urban sustainability & resilience

A blog about governance for urban sustainability and resilience


So, last week I launched this blog. An opinion piece on urban sustainability and resilience for the Australian Conversation made for a good starter to jump into this new world. The opinion piece is doing better than expected. It now has attracted close to 2,000 readers, got some comments, has been tweeted about, and has been shared a couple of times on Facebook. I don’t know about averages for opinion pieces, but I am happy with the result.

At work. Writing two books on urban sustainability and resilience.

At work. Writing two books on urban sustainability and resilience.

But I guess an introduction of my blog is in place. I don’t have to introduce myself, I feel, because most I have to say about myself is on my personal website, my LinkedIn account, or my SSRN page, Academia.edu page or my recently started Research Gate page. On my SSRN page you can freely download my writings. If that is not enough, then there is always my work website, or even my (thanks to the magic of internet always up-to-date) downloadable Curriculum Vitae.

I started this blog, as I think many academics do, to have a different outlet for my work than the traditional academic journals, books and conferences. From the title of this blog it has become clear that I study urban sustainability and resilience. More specifically, I am interested in what governance approaches we need to make a successful transition to cities and urban environments that are more sustainable and more resilient than those we have now.

Cities and urban environments and their governance have intrigued me for a long time. I am trained as an architect (MSc) and hold a PhD in public policy. I am interested in the intersection between government, the private sector and civil society. How does everyone work together to, at the same time, influence and regulate the behaviour of each other, whilst seeking to achieve communal and personal goals?

Cities are complicated two-headed beasts. They are the centres of culture, innovation, and economic growth. At the same time they are the source of pollution, resource depletion and sites of despair when natural or human-made hazard strikes. But cities provide solutions as well as problems. It is now widely accepted that the technology and social know-how is available to make a cost effective transition towards cities that are less dependent on energy, water and other resources, produce less greenhouse gasses and other wastes, and are more robust to withstand natural or human-made hazards. In other words, cities hold a significant potential for increased sustainability and resilience.

At the same time cities have significant problems to capitalise on this potential. A range of regulatory and market barriers stand in the way for doing so. This is exactly where my work comes in. I am interested in non-regulatory approaches to achieve urban sustainability and resilience. I have carried out a series of studies into this topic, which I am now bringing together in a book for Edward Elgar Publishers. The book looks at traditional government interventions (direct regulation, subsidies, taxes), collaborations between governments, businesses and citizen (networks, covenants, negotiated agreements), and voluntary programs and market-driven governance (benchmarking, green leases, ESCOs, Transition Towns, etc.).

On this page I will talk about that book every now and then. The thing I will probably talk more about is a book that I am going to write straight after the book I just introduced. This second book addresses a research project into non-coercive collaborative approaches to increase urban sustainability. It is based on a two year study in which I studied 57 examples of this particular way to achieve urban sustainability. I have studied these in Australia, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore and the US. In these two years I have interviewed over 200 individuals, all experts in one or more of the examples studied.

I am about to submit the book proposal for that second book to Cambridge University Press. Through this website I will keep track of the process from submitting the proposal to, hopefully, getting the book published (through Cambridge, or, if they reject the proposal, another publisher). Whatever the writing process is going to be like, this blog will be a future reminder of it. At the same time I plan to post relevant info for colleague academics, such as the book proposal (once accepted). I will do so because there hardly seem examples and formats out there for things such as cover letters for an academic book, a discussion of the book’s market potential, or its prospective readers.

Besides, on this blog I will post snippets from both books whilst writing them. Things that did not make the final version, things that I think have to be shared whilst they are hot, and interesting trivia that may interest academics, policy makers and practitioners. I hope you will find this blog of interest.


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