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Posts tagged "urban planning"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi I really liked your post about what to do with a masters in urban planning. Currently I'm getting my undergad in sociology with honors but I want to get a Masters of Urban Planning or Urban Studies. There are a lot of different schools offering such programs in the US, how do I choose which is right for me?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi Anon,

First, check out my advice for students at the bottom of my FAQs page. Please have a look!

Depends on your point of view - are you into theory or developing your career? If you are into developing your career, think of a masters degree as an apprenticeship. Look for schools that offer real world experience - ones that offer you a graduate assistantships or good internships that will place you in a some sort of development office - a city or town’s planning department, economic development office, historic planning association etc.

Once there, work very hard and cleverly to get onto any project in addition to your assigned tasks. For example, if you are assigned to work on updating GIS data (a cauldron of terrible doom, btw), ask to edit the latest economic development report, ask to take pictures of easements, request to take minutes at planning board meetings (you should show up anyway). These experiences will be invaluable later on (you’ll also be ahead of your cohort).

You must network network, network.

I also recommend working with professors that used to be urban planners and, if you can find out, have funded projects. 

Good luck!


I filmed this chaotic scene in Hanoi, Vietnam recently. Watch the guy in the tank top (far right) cross through without a hitch.

Asker cuckoomocker Asks:
Hello! I'm a student in Washington, and I'm on my way to get a bachelors in urban planning. After that I'll probably go for a Masters. I was wondering though, as someone that has a degree in city planning, what kind of jobs do people end up with that aren't just city planners? When people talk about getting a city planning degree, they only talk about becoming city planners. Are there any other options?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi Cuckoomocker,

Such an interesting question - what are alternative careers other than “urban planning” with an urban planning degree? There are a lot of options. It depends on your interests and your focus area. During my urban planning education at UMass-Amherst, I studied adaptation of coastal cities. But, I gained a lot of real world skills from graduate assistantships and volunteering - survey design (learn this!), historic preservation, economic growth, eminent domain, city park protection, water infrastructure, even apple orchard design, (don’t go into GIS, btw). From there, I became a specialist in adaptation and now I work around the world (OK, it’s not that easy, but I apply what I learned in grad school on a daily basis).

  • How about fighting wildfires in National Parks?
  • Work with game reserves in Africa and South Asia to protect rhinos, big cats, and elephants.
  • Drop your ethics, sell your soul to the devil and become a real estate developer. You’ll make a ton of money.
  • Or, double down on your ethics and go into international development. Help other countries build good communities.
  • What about historic preservation? Do homes, monuments, buildings, places, etc., need to be preserved for history?
  • Geographer
  • Archeologist
  • Land use attorney
  • Architect

Here’s an interesting job for recent graduate at the BLM $47k to $82k: “Recent Graduate Interdisciplinary (Natural Resources Specialist/Mining Engineer/Geologist”

There are tonnnnns of options for urban planners. I recommend, for your masters, that you latch on to an adviser that has very interesting ideas and projects in the real world. Avoid theorists (unless you want to teach). Protip: get as many graduate assistantships as you can with various city departments  - then call them “consultancies” on your resume - you’ll blow your competition away come job hunting time. Oh, and apply for jobs 6 months ahead of your cohort (trust me on this, your cohort will turn on you come graduation and are vicious competitors for the same jobs you’ll be applying to.).

Hope that helps a bit…


Some climate adaptation ideas - build canals - for the great city of Boston.

Boston’s solution to sea level rise

A report scheduled to be released Tuesday about preparing Boston for climate change suggests that building canals through the Back Bay neighborhood would help it withstand water levels that could rise as much as 7 feet by 2100. Some roads and public alleys, such as Clarendon Street, could be turned into narrow waterways, the report suggests, allowing the neighborhood to absorb the rising sea with clever engineering projects that double as public amenities.

The canal system was among the more imaginative solutions offered by some of the city’s leading planning, architecture, and engineering firms in a report compiled by the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

Other suggestions include raising the Harborwalk, which rings the waterfront, to act as a stronger barrier for nearby buildings, adding breakwaters in the harbor, and creating wetlands that would act as sponges during periods of high water.

