Anthropogenic Climate Change is Urban Not Modern: Towards an Alternate Critical Urban Geography

  • Peter James Taylor Northumbria University, UK
  • Geoff O'Brien
  • Phil O'Keefe
Keywords: anthropological climate change, cities, modernity, urban demand


The idea that anthropological climate change is purely a product of modernity (industrialization) is challenged by the contention that such environmental change is many millennia old and is a consequence of urban demand. This argument combines the urban growth theory of Jane Jacobs with the early anthropogenic climate modeling of William Ruddiman and requires a trans-modern sensibility for handling climate change in both theory and practice. We argue for a critical urban geography approach and offer two initial contributions. First, a new urban geographical narrative is constructed to replace the modern progress myth and its top-down political and technological presumptions. Centred on 8,000 years of urban demand, our alternative narrative highlights everyday consumption activities as the crucial link in the human-environment planetary relation. Second, this leads to suggestions for new ‘bottom-up’ research agendas, both historical concerning the crucial under-estimation of urban process, and contemporary relating to: the urban demand mechanism, framing a politics of change through cities, and locating cities in the theory of social reproduction. This is an ongoing rethinking exercise that concludes with an invitation to readers to engage and develop this critical research path.

Author Biography

Peter James Taylor, Northumbria University, UK
Emeritus Professor, Department of Geography
How to Cite
Taylor, P., O’Brien, G., & O’Keefe, P. (2017). Anthropogenic Climate Change is Urban Not Modern: Towards an Alternate Critical Urban Geography. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 16(4), 781-803. Retrieved from