In a very short time America has realized that global warming poses real challenges to the nation’s future. The Agile City engages the fundamental question: what to do about it?
Journalist and urban analyst James S. Russell argues that we’ll more quickly slow global-warming—and blunt its effects—by retrofitting cities, suburbs, and towns. The Agile City shows that change undertaken at the building and community level can reach carbon-reduction goals rapidly.
Adapting buildings (39 percent of greenhouse-gas emission) and communities (where the 33 percent of transportation-related emissions can be slashed) offers numerous other benefits that tax gimmicks and massive alternative-energy investments can’t match.
Russell argues that investments that lower American energy intensity will build wealth by reducing reliance on industrial commodities, especially oil, copper and steel, that will become very expensive as populous nations like China and India rapidly develop and spike demand. Investing in the greater resilience of key natural-system commodities—clean water, forests, productive agricultural land, and fisheries—will also pay economic dividends as these resources—already reeling under unprecedented demand—become more precious.
Rapidly improving building techniques can readily cut carbon emissions by half, and some buildings already can get to zero. These cuts can be affordably achieved in the windshield-shattering heat of the desert and the bone-chilling cold of the north. Intelligently designing our towns could reduce marathon commutes and child chauffering to a few miles or eliminate it entirely. Agility, Russell argues, also means learning to adapt to the effects of climate change, which means redesigning the obsolete ways real estate is financed; housing subsidies are distributed; transportation is provided; and water is obtained, distributed and disposed of. These dysfunctional engines of growth can be realigned to enhance communities’ economic and environmental performance.
The Agile City highlights tactics that create multiplier effects, which means that ecologically driven change can shore-up economic opportunity, can make more productive workplaces, and can help revive neglected communities. Being able to look at multiple effects and multiple benefits of political choices and private investments is essential to assuring wealth and well-being. Green, Russell writes, grows the future.
- A Planetizen 2012 Top 10 Book in Planning, Design and Development
• A Designers & Books Notable Book for 2011
• Sustainable Cities Collective Best Book of 2011
Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker
“Is there really a huge pent-up demand to move from the suburbs to the city, just waiting to be released by wiser government policies? James S. Russell . . . uses the term ‘megaburbs’ to describe what cities have become. In much of the world, it seems pretty clear that most people who have the chance do leave dense inner cities, while staying in metropolitan areas.”
Justin Davidson, New York Magazine
“There’s more common sense and intelligence on each page than most writing on this and related topics can squeeze out of an entire book.”
Jonathan Barnett in Architectural Record
“ . . . well researched and persuasive . . . “
[Many] . . . examples support Russell’s argument that the techniques for creating more agile cities are already in successful use; they need only be adopted more generally to have a major impact.”
“The Agile City is a valuable addition to the discussion of livability in cities, the preservation of the natural landscape, and the protection of the global environment.”
Tom Condon, Editorial Writer, the Hartford Courant
“Russell’s important and blessedly readable book encourages different thinking about planning, collective action and citizenship.”
Martin Lewis, National Academy of Sciences
“The Agile City is one of the most compelling environmental treatises to appear in recent decades.”
“ . . . if the guidelines proposed by Russell were followed, the resulting growth would not only deliver major environmental benefits but would simultaneously help jump-start the national economy.”
John Hill, A Daily Dose of Architecture
“This book should be read by those interested in going beyond business-as-usual; the practical suggestions are based on excellent examples . . .”
Lloyd Alter, Treehugger
“Russell has the courage to discuss …. property rights and the real estate development industry, and he makes it interesting.”
Shannon Leahy, The Dirt (American Society of Landscape Architects)
“Russell provides a variety of examples and case studies to sell the benefits of low-carbon living and dispel the myth that a green economy will constrain individual enterprise.”