Archives For Urban


Today is the birthday of philosopher and social critic, Ivan Illich (1926-2002)

Below is a two-part video of a 1984 talk that he gave based on his book

H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness.

Ivan Illich

Paperback: Marion Boyars, 2000.
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Other Illich resources on the ERB Site:

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Book Giveaway - Everyday MissionsOur Latest Book Giveaway…

We’re giving away 5 copies of :

Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World.
Leroy Barber.

Paperback: IVP/ Likewise, 2012.


Enter to win a Free copy of this book (It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!) :

NOTE: You may enter to win once per day as long as the contest is running…
(Additional entries only need to complete steps #2 and #3.)

1) Receive our free weekly online edition via email – or – LIKE our Facebook page (LGT: More info… )

2) Post the following message on your blog, Facebook Page, or on Twitter:

I just entered to win one of 5 copies of EVERYDAY MISSIONS by Leroy Barber from @ERBks! You can too:

3) Leave a comment below noting which option you chose for #1 **and** a link to your post for #2 before 12AM ET on Friday August 24, 2012.
(Leaving a comment is essential as we will draw the giveaway winners from among the comments left.)


We will draw the winners at random after the Book Giveaway ends, and will notify them within a week.


Urban Rivers - Castonguay, Evenden, eds.The Tense Marriage of Rivers and Urban Space

Urban Rivers: Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America

Edited By: Stephane Castonguay and Matthew Evenden

Paperback: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Sam Edgin

Rivers have flowed like arteries and veins across the continents for millennia. They have carried the lifeblood of societies, given paths to the virus of wars, and generated countless measures of energy. Most every major city has grown alongside a riverbank: Paris on the Seine, Washington D.C. on the Potomac, London on the Thames, Moscow on the Moskva, and Beijing on the Yongding, Chaobai, and Hai, to name a few. They funnel transportation, food, shipping and trade into and out of the urban metropolises that serve as hubs for our societies. Rivers globally are tied intrinsically into the urban areas that lie on their banks.

However, the development of these urban centers has not always been sustainable for their waterways. The large concentrations of people mixed with rapidly growing industrialization during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were unkind to river systems, as was the realization that rivers were rather adept at disposing waste. Year and years of disuse resulted in heavy pollution and contamination. Rivers stank, were undrinkable, and even began to lose clear passageways as the channels filled with refuse. Much of this harm has begun to be reversed due to the environmental impetus of the mid-to-late 20th century. This shift is fortunate, as the future development of our cities leans dependently not only on the health of our rivers, but in the way the cities are built around them and the resources are managed, as Stephane Castonguay and Matthew Evenden explore with the articles they have collected in Urban Rivers: Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America.

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Breaking Through Concrete - Hanson / MartyPropelling Us into Vacant Lots

A Feature Review of

Breaking Through Concrete: Building an Urban Farm Revival.

David Hanson / Edwin Marty

Hardback: U of California Press.
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The City of Saint Louis, where I live and garden, owns roughly one third of the property in Saint Louis. Eight thousand properties are abandoned, and 11,000 lots sit empty. As people moved out of the city and into the ‘burbs, hundreds of properties fell vacant, taxes weren’t paid, neighborhoods were blighted; now the city faces budget shortfalls, in part because a third of the land in the city goes untaxed. St. Louis is just one example among many: Birmingham has 20,000 acres of open land, Philadelphia 70,000, and Detroit 100,000 empty lots. This translated into thousands of acres of ragweed and Johnson grass which these cities have to pay to mow.

Breaking Through Concrete offers an alternative to the apocalyptic urban landscape of post-industrial American cities like St. Louis. The book profiles twelve urban farms from across the country which have re-purposed urban plots to provide healthy, clean food to their communities. The book joins a growing collection of literature (such as Urban Farm Handbook, Farm City, Your Farm in the City, and The Urban Homestead, all published since 2010) and documentaries (such as Urban Roots, 2011) on urban farming, indicating a shift in the way city-folks are regarding their land. Continue Reading…


Breaking Through Concrete - D Hanson, E MartyAn excerpt from

Breaking Through Concrete: Building An Urban Farm Revival.

David Hanson / Edwin Marty

Hardback: U of California Press.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Watch for our feature review by Alden Bass later this week…

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Bird on Fire - Andrew RossSustainability in the Valley of the Sun

A Review of

Bird on Fire:

Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City.

Andrew Ross.

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2011.
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Reviewed by Tim Høiland.

When Andrew Ross first came to the Phoenix, he was interested in learning what local artists were doing to revitalize downtown, a desert city with an urban core that, to many urbanists, leaves much to be desired. No city exists in a vacuum, however, and Ross soon came to the conclusion that to understand Phoenix he had to understand the story of the other cities and sprawling suburbs throughout the valley. It was through this research that he concluded that the Phoenix metro area — which includes nine cities with populations of 100,000 or more — was, as he puts it in the subtitle, “the world’s least sustainable city.”

