Thursday, January 15, 2009


Can a city really work without oil? How will we ever make the transition?

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock - and you are in for a treat. Professor Peter Newman has designed public transport in Australia, and studied sustainable cities all over the world. Now we'll hear his first speech of the book tour for "Resilient Cities - Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change."

The one hour talk, on January 9th, 2009, was hosted by Anthony Perl of Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver Canada. Professor Perl is the co-author of "Transportation Revolution" and a driving force in new city design.

In this speech, Peter Newman acknowledges the possibility of city crash, the "Mad Max" movie scenario as oil and the climate decline. Perhaps the rich will retire behind armed eco-friendly barracks. One of the best aspects of this speech: Newman doesn't gloss over the recent economic crash, or human nature under capitalism, as though city planners acted in a vaccume. He admits, we may well go down in a messy way, and outlines what that might look like.

But Peter Newman also sees a better way out. I dared to hope, after hearing him - which is a dangerous emotion in these times.

The place was packed to standing room only, mostly young people. There was a definite buzz.

Peter is no mere theorist. He's headed up sustainable city design in Australia, and is now an adviser for a 20 billion dollar fund for a green rebuild of Australia's infrastructure. He is plugged in to city designers all over the world, and much in demand.

In this program you hear the complete kick-off speech for his book tour. The title is "Resilient Cities - Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change." just published by Island Press.

Just when you think freeway dead-zones have conquered the world, Newman tells us about Seoul, South Korea. The city built a multi-land freeway right over the central river, which was considered sacred for centuries. A consumer-based political party got elected - and demanded the freeway be torn down! Within 5 years the huge mass of concrete was carted away, the river exposed, and redeveloped into green spaces and cafes on either side. The result changed the city and society for the better by far.

You'll hear about another city in Europe that made itself famous by "re-discovering" a buried river.

Peter Newman is huge on trains. He's instigated a few in Australia - and they've been packed from day one. More than that, new planning calls for "Transit Oriented Destinations" - a kind of complete walking suburb our on the rail lines. Developments happen around rapid transit nodes.

Newman also gives examples comparing American cities with European and Asian ones. Among all major cities, Atlanta is the most unsustainable city in his charts, with Houston not far behind. But it doesn't have to be that way, as he explains how to get out of the deep oil hole. Again, there is an example of Tyson's Corner in the U.S.A.

The book is not an academic dead-weight - it's quite user-friendly and compact. You want to skim though it, but get caught up in fascinating examples of how we can save cities, despite giant challenges. It hits you where you live.

You can download this speech, and the previous Radio Ecoshock on "Transport Revolution" by Perl and Gilbert from our web site at Select Transporation from our audio on demand menu. The whole site is loaded with free mp3 downloads.

A realistic but hopeful speech, definitely the best so far in 2009.

The Radio Ecoshock Show 090116 1 hour
CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Recorded by Alex Smith.

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