Can Our Cities Become More Resilient?

“Plan for the future, because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.”
-Mark Twain

This past year in Vancouver has brought some wacky, wild weather, most notably a few wind storms that knocked out power to thousands of households for up to 5 days. The most recent loss of our power made me realize how truly reliant we are on this complex tangle of pipes and wires, the operation of which is completely out of our control, and that our houses are built to survive only with their hookups, as if on constant life support.

So when I hear all these independence buzzwords like ‘living off the land,’ ‘off-grid,’ and ‘Earthships’ my ears tingle. How amazing would it be to live on some rural farmland in my straw-bale cabin with my chickens, bees and garden, feeling unstoppable in the face of whatever my unpredictable friend mother nature can throw at me?

The problem is, immediately following this pleasant dream comes inner conflict, as it would require needing to move away from my cushy, central-city lifestyle full of bike riding to the pub and walking to friends’ houses.


Urban core


  • Strict building codes preventing me from building a tiny house or alternative living space
  • Likely a considerable mortgage
  • Much lower footprint living in high density
  • Can bike to everything rather than drive
  • Urban gardening is becoming more popular
  • Access to jobs and city activities


  • Small house with limited yard space (but there’s parks!)
  • (In some areas) chickens and bees allowed
  • Reliant almost entirely on electricity and water hookup

Rural (Farm)


  • Get to fulfill a dream of building my own house 
  • Potentially mortgage free
  • Quiet surroundings, slower speed of life
  • Potentially lower pollution (cleaner air)
  • I’d love to raise kids in a farm setting and have animals


  • Can be lots of work
  • Not everyone can live like this! Ultra low density for all isn’t realistic.
  • May need to drive to and from your job

Which one is better? What would I decide given the choice?

Well that didn’t help my decision- they both sound great. Is there a way to get the best of both worlds? Many architects and creative city planners are already working on ways to build more liveable, resilient cities.

Building codes are being changed to allow densification, small houses and natural building materials, and city bylaws are starting to permit backyard beekeeping and chickens.  A democratization of energy is also underway, creating solar and wind farm co-ops where regular citizens own a part of the energy infrastructure and therefore have a say in how it’s operated.

We’re taking back control of our lives, as I’ve spoken about before, and creating stronger, more independent, ‘anti-fragile’ communities. So maybe I can live in the city and have my chicken farm. Hmm, but my family of pigs might have to wait.

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