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From the Ground Up, an Animated Film

For decades American cities have experimented with ways to remake themselves in response to climate change. These efforts, often driven by grassroots activism, offer valuable lessons for transforming the places we live. In From the Ground Up: Local Efforts to Create Resilient Cities, design expert Alison Sant focuses on the unique ways in which US cities are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change while creating equitable and livable communities. She shows how, from the ground up, we are raising the bar to make cities places in which we don’t just survive, but where all citizens have the opportunity to thrive.

The efforts discussed in the book describe how urban experimentation and community-based development are informing long-term solutions. The book’s four parts show how U.S. cities are reclaiming their streets from cars, restoring watersheds, growing forests, and adapting shorelines to improve people’s lives while addressing our changing climate. The best examples of this work bring together the energy of community activists, the organization of advocacy groups, the power of city government, and the reach of federal environmental policy. 

Sant presents 12 case studies from cities across the nation. Residents in New Orleans are remaking their neighborhood streets and sidewalks to manage stormwater. The urban tree canopy is being expanded by advocacy groups in Washington D.C. along with job training in the growing sector of urban forestry. In New York, transit agencies are working make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians while shortening long-commutes. In San Francisco community activists are creating shoreline parks while advancing equity in neighborhoods long effected by environmental injustice. The book’s case studies are based on research and over 90 interviews with people who are working in these communities to make a difference.

From the Ground Up is a call to action. When we make the places we live more porous, lush and alive, we need to make them socially just, resilient and self-directed and, in so doing, address the history of injustice. Advocates, non-profit organizations, community-based groups and government officials will find examples of how to build alliances to support and embolden this vision together. Together we can build cities that will be resilient to the challenges ahead. You can find From the Ground Up: Local Efforts to Create Resilient Cities (2022) at Island Press: This video animates artists Packard Jenning’s illustrations featured throughout the book. Music: “Wide Roll” by Portland’s Rose City Band on Thrill Jockey Records.

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