“To put it bluntly, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is perhaps the only surviving collective intelligence left in the United States that is producing ideas consistent with the reality. They recognize that our survival depends on down-scaling and re-localization. They recognize the crisis we will soon face in food production, and the desperate need to reactivate the relationship between the way we inhabit the landscape and the way we feed ourselves. They recognize that the solution to the liquid fuels crisis is not cars that can run by other means but on walkable towns and cities connected by public transit.” – Too Stupid To Survive by James Howard Kunstler, June 15, 2009
A Cape-and-trade system is at the core of the house version of the American Clean Energy Security Act passed on Friday. I know very little about climate change science and even less about cap-and-trade economics, but something strikes me as strange about this whole system. Isn’t it still only addressing the symptoms and not the cause? Ultimately, the reduction of carbon emitting lifestyles in America will lead to larger reductions in CO2 emissions. The bill does establish a 2020 target for America to have 20% of it’s power generated by renewables. Which seems like a good start, but is it enough? Just as the Huffington Post article points out what is missing, I would like to question if true, long term solutions are being considered. Why is urbanism not discussed as a viable solution to our environmental crisis? Rather then figuring out what to do with the carbon created by our car-centered American lifestyle, why not focus on how to stop producing the carbon all together. The last time I checked, walking wasn’t a tax and was good for both you and the environment. Now, why hasn’t the form of our built environment been called into question? I share Al Gore’s excitement over this “extraordinary moment“, and yet I fear real solutions to our global challenge have not yet been broadly discussed.
The Providence Foundation invited me to be a part of the group crafting a 2030 vision for the city. The final document will be completed in July. However, the tag cloud below illustrates some emerging trends of the vision. I have become increasingly more interested in what this local group could accomplish in 6 to 12 months as opposed to 21 years.
There are places in this country that have managed to stop time and not age. Fishers Island, New York is one of these places. The island is a magnificant example of a rural urbanism. Even with the dirt roads and stunning landscape, a framework of compact, pedestrian centers hold the island’s charming character together. The grocery store is the first neighborhood center with the yacht club a short walk away. The fire station, hardware store and public docks create the second nod of activity. The two unique structures, each perched on the edge of the shore hanging effortlessly over the waters of the bay, are timeless buildings grown out of utility and love. The final, and most active center, is of course where the coffee shop, ice cream and liquor stores are located. Pulled together with a handful of other, more urban minded, buildings this hamlet is more about the landscape supporting the structures then the framing of space through architecture. It is both a garden and a retail district all in one. We were lucky enough, as guests of friends, to be within walking distance of the ice cream shop. The wind worn shingle siding, painted wood floors and 1940’s bathroom fixtures were the final touches convincing me that the Island had not been touched by time for generations. A truly remarkable collection of timeless buildings and character defining landscapes.
I was excited to see this film win The Congress for New Urbanism CNU 17 video contest. This short was created by independent filmmaker John Paget with First+Main Media. It does an excellent job illustrating the connection between our built and natural environment. The more I think about the larger system we live in the more I realize that environmentalists should really be Urbanists.
This video is the first of several exciting things in the works for this years CNU. Stay tuned for more big announcements. In the meantime watch the video, share it with friends and send me you thoughts on it.
My friend Stephanie Ewens was kind enough to shoot this video of my presentation at the first Pecha Kucha Night in Providence. I was amazed at how much thought needed to go into a 6 minute 40 second talk. It was super fun to give, but has opened up a lot more questions that I am just starting to put down on paper. Let me know what you think?