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✊🏙 Radical Urbanist special issue: We need urgent climate action (and other urbanist reads)

Hey urbanists, This issue is a little different than what I usually do. I still have some urbanist ar
August 5 · Issue #45 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
This issue is a little different than what I usually do. I still have some urbanist articles at the end, as you’ve come to expect, but the body of the newsletter is dedicated to climate change.
I was feeling pretty disheartened this week when, after years of telling Canadians they needed to accept the approval of new fossil fuel projects to build political support for a carbon tax (I know, it makes no sense), Justin Trudeau’s government announced they were weakening the tax in response to industry “competitiveness” concerns. Canada doesn’t emit as much as a United States or China, but every country needs to do its part, and given Canada is one of the top per-capita emitters, the continued inaction by our federal government makes me angry and pushes me to the brink of despair — a state that’s hard enough to avoid with the growing evidence of how the climate is changing.
I hope you get something from my rant and don’t fall into despair yourself. Back to your usual urbanist reads and analysis next week.

Are we fucked?
New Scientist, 2009
New Scientist, 2009
I’ve been thinking about this map a lot for the past week. We’re currently seeing a global heat wave: records temps in California, deaths in Quebec, wildfires above the Arctic Circle in the Nordic countries, the highest temperature ever recorded in Africa, heat records across Asia… I could go on, but I think you get the point.
There are so many questions that arise from this map, but given this is a newsletter about cities, let’s make that the focus.
Look at all those yellow and brown areas, particularly the latter. How many billions of people are in these areas? How many megacities are forming in these areas? Vast swaths of heavily populated areas in India, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, and the Eastern seaboard of North America are all in brown — they’ll be made uninhabitable. And where the displaced people go?
Consider the response to the refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa in recent years by Western countries — border crackdowns, far-right resurgence, xenophobia, Trump, Brexit, etc. And for what? 5-6 million refugees in Europe, and a global displaced population of ~65 million? That’s a huge number, and we should be doing more, but it’s nothing compared to the billions who are set to be displaced by climate change. Will the West’s reaction change when they’re among the displaced? Consider me skeptical. We’re very tied to the imaginary lines we’ve drawn across the planet’s surface and it seems easy to stir us into a frenzy about (brown) “foreigners” coming from abroad.
And I know what some people will say: “But Paris, that map is predicting what the world might look like with 4°C of warming. It won’t come to that.” I hope they’re right, but at this point, I think we need to be preparing for the absolute worst.
Scientists say that if all countries hit their voluntary targets in the Paris Agreement, we’ll still be on track for 2.7°C of warming, and I’m not at all convinced the targets will be met given the setbacks in the US, Canadian PM Trudeau’s lies about being a climate leader, Australia’s commitment to coal, the continued resistance by some European countries, and let’s not forget India and other growing countries in the Global South and East with large populations that are rightfully trying to improve living standards. China’s renewable investments provide some hope, but their emissions are still massive.
I love focusing on improvements to transportation and housing, but we also need to zoom out to make sure those efforts aren’t useless in the long term. We’re not doing nearly enough to transition away from fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, nor are we making the necessary preparations for the warming that’s already baked in. We’ve already warmed the planet by 1°C.
If I wasn’t staying in a hostel, I’d probably go cry now. I find this horribly depressing. I’m sorry if I’ve ruined your day. Feel free to reply if you have thoughts.
Paris Marx
Justin Trudeau promised to be an environmental champion.

He said Canadians needed to accept a BC LNG facility, nationalized AB pipeline, new NL drilling, etc. to get a small carbon price — and now he's even scaling that back. What a scam. #cdnpoli
Here are some good climate reads, before we move on to the urbanist reads you’re used to seeing in these newsletters.
🇨🇳 Densely populated parts of China could become uninhabitable by the end of the century
Finally, as New York Times Magazine prepares to dedicate its entire issue to a piece on climate change that blames the lack of climate action on human nature, Naomi Klein has published a response naming the real culprit: capitalism.
Why does it matter that Rich makes no mention of [the clash between neoliberalism and climate action] and instead, claims our fate has been sealed by “human nature”? It matters because if the force that interrupted the momentum toward action is “ourselves,” then the fatalistic headline on the cover of New York Times Magazine – “Losing Earth” — really is merited. If an inability to sacrifice in the short term for a shot at health and safety in the future is baked into our collective DNA, then we have no hope of turning things around in time to avert truly catastrophic warming.
If, on the other hand, we humans really were on the brink of saving ourselves in the ’80s, but were swamped by a tide of elite, free-market fanaticism — one that was opposed by millions of people around the world — then there is something quite concrete we can do about it. We can confront that economic order and try to replace it with something that is rooted in both human and planetary security, one that does not place the quest for growth and profit at all costs at its center.
And the good news — and, yes, there is some — is that today, unlike in 1989, a young and growing movement of green democratic socialists is advancing in the United States with precisely that vision. And that represents more than just an electoral alternative — it’s our one and only planetary lifeline.
Great urbanist reads
🎟 Sidewalk Labs is limiting access to a public meeting by claiming it is “sold out” even though pre-registration isn’t required
Former Waterfront Toronto board member resigned because she believes the Sidewalk Labs deal is “shortchanging” the city
🚚 Uber is shutting down its autonomous trucking division
🛴 Bird’s scooters are going international, launching in Paris and Tel Aviv
“If ever there was a commodity service, it is scooters on the street.” Scooters are great for mobility, but they’ll be low margin. [paywall]
📉 Airbnb bookings in NYC could be halved with new regulations
🏘 Wall Street firms bought up a ton of housing after the 2008 crash and became the United States’ biggest slumlords
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Rents in England have risen 60% faster than wages since 2011
🚢 Bagamoyo, Tanzania—a fishing town—could become Africa’s largest port and the new Shenzhen in $10bn Chinese project
🤔 NYC mayor Bill De Blasio prefers dockless bikes to docked system because they won’t take away on-street parking spaces
🗳 Former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat announces plans to run for mayor
🚅 Streetsblog dissects LA Times’ biased reporting on California high-speed rail
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading, and feel free to follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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