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Book Review: 'Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change'

Book Review: 'Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change'

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change is an extended summary of Peter Calthorpe’s thought leadership in the areas of urban planning and its impacts on the surrounding environment. Arguing the holistic nature of planning decisions, Urbanism is full of quotable lines and beautiful graphics demonstrating how our carbon footprint continues to grow despite advances

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change is an extended summary of Peter Calthorpe’s thought leadership in the areas of urban planning and its impacts on the surrounding environment. Arguing the holistic nature of planning decisions, Urbanism is full of quotable lines and beautiful graphics demonstrating how our carbon footprint continues to grow despite advances in energy efficient technologies - and how conscious planning decisions can play a significant role in decreasing our impact.

'Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change' by Peter Calthorpe

Peter Calthorpe’s claim to fame was the articulation of the ‘Transit Oriented Development’ concept in the early 1990s. The idea that urban areas should be built around public transit has become a staple of new urbanism and livable planning discussions today. In his newest book he expands on this topic, quantifying the current state of environmental affairs, recounting methods that have already been attempted, and reiterating in so many ways: how compact communities are a fitting solution to so many social and environmental ills.

Philadelphia, PA


Philadelphia, PA (2013)

Paring the climate change discussion down to “urbanism, increased building efficiency standards, and higher auto gas mileage” (39), Calthorpe addresses urban infill, mixed-use policy changes, and a focus on density as the greatest value actions to facilitate all three. He sees urbanism as the silver bullet, taking many opportunities to preach it’s value:

“Urbanism is a win-win strategy that comes without new taxes; in fact, it can completely reduce household, local, and state costs” (40).

“Urbanism, along with auto and building efficiency standards, is the low-hanging fruit in the orchard of remedies to the climate change challenge” (41).

“Urbanism is, in fact, our single most potent weapon against climate change, rising energy costs, and environmental degradation” (17).

In his arguments, ‘urbanism’ alludes broadly to any development “mixed in uses, walkable, human scaled, and diverse in human population; that balance cars with transit; that reinforce local history; that adaptable; and that support a rich public life” (3). He acknowledges the various cultural, geographical, and economic scales which differentiate communities, but references traditional urbanism qualifications as the intended foundation of his theories.

Overall, the book is a strong consolidation of facts and figures to connect planners, environmentalists, and social change-makers. It clearly articulates a theory, action plan, and historical data to bring a vision to life.

Do you think urbanism is the key to sustainable growth in the face of climate change?

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change is an Island Press publication. The Grid is giving away two FREE copies of the book. Go to Rafflecopter Giveaway so you can enter to win your free copy of Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change!

Credits: Images by Christine Cepelak. Data linked to sources.

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Christine Cepelak is an emerging sustainability and corporate social responsibility professional in the Dallas, Texas area. Interested in how communities can facilitate connection, well-being, and equality, she has spent time serving on location in a...

  • Drew Wilson

    Great review, hope I win so I can read it!

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