Michael Dudley's blog

The Urban Legacy of Jack Layton

On Monday, August 22nd, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, succumbed to cancer and passed away, mere months after leading his left-leaning party to unprecedented electoral success as the official opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Since then, the public expressions of loss, and the celebration of his life, have been extraordinary: impromptu memorials have sprung up in cities across Canada, especially in Toronto where he sat as a city councilor for almost 20 years before moving to federal politics.

Prince of Wales' New Book Seeks "Harmony" With the Natural World

In this lavishly produced, beautifully illustrated but somewhat self-edifying book, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales argues that most of our global crises -- from climate change to poverty to our soulless built environments -- are owed to our disconnection from Nature (which he capitalizes).

How Winnipeg Became a Casualty of War

With the passing in February 2010 of Canada's last surviving Great War veteran, we no longer have a living link to that conflict. Its infamous miseries, desolate battlefields, poison-gas attacks and industrial-scale slaughter are known to us now only through history.

While the veterans themselves are silent, Manitoba historian Jim Blanchard reminds us in his new book Winnipeg's Great War that the city of Winnipeg has its own story to tell about the First World War.

Of Bricks and Bixis

My hometown of Winnipeg is going through a particularly nasty battle over cycling infrastructure. Its current mayor, Sam Katz, while he may be reviled by rapid transit advocates for cancelling one BRT scheme and then muddling another (will it be a bus? A train? A streetcar?), has nonetheless managed to accomplish more for cyclists than his predecessors. In recent years we have seen new bikelanes, multiuse pathways and a cycling culture invigorated by such events as Winnipeg's Cyclovia.

Park51, Planning and the Freedom of Religion

As planners, we are accustomed to (and expect) some types of urban development proposals to attract controversy. Whether the opposition is to new roads, higher-density housing or undesirable land uses such as industries or prisons, such controversies are becoming far more common as environmental, economic and social issues become more pronounced and widely understood. In most cases, we generally assume that we can make use of a suite of engagement strategies to engage stakeholders and try to resolve typical development conflicts. 

Planning After Our "Empire of Food"


Recently, a Briton armed with a metal detector uncovered a trove of more than 50,000 Roman coins, which archeologists believe was an ancient farming community's offering to the gods to ensure a bountiful harvest. Our own agricultural practices have moved past any pleas to the gods to incorporate instead an industrial-scale arsenal of petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetic modification.

The Gulf Disaster and Planning

In a recent Planetizen post I argued that the unfolding oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may be perhaps our last warning to move more aggressively on renewable energy and a less energy-dependent built environment. What follows is an effort to outline additional implications for planning, to gain an understanding of the scale of this emergency and how it may impact planning in the months and years to come. Ecologically, economically and socially this is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. 

An Eruption of Unresilience

Resilience is generally understood as the degree to which a complex system is flexible enough to respond and adapt to an externally-imposed force or change and thus persist over time while retaining its structure and functions. Conversely, a vulnerable system would be one in which conditions are inflexible, key resources comprise a monoculture, there is little learning capacity, and choices for addressing crises are constrained.