Cities, People, Planet

‘Cities People Planet: Liveable Cities for a Sustainable World’ by Herbert Girardet;  Wiley-Academy, 2004. 304pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 9 October 2006

This is effectively another reworking of the 10-year-old The Gaia Atlas of Cities: New Directions for Sustainable Urban Living. All the usual suspects are displayed, albeit with significant new additions and examples. 

As with Reader and Jacobs, Mesopotamia gets a look in and Girardet provides an interesting historical take on ancient cultures, seemingly echoing Jared Diamond – who is critiqued in Jacobs’ book – that environmental and geographical circumstances (especially deforestation for Girardet) have been the key factors leading to the demise or preservation of civilisations.

This is a much more measured book than we are used to from Girardet although he still is happy to indulge his pet subjects with alacrity: from the problems of (unnatural) meat-eating for Chinese people; the joys of cycling and recycling; the wonders of public transport in (third world) Curitiba; the notion that dams are problems rather than solutions, etc. To a certain extent, because Girardet is more sure of himself and happy to bang his eco-message home, this book is a useful companion piece to Reader’s Cities.


Author: austinwilliams

Austin Williams is the director of the Future Cities Project and author of a number of books on the environment and on China. The latest are "China's Urban Revolution" (Bloomsbury) and "New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future" (Thames and Hudson).

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