A forum for exchanging ideas

This blog has three functions: (1) a repository of ideas, findings, reflections, readings, and observations from a faculty travelling seminar on sustainability in 2011, and (2) a space for continuing exchange of ideas about how we can carry forward lessons from that tour into our classrooms, our colleges, and our communities, and (3) a place to post links to the many amazing developments that are in the news. The purpose of this space is to help sustain an ongoing seminar-like exchange that can capture and build on ideas from our original seminar.

Updates to this blog will be irregular and occasional, but it can provide a resource for colleges and classes
and other groups that share our enthusiasms, concerns, and common challenges.

Our initial sustainability seminar was funded by the Mellon Foundation,
whose support has been critical to initiatives in faculty development and intellectual exchange.

Planning for Sustainability

Sustainability in Urban Planning
Linus Owns, Department of Sociology, Middlebury College
Mary Ann Cunningham, Department of Earth Science and Geography, Vassar College

Urban and regional planning connect to sustainability in countless ways, both philosophical and practical. We explore some of the philosophical factors first. This section is followed by a more pragmatic overview of some of the factors that can help cities, states, institutions, or communities aim toward sustainability. The first segment (by L.O.) outlines key ideas to consider in alternative approaches to planning. The second segment (by M.A.C.) considers further how these ideas play out in the cities we visited, and ideas that might guide US communities toward practices that are healthier for people and their environments.
The ideas in this document were informed by the many people who shared their time and thoughts with us. We thank Lasse Moeller-Jensen and Lars Winther (University of Copenhagen, Department of Geology and Geography); Andreas (CopenhagenX); Stine Rasmussen, Tage Duer, and Jacob Vastrup (Danish Energy Agency); Thorkild Green, Pablo Celis, and Thomas Drivsholm (City of Århus Planning Department); and Jürgen (Freiburg Mobile).

What Ideas underlie Planning?. 1
Consensus and conflict. 2
Private and public. 5
Luxury and necessity. 7
Planning and unplanning. 8
Can US communities learn from European practices?. 9
What do city planners need to do?. 10
What makes a livable city?. 11
Grand design or humane scale?. 12
Why is there stronger and more effective planning in Copenhagen, Århus, and Freiburg than in most US cities?  13
Historical influences. 13
The welfare state. 15
Structural (state) support for experimentation. 15
Duration of effort. 16
Scale. 17
Is it a good thing to have strong planners?. 17
Economics, demographics, and planning. 19
What would it mean to plan for contraction?. 20
Summary:  Some reasons for more successful and effective planning in EU cities. 21
How should we move forward in our communities and campuses?. 22