
Slowing climate change begins with personal behavior, since all human beings contribute heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. For those thinking about having children, it’s worth pondering that managing greenhouse gas emissions will be a challenge for as long as we’re on the planet. That’s a good argument for having a small family—or foregoing childbearing if ambivalent about becoming a parent. A smaller world population will have an easier time keeping emissions low and adapting to the massive changes on the way. In our own lives, without withdrawing from the world, we can walk our talk in eschewing emissions-intensive actions that are inefficient, frivolous, or do little or nothing for anyone’s joy or quality of life.
Without major policy change, behavior change falls way short of game change, and it’s game changing that the world desperately needs. For that, nothing short of expressing our views as often as we can manage—in letters to legislators and newspapers, in petition signatures, in responses to pollsters, in marching in protests, even in organizing communities—is likely to make enough difference to notice. A rising tax on carbon is essential, and while we can differ on the details of how to do that (ideally returning most or all revenue generated to citizens), nothing we attempt will turn the corner on climate change until the price of fossil fuels rises.
We can think about connections, too—climate change relates to the food we eat, the appliances we use, the electricity and water we pay for. Policies that are local and statewide as well as national can make a difference with these.
Finally, we can support women’s reproductive rights—the theme of the marches that went global on the second day of Trump’s presidency. Unintended pregnancy undermines women’s capacity to contribute productively to society, including to slowing climate change, and it takes us further from a future of sustainable human populations more likely to manage emissions and climate change safely.
-Robert Engelman, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want
What can we do to ensure that sound science continues to inform how we address climate change? We can urge the president to hire a national science advisor and other scientists with appropriate credentials in ecology and engineering to fill key posts in his administration. As members of a democratic society, we can support freedom of scientific inquiry and diversity in science. Specifically, we can comment publicly on proposed policies that affect the environment and vote accordingly. On a personal level, we can get directly involved in supporting science that informs climate policy by participating in science via citizen science. A variety of organizations enable public participation in science such as Earthwatch Institute. Whatever our approach, putting science into action represents our best hope to address climate change.
-Cristina Eisenberg, The Carnivore Way
1) Do that which only you can do and at least some of what everyone must do.
2) Don’t compete: Discern ways that your actions complement others’ actions toward the goods of health and justice.
3) Resist tyranny. Speak out, especially when someone tells you not to.
4) Have each others’ backs.
5) Recognize that not all hopes are equally worthy, and that skillful love requires intimate knowledge.
-Julianne Warren, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.