Books – summer 2011

As I pack up my UMN office, there are piles of books that are worth sharing, before they go into a box. Here are just a few of them in no particular order:

Heat Islands: Understanding and Mitigating Heat in Urban Areas

by Lisa Gartland (Earthscan 2008)

This is a well researched and comprehensive book that explores methods of shrinking the urban heat island. It’s worth noting that Gartland provides the best explanation of albedo and emissivity I’ve yet to encounter. Where the book falls short, is it doesn’t consider going against the status quo of development and engineering practices (i.e. increasing density, or narrower streets), instead just discusses using different low albedo/pervious materials and the usual fixes.

Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning

by Timothy Beatley (Island Press  2011)

A slim volume that lays out the philosophical case for creating living cities. Doesn’t get bogged down in the technical details or process, and occasionally falls into thinking that biomimicry or a pretty garden equals a fully functioning and resilient ecosystem. Overall a good introduction to the concepts of eco-cities.

Addicted to Energy: A venture capitalist’s perspective on how to save our economy and our climate

by Elton Sherwin (Energy House 2010)

Unique among the dozens of big picture saving the planet books I’ve read over the last two years. The book is framed as a letter to a governor, which allows for discussion of policy and regulations at the state level. The author also uses examples from his personal life to keep the book from becoming too dry. Very well researched, and a good introduction for business minded folks that need the economic case made for changing their own/corporate behaviors.

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Interview with Peter Newman

One of the books that I’m using this semester is Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change by Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, and Heather Boyer. The ASLA interview with Peter Newman is has few excerpts worth sharing as I develop the syllabus for LA 4002 Implementation of Sustainable Landscape Design and Planning Practices. The two paragraphs worth citing are:

A resilient city is sustainable in its economy, environment, and community, but it has a deeper quality which enables it to quickly adapt to challenges and rebuild itself for any challenge it faces. This is a spiritual quality, which we can see in individuals, families, communities, and businesses, when they are able to face their problems honestly and reinvent themselves rather than live in denial. The reality of the peak oil and climate change crises is that most cities are in denial and not prepared for the big changes that are required.

Green infrastructure has moved from being “the bits left over in urban design” to being “sensitive to the underlying ecology,” and a concept that needs to be respected. Now we need green infrastructure to go to a third level – to help facilitate the Resilient City. This will require green infrastructure to have an integrated function in recreational activity, regenerative activity (carbon sinks and biodiversity), and regional agricultural activity.

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