But all is not lost for the American city. In the past few years a new movement of neighborhood activists, architects, environmentalists, multiculturalists, municipal officials, and other city lovers has grown up to celebrate -- and fight for -- the special strengths and pleasures of urban life. And their efforts have been boosted by a wave of feisty newsletters and magazines that make a compelling case for what we miss by turning our backs on cities.
The Urban Ecologist, the magazine of the Bay Area group Urban Ecology, is a veritable treasure chest of valuable ideas on how to make cities greener, cleaner, and more lively. I always turn first to the Ecological Development feature, which in just five pages inspires and energizes me with news of initiatives around the world. Recent issues reported that 90 percent of the homes in Brasilia, Brazil, use solar water heaters; a four-acre garden in the shadows of Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project employs 50 low-income kids growing food; and San Jose has established a green line beyond which development cannot sprawl. The same broad definition of urban ecology is found throughout the magazine as it offers details on topics ranging from ecofriendly construction materials to Toronto's secrets for urban livability.
The Urban Ecologist, Urban Ecology, 405 14th St., Suite 900, Oakland, CA 94612. Subscriptions: $35/yr. membership (4 issues).
The Neighborhood Works, a magazine published for 20 years
by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, emphasizes
solid, practical information that community organizers and
neighborhood activists can put to work in their own towns. The
publication does an especially good job of examining the issues of
poverty, transportation, toxic waste, gentrification, and
strategies to take back power in local politics, offering broad analysis but also successful examples from communities around the nation. The
The Neighborhood Works, Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2125 W. North Av., Chicago, IL 60647. Subscriptions: $30/yr. (6 issues).
Places, an environmental design journal, brings a scholarly and suprising eye to the urban landscape. Written for landscape architects but appealing to anyone interested in the subtle and sometimes marvelous ways that a city works, Places examines everything from the importance of bus stops as a community gathering spot to how a housing project in Norfolk, Virginia, was reinvigorated by an architectural makeover that encouraged neighborly sociability.
Places, Box 1897, Lawrence, KS 66044-8897. Subscriptions: $30/yr. (3 issues).
New Urban News, a smart-looking newsletter, focuses on a specific area of the growing consciousness about cities: New Urbanism, an architectural movement dedicated to establishing new developments modeled on classic city neighborhoods, with sidewalks, narrow streets, corner stores, and garages behind the houses. While many of these projects are built in outlying suburban areas, they aim to create a city feel, and their success disproves the widespread notion that people no longer want the qualities an urban neighborhood offers. New Urban News keeps track of projects under way in 29 states, including a number of inner-city initiatives, and stays abreast of social, economic, and political news that affects the movement.
New Urban News, Box 6515, Ithaca, NY 14851. Subscriptions: $69/yr. (6 issues).