On Thursday evening at MIT, a lecture hall was packed tight with students, professors and other associates of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning seeking new answers to the question: “How should planners think about using economics to help cities develop a smaller environmental footprint?”
Panel moderator, Professor Frank Levy, opened the discussion with that question. Panelist Matthew E. Kahn of the University of California at Los Angeles, an economist, re-framed the question to impose it upon himself: “What do economists bring to the table on this important issue of low carbon cities?” His presentation was preceded by David Albouy of the University of Michigan and Nathaniel Baum-Snow of Brown University. Each panelist offered a twelve-minute presentation of his research. MIT professors Judy Layzer, Tunney Lee, Eran Ben-Joseph, and Xavier de Souza Briggs asked the opening questions, in that order. The conversation continued for over 30 minutes after the opening 56 minutes available in the audio file above.
The event was characterized by pressing questions from panelists and audience alike, as well as the wry and self-effacing breed of humor that only economists seem to master.
As the discussion unfolded, it found its way to bridges yet uncrossed more so than answers. Gulfs emerged between red and blue; lived experience and theory; density and sprawl; a planner’s job and an economist’s job; and the patterns of this generation and generations past (among other gulfs), ultimately validating the very idea of a talk that aimed to integrate disciplines.
This event, The role of urban economics in shrinking cities’ environmental footprint, was one in a series called Reinventing the City@MIT. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning sponsored the event.