Michael Dudley's blog

New Books Depict Car Culture at a Turning Point

Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster
By Paul Ingrassia
Random House, 306 pages, $32

Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effect on Our Lives
By Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez
Palgrave, 272 pages, $34

Automobiles dominate our economies, our cities and our popular culture. As these new titles make abundantly apparent, they also tend to imbue their makers and owners with either delusions or arrogance that can lead to dangerously misguided decision-making, both behind the wheel and in corporate boardrooms.

Planning for "Dickensian Gloom"? Refuting Critics of Smart Growth (Again)

It is well-known in planning circles that Smart Growth has come under attack by (mostly libertarian) think tanks and pundits hostile to any form of urban planning that doesn’t leave land use decisions up to the “magic” of the free market. While their reports may get a lot of press, a close reading of most of their rhetoric reveals that it is largely based on a selective use of data, fallacious argumentation and hyperbole.

Copenhagen and 'Taking Care of the World'

Yesterday, as a part of my university’s community outreach efforts, I delivered a lecture at a suburban retirement home on the theme of sustainable cities. I discussed Smart Growth, New Urbanism and the need for greater urban densities, all framed by the current events unfolding in Copenhagen at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.  

At the end of my talk, several elderly ladies came up to chat with me and thank me for the lecture. On her way out, one turned to me and said, “You take care of the world for us. We’re not going to be around much longer – it’s up to you young people.” 

"A Paradise Built in Hell" Offers Lessons in Disaster Planning

In her new book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, journalist and essayist Rebecca Solnit describes a phenomenon that is rarely mentioned in the context of disaster preparedness: the spirit of caring -- even joy -- that can emerge in the face of calamity.

Civilization Planning?

When we think of cities in antiquity, we don’t hesitate to think of them in association with their respective civilizations. After all, the words civic and civilization share the same root word in Latin, civitas. Similarly, we can now say that we live in a globalized civilization largely structured on what author Jeb Brugmann refers to in his new book Welcome to the Urban Revolution as the global City.

However, in our focus as planners on addressing concerns with current development projects and other local issues we might be forgiven for sometimes losing touch with this larger picture: that the city is still the focal point and driver for those processes we refer to as civilization.

Will Planning Happen in the Dark?

Since the passage of The Telecommunications Act of 1996, media activists have been warning that a combination of consolidated corporate ownership of media outlets and a correspondingly intense profit orientation is resulting in diminished diversity of opinion, an avoidance of controversies and loss of choice for media consumers. In particular, they are concerned that remotely-owned newspapers, television and radio stations are incapable of adequately meeting local information needs, reporting on local issues and expressing local concerns.

Death and "De-Planning" in Gaza

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Like all of us I have been watching the carnage in Gaza with concern and growing despair. And like many people, I have struggled with how best to understand this conflict, fraught as it is with historic hatreds, accusations and counter-accusations. If it is at all possible I would like to attempt a pragmatic view, starting with the recognition that the historic conflict over Palestine concerning land ownership, use and associated rights may be seen as falling within the spectrum of issues related to land use planning.