Roseland rethinks sustainable cities amid social distancing

As this pandemic unfolds before our eyes, it is clear that it will shape our generation much the way the Great Depression and the World Wars shaped the generations of those times. So says sustainability scientist Mark Roseland and his co-author Ray Tomalty in a new piece published at

Social distancing raises profound questions for our approaches to sustainable cities. Sustainable cities and a suite of related terms such as urban sustainability, smart growth, eco-cities, new urbanism, and sustainable communities share a revulsion toward urban (and rural) sprawl, and a prescription for more compact urban development.

In some ways social distancing can help us see what more sustainable cities could be like. These include reductions in travel and air pollution, and increases in digital connectedness and respect for social institutions. But there are downsides, as well.