The authors said the ideas are intended to show how the region can respond creatively to the dramatic effects of climate change.

Via Boston Globe

Announced in June, Obama’s $1 Billion resilience and infrastructure grant program is now live. Eligible organizations can only apply (instructions at bottom). Minimum grant award is $1 million, maximum is $500 Million(!). I consult on grant applications, so if you’re a municipality or an eligible organization, contact me to chat.

Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is pleased to open its sixth knowledge domain, Sustainability Transitions, for submissions. In this video, Editor-in-Chief Anne R. Kapusckinski introduces her domain.

Meet Professor Austin Becker, Assistant Professor of Coastal Planning Policy and Design at University of Rhode Island. He focuses on coastal adaptation and resilient sea ports. He’s also a good friend of mine.

If Mogadishu occupies an ambiguous space in our minds and hearts, it is because ours is a land with an overwhelming majority of pastoralists, who are possessed of a deep urbophobia.

Maybe this is why most Somalis do not seem unduly perturbed by the fate of the capital: a city broken into segments, each of them ruthlessly controlled by an alliance of militias.

by Somali writer Nuruddin Farah (1988). I read this mind blowing quote while researching migration as a climate adaptation option for certain cities.

Urbaphobia" - the condition that cities are a threat to rural life. As a consequence, said cities will not obtain the support required for their long term existence.

I’m not sure of the cultural scale required for urbaphobia to supplant the viability of cities, but it is an interesting concept. Perhaps, for example, Detroit needed a certain level of support from the surrounding rural areas in order to survive. If true, which other cities are threatened by this phobia?


This Pop-Up Solar Power Station Can Be Installed Instantly Anywhere In The World

At the push of a button, this shipping container instantly transforms into a pop-up solar power station: Hidden solar panels slide out of drawers on each side and immediately start generating energy wherever they’re needed, whether for disaster relief or in a remote village far off the grid.

—If that’s not good enough for you, then there’s also this:

The first model, released this month, includes onboard atmospheric water generators that pull water from the air. “We’re able to provide water without a water source,” says McGuire.

Read more

Interesting. I work in international development, and I can’t see who’d pay for these. Taxpayers? 

It seems the media loves them more than the markets. Diesel and gas generators are way waayyy cheaper. They’re produce more energy for more people in more places. They’re more accessible, easily repairable and replaceable, and are a more efficient response mechanism than a battery (solar panels charge a battery, then the battery is plugged into power station or some other distribution hub). In fact, many states already have long-term contracts with utilities to use the more reliable and time tested fossil fuel generator.

Utility power companies should consider using temporary power plants (coupled diesel or gas generators coupled, electric transformers with built-in power substation, fuel tanks and other power accessories) when no other possible alternative source of power generation, such as diesel-powered generators, is available to supplement the electricity shortfall during repairs and maintenance.

These plants can, for example, use a 100 MW rental power plant for six months to avoid power interruptions and continuously supply electricity to critical areas such as airports, data centers or hospitals… See here.

The fact that they’re dirty and pollutive does not trump their utility or world-wide acceptance.

I’d also point out that, as sexy as these units are, solar rental systems already exist. They’re used in the field by temporary construction crews, and possibly by disaster response teams (it’s unclear from their website), but their utility, availability, deployment times, maintenance and other costs are still unproven.

Finally, who is responsible for disposing the batteries?

(via fastcompany)

Climate change poses a direct threat to the infrastructure of America that we need to stay competitive in this 21st-century economy. That means that we should see this as an opportunity to do what we should be doing anyway, and that’s modernizing our infrastructure, modernizing our roads, modernizing our bridges, power grids, our transit systems, and making sure that they’re more resilient. That’s going to be good for commerce and it’s obviously going to be good for communities.
–– President Obama, delivering remarks at the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience Meeting, July 16, 2014


Nice Al Jazeera op-ed covers Obama’s climate resilient cities competition.

Rebuild by Design,’ an Obama initiative, announces winning resilience planning proposals. My favorite is at top right, Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge: A Comprehensive Strategy for Hoboken, NJ. The team won $230 million(!) to implement the water front plan, which aims to restore wetlands, raise boardwalks, protect residents, and control the flow of water from storms. Worth clicking through!