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“Built-in Opportunities for
Human Relationships, Health, and Flourishing

A Review of
Cities for People.

Jan Gehl.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Cities for People.
Jan Gehl.
Hardback: Island Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In a city like mine, a story which is typical of many US cities has happened: built over the last 200 years, emptied out since the 1960s, and now making a few steps to revitalize the health of what makes cities great; there are hopeful moves of homes rehabbed and occupied, small businesses open, narrow bike stripes painted. And like other cities, we’ve gotten on board with the ‘greening’ of the city – thousands of new trees, some green roofs and rainwater collectors, and small but productive gardens.

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“Toward a Constructive Conversation

A Review of
Two New Books on the Church and Hip-Hop

Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.

hiphop redemption -WatkinsHip-Hop Redemption:
Finding God
in the Rhythm and the Rhyme
Ralph Basui Watkins
Paperback: Baker Books, 2011
Buy now:
[ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]


Beyond the Four Walls:
The Rising Ministry and
Spirituality of Hip-Hop

Walter Hidalgo
Paperback: AuthorHouse, 2011.
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[ Amazon ]
[ Kindle ]

Beyond the Four Walls - HidalgoI am a white male in his early 30’s. I listen to lots of hip-hop. I am a follower of Christ who is part of an Episcopal church in Houston, Texas. It might surprise you to learn that those three statements are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’m rather proud of my seemingly contradictory stature in each of those three communities, as I feel it gives me a bit of particular insight into the arguments, cases, and claims that these two authors make in their respective books about hip-hop and the Church. Do I claim to be any sort of authority on hip-hop culture? Far from it, but I do know what it’s like to feel misunderstood and marginalized by a community because you represent the vaguely tolerated “other.

Both of these books seek to discuss why hip-hop is disdained by the greater whole of Christendom, yet present different ideas and cases for why it shouldn’t ignored any longer, especially by serious men and women of faith. With Watkins, we hear the tale of an accomplished theologian and professor (who also happens to be a DJ in his free time) speak clearly about plumbing the spiritual depths of hip-hop. And with Hidalgo, we read the story of a passionate youth minister seeking out cogent ways to integrate hip-hop culture with how the Church reaches out to urban communities.

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“A City Aflood in Color, Music and Life

A review of
Symphony City
by Amy Martin

Review by Chris Smith.

View sample pages from the book:
[ one ] [ two ] [ three ] [ four ] [ five-six ]

SYMPHONY CITY - Amy MartinSymphony City
Amy Martin
Hardback: McSweeneys/McMullens, 2011.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

The indie publishing group McSweeney’s, long heralded for their creative writing, has recently launched a children’s book imprint called McMullens.  The first book published under the new imprint this summer was the lovely Symphony City by Amy Martin, a noted graphic designer whose work has appeared in newspapers across the country, including the New York Times, and on concert posters for notable bands such as Death Cab for Cutie and Band of Horses.  The book tells the story of a girl who gets lost in the city on the way to see the symphony and follows the music on an adventure through the city until she eventually arrives home.  However, only a very small portion of the story is told in words, and the bulk of it, appropriately, is told through Martin’s superb illustrations.  The book is itself a symphony of line, shape and color, swirling through the streets and the air – a flock of golden birds is prominent motif that swoops through the book.  Martin’s depiction of urban life is undoubtedly a touch idealized – a city aflood in color, music and life – but like Peter Brown’s delightful recent picture book The Curious Garden, it is a hopeful book that reminds us of the best of urban culture.

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“The Wealth of Embedded Urban Knowledge

A review of

The Trouble with City Planning:
What New Orleans Can Teach Us.

By Kristina Ford.

Review by Brent Aldrich.

THE TROUBLE WITH CITY PLANNING - Kristina FordThe Trouble with City Planning:
What New Orleans Can Teach Us.

Kristina Ford.
Hardback: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

In community development work and neighborhood meetings that I’ve been a part of, it’s sometimes baffling when a neighbor asks, “when will they (fill in the blank: fix these abandoned houses, build our light-rail line, build a Wal-Mart, whatever)?” Presumably this is the same they who are always saying things (they say…), and if they would just get to work instead, all would be right with the world. Of course, this is not how our city or any other works, but rather through dynamic daily interactions of neighbors, businesses, city officials, and planners. Furthermore, in a neighborhood such as ours in Indianapolis, neighbors have established regular practices of planning and working together for the good of the whole – so questions as to when they will do anything often suggests a level of disconnect on the part of the asker, as that they is usually us.

Part of the difficulty of parsing this idea about how cities work is the similar assumption that city plans are created and implemented far away from the average neighbor. The idea that city planners operate on a level above the concerns of residents, those on the ground, is entrenched is American cities, often in practice, as any student of Jane Jacobs can cite. Kristina Ford’s new book The Trouble with City Planning: What New Orleans Can Teach Us takes a comprehensive look at how exactly city planners work, and why their practices have become often inaccessible to anyone beyond planners themselves. For anyone invested in urban places, this book is a valuable resource.

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