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What Makes a "Resilient City"?

Cycling in Copenhagen is a dominant feature of the cityscape. 1.3 million km are cycled each day in Copenhagen and 36% commute on bicycle - the municipal objective is to increase this to 40% by 2012 and 50% by 2015.

I just finished reading Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change by  Peter Newman co-authored with Timothy Beatley and Heather Boyer.  By 'resilient' they authors mean cities that can last, make it through crises, possessing inner strength and resolve, as well as appropriate built form and physical infrastructure.

The book calls for cities to plan for resiliency in response to depleting carbon-based fuels and climate change.  Of course, there are those that don't believe we have reached peak oil or that climate change is a real threat.  However, for those of us on who are on-board, the authors provide seven elements vital for any city to become resilient:

  1. Renewable Energy City: Urban areas will be powered by renewable energy technologies from the region to the building level.
  2.  Carbon Neutral City: Every home, neighborhood, and business will be carbon neutral.
  3. Distributed City: Cities will shift from large centralized power, water, and waste systems to small-scale and neighborhood-based systems. 
  4. Photosynthetic City: The potential to harness renewable energy and provide food and fiber locally will become part of urban green infrastructure.    
  5. Eco-Efficient City: Cities and regions will move from linear to circular or closed-loop systems, where substantial amounts of their energy and material needs are provided from waste streams.
  6. Place-Based City: Cities and regions will understand renewable energy more generally as a way to build the local economy and nurture a unique and special sense of place. 
  7. Sustainable Transport City: Cities, neighborhoods, and regions will be designed to use energy sparing by offering walkable, transit-oriented options for all supplemented by electric vehicles. 

This vision for realizing a resilient city is ambitious indeed – but, it is attainable.  While the authors admit that no one city has been successful in all seven areas, some cities are displaying innovation in a few.  As a planner involved with Integrated Community Sustainability Planning (ICSP) initiatives and community sustainability strategic planning, I find this book to be highly informative, full of innovative international best practices and
most importantly, alive with hope!

Here are just a few examples we can draw upon when forging a sustainable future for (and with) communities:

Vauban, Germany

Freiburg, Germany

North Port Quay, Australia

Masdar City, U.A.E

BedZed Eco-Village, England

Malmö, Sweden

South False Creek, Canada

Andrzej Schreyer is senior environmental and land use planner with Hardy Stevenson and Associates and a provisional member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and the Canadian Institute of Planners.  His experience includes developing public consultation and communications plans, managing social impact assessments and land use studies in support of major infrastructure projects in the GTA, preparing community strategic plans, and developing and implementing urban and environmental planning policies.