Wrapping Up!

What an intense and productive week.  I want to thank you all again for being part of Keystone Cities.  Despite being a small group, I thought the level of our discussions was excellent. It's not everyday that you get such an eclectic mix of disciplines and backgrounds - not to mention a few SPURS scholars and Humphrey fellows thrown in to the mix.

Overall, it was interesting to see that the research we did together showed shifts towards networked climate governance in the handful of cities we examined.  Portland, Vancouver, Boston, and Chicago all showed significant shifts in the way they were pursuing their climate and sustainability policies. 

Green vs. Grey Approaches to Storm Water

Hi all.  That was a good discussion today about networked and decentralized ways of using engineered natural systems to deal with urban storm water run-off. (Phew, what a mouthful!)  If any of you are tempted to read a bit more, check out this new post over at Yale's E360.  

Dave Levitan does a great job summing up the surge of interest in bioswails and other engineered natural system across the US. He also gets into some of the issues around cost and co-benefits that we discussed.  My one critique is that there isn't enough about the governance challenges that come with these systems.  As we discussed, creating this type of decentralized system involves a whole array of public and private actors. 

There are hints of that complexity in the article, but I was left wanting more. 

Radar Graphing Transitions in Urban Climate Policy

One of our first undertakings in Keystone Cities was to do some rapid comparative policy analysis. 

The goal was to generate an accurate qualitative analysis of two different municipal climate change plans, while giving everyone a chance to get their hands dirty digging in some actual climate policy documents. 

In this case we compared Portland's 1993 Carbon Reduction Strategy, and it's most recent Climate Change Action Plans.  The results were really interesting.

Reaction to "When Neighborhoods Work With Nature"

The vision Condon presents in "When Neighborhoods Work With Nature" is dramatic and large in scale, but it’s unclear if he’s writing about retrofitting existing cities or managing the growth of entirely new cities. His examples are historical, taken from growing cities with lots of natural space to grow into, but it’s hard to see where continuous natural areas could be inserted into already populated areas. Second, though the idea of continuous green spaces makes sense from an environmental and design point of view, Condon doesn’t do a good job of outlining the path for realizing his vision, or selling his ideas as politically viable alternatives to standard policies.

Still, the idea of linking green space into continuous “ecologically functional chains” made me think of some variations of that idea, which currently exist or seem poised for the near future.


You are here!  Chances are you're curious about (or even already registered for) the seminar that I'll be offering during 2013 IAP @ MIT:

Keystone Cities: Networked Approaches to Urban Sustainability

Keystone Cities is going to be a dynamic and interactive exploration of how the definition of "urban sustainability" has evolved over the past two decades (give or take a few years).  

It used to be a "green" municipal government could get by putting in LED traffic lights and turning off the A/C in City Hall an hour early. Not anymore.

Why "Keystone" ?

The name for the seminar refers to the new role played by municipal governments that are  pursuing ambitious sustainability policies.

A keystone is the angled piece of masonry that you find at the apex of a stone archway.  It holds all the other pieces of the arch together so that collectively they can bear the weight of the structure above them.

In some ways, that is a decent metaphor for the current role of municipal governments: Not bearing the full weight of urban sustainability policies, but establishing a network of multiple actors (the arch) that makes it possible for a much bigger project to be built than any one actor could accomplish on their own.

I said "a decent metaphor", but not a perfect one.