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Cities People Planet

technical practice - Herbert Girardet. Wiley-Academy, 2004. 304pp. £19.99

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.

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