Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Green City Vision

llustrations of a downtown in transformation from car-city to the ecological pedestrian city...

A typical car-dominated city downtown with larger box-like buildings and “ample parking,” with its associated congestion, smog and paving of surrounding land for sprawl.

The downtown in transition: restructuring while recycling building materials, digging up once-buried natural waterways, adding pedestrian infrastructure and building upon a transition to “mixed uses” and “balanced development” in which the important activities are provided for within a short distance.

An ecocity downtown with waterways restored, bridges between buildings, pedestrian streets, solar active and passive energy technology and design, rooftop access to elevated “streets” and bridges between buildings. Slowly, people are moving in from the suburbs toward city and town centers using development profits to help pay for buying and removing buildings in automobile dependent areas. Now the city center runs on a fraction of the energy as before, has streets filled with fruit trees, is extremely friendly to the pedestrian and the whole city takes up much less room, making room for more agriculture and natural land.

“The city can save the Earth” – the Charter of Calcutta, 1990

What is a Green City?

A Green City is an ecologically healthy city. No such city presently exists. We do, however, see hints of Green Cities emerging in today’s solar, wind and recycling technologies, in green buildings and green businesses, in urban environmental restoration projects, urban gardening and organic farming, and in individuals using foot, bicycle and public modes of transportation in preference to the automobile. Car-free urban centers, “mixed use” and “balanced” development projects represent land use and architectural changes moving in the right direction, too.

But despite such positive signs and efforts, the much larger trend around the world is toward cars and sprawl. And now we are at a point of crisis in the way we live, which is largely determined by the way we build. This continuing trend is promoting global warming, species extinction, loss of habitat and agricultural land, serious public health problems and even war.

The prevailing strategy for “saving the environment” has largely been to try to improve a dysfunctional system. But some things cannot be improved without causing further and more destructive problems.

Instead of trying to improve an unhealthy automobile and oil based infrastructure, this conference calls for the city, town and village to be redesigned around the measure, needs and potential of the human being and based upon ecological principles.

Specifically it calls for urban diversity at close proximity, instead of scattered uniformity. It calls for land uses, architecture and a steadily and rapidly growing infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit, powered by renewable energy sources and balanced with preservation and restoration of natural and agricultural lands and waters.

We have not yet tried such an approach. Its promise for creative, productive and restorative solutions are enormous. All new things start with a small number of people clarifying and communicating their offering. You are invited to be among us.

— Statement from the conference conveners, adapted from the "Green City Visions" 2005 United Nations World Environment Day Conference convened by Ecocity Builders and the City of Oakland, California

Get ready to change the world!

Throughout Earth Day Week, April 22-26, 2008 in San Francisco, California, the Ecocity World Summit (7th International Ecocity Conference) will be convening an international community of inspired change-makers; courageous individuals who are addressing problems of the world's environment with thoughtful long-range solutions that are truly sustainable, ecologically healthy and socially just.

The International Ecocity Conference Series brings together the key innovators, decision makers, technologists, businesses and organizations shaping the conversation around ecological and sustainable city, town and village design, planning and development. We intend to put these issues on the economic and environmental agenda for 2008 and beyond.

Ecocity World Summit 2008 Themes

  • People: population, health, equity, and access
  • Nature: protecting and restoring the planet’s living systems and agricultural lands
  • Sustainable Development: land use, transportation, architecture and infrastructure
  • Economies & Technologies: building the supporting markets, businesses and technologies
  • Incentives & Support Structures: role of government, organizations, institutions and individuals

The time to act is now. Life-threatening global environmental problems and limitations on resource consumption demand a restructuring of cities and transportation systems worldwide for long-term energy efficiency and conservation. Concerned citizens in every community - in every city, town and village - must get involved in formulating and implementing new land use and transportation policies and practices, preserving agricultural lands and open space, and reclaiming natural habitat.

Please join us in San Francisco, and let’s change the world, together!