LIFE AFTER CARBON: “The emerging idea inverts the modern-city hierarchy, restoring nature, instead of the city, as the dominant context,” wrote Peter Pastrik and John Cleveland in their book about cities that are reinventing themselves to combat climate change (published in 2018)

Note to Reader:

The following is an excerpt from an article published by Next City about Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities, by Peter Plastrik and John Cleveland, published by Island Press. In it, the authors identify 25 “innovation labs” around the world — cities reinventing themselves to combat climate change. In the Next City article, they discuss cities that have embraced green infrastructure as a means of “renaturing” the built environment.

How some cities are restoring nature and tapping the power of ecosystems to enhance and protect urban life

“In modern times, the city has been thought of as the dominant context in the natural environment; its physical, economic, and social needs were to be met by shaping the landscape near and far. Cities cleared and built upon the land, sweeping away natural habitats and species…. Their inhabitants lost direct connection with the natural world and its processes,” wrote the authors in The City within a Garden.

“The emerging idea inverts the modern-city hierarchy, restoring nature, instead of the city, as the dominant context…. The city remains the shaper of its built environment, but it shapes with an altered perspective.

“Part of urban renaturing is a restorative exercise, a way to reinstate balance and sustainability to the city’s relationship with nature. Another part introduces new designs to a city’s space.

“When cities renature themselves, they pursue three distinct, interrelated applications of the idea. They expand the use of green infrastructure. They protect and enhance ecosystems and biodiversity. And they provide people with ways to immerse in nature.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a copy of The City within a Garden.

Life After Carbon

In Life After Carbon, Pete Plastrik and John Cleveland assemble a global pattern of urban reinvention from the stories of 25 “innovation lab” cities across the globe—from Copenhagen to Melbourne.

A city innovation lab is the entire city—the complex, messy, real urban world where innovations must work. It is a city in which government, business, and community leaders take to heart the challenge of climate change and converge on the radical changes that are necessary. They free downtowns from cars, turn buildings into renewable-energy power plants, re-nature entire neighborhoods, incubate growing numbers of clean-energy and smart-tech companies, convert waste to energy, and much more.

Plastrik and Cleveland show that four transformational ideas are driving urban climate innovation around the world, in practice, not just in theory: carbon-free advantage, efficient abundance, nature’s benefits, and adaptive futures. And these ideas are thriving in markets, professions, consumer trends, community movements, and “higher” levels of government that enable cities.

Life After Carbon presents the new ideas that are replacing the pillars of the modern-city model, converting climate disaster into urban opportunity, and shaping the next transformation of cities worldwide. It will inspire anyone who cares about the future of our cities, and help them to map a sustainable path forward.

About the Authors

Peter Pastrik is co-founder and vice president of the Innovation Network for Communities (INC), established in 2007. Along with John Cleveland, he was a founding consultant to the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and helped it develop its strategic plan and Innovation Fund. He has been the lead author on several INC reports about cities and climate change: “Essential Capacities for Urban Climate Adaptation,” supported by the Summit Foundation, and “Leadership by US Cities Innovations in Climate Action,” supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

John Cleveland spent the first 12 years of his life living in small Indian villages on the Yukon River in Alaska that are now “ground zero” for climate change impacts. Living in remote wilderness gave him an appreciation for the power of Mother Nature and the truth of the admonition “Don’t mess with Mama!”  He is coauthor with Pete and Madeleine Taylor of “Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact” (2014).