Ecocity snapshots from around the world

We hear from global voices about our future in the urban age: how can cities and citizens rebuild our human habitat in relation to living natural systems?

Published 14 July 2017

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA. David Holmgren, Co-originator of the Permaculture concept: Permaculture activism and education have, over the last decade, stimulated some of the most inspiring examples of household and neighbourhood-level adoption of better ways to live; while simultaneously reducing debt, living costs and environmental impact. In Melbourne, and throughout Australian cities and towns, this growth of household and community non-monetary economies could provide hope for urban planning and economic policies that reinforce rather than suppress retro suburbia. Picture: Rushall Gardens, North Fitzroy Community Gardens Group.
RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL. Dr Theresa Williamson, Catalytic Communities: More than half of humanity now lives in cities. In the coming decades that number will grow – primarily with informal settlements in the developing world. But all cities, particularly developing cities, will play an important role in the fate of the human race, and most other species. Power should devolve to cities to allow them to take on this role with strength. An ecocity is a sustainable, vibrant, diverse and human-centred ecosystem. We must realise the need to incorporate natural and cultural diversity, downscale, localise and strengthen the human spirit, as core principles to our future success. Picture: Augusto Janiscki Junior.
SUVA, FIJI. His Excellency Mr Yogesh Punja, Fiji High Commissioner: The global environmental pressures on our small island nation, Fiji, and its population are huge. If we start applying first-world technologies in a new era of ecocity and smart city solutions, we may have a chance. Picture: Shutterstock.
Jakarta, Indonesia. Rachmat Witoelar, the Indonesian President’s Special Envoy for Climate Change: Fighting the threat of climate change must be countered by ensuring the resilience of cities and regions alike. The basic strategy is to ensure the involvement of the population in executing the Paris Agreement stipulation which is: no-one left behind. In the case of Indonesia, we are in the process of fulfilling the pledge to reduce emission by 29% from Business as Usual by 2030 and also to increase the resilience of our country. Picture: Getty Images.
ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA. Ian Hunter MLC, Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, and Minister for Climate Change, South Australia: Adelaide is embracing the opportunities a low-carbon economy presents and is aiming to become the world’s first carbon neutral city. It’s an ambition shared by the State Government, the City Council and growing number of city businesses. We’re well placed to get there given Adelaide is already a smart GigCity; it is leading Australia’s renewable transition, as well as having the nation’s best recycling rate. Picture: Adelaide Smart City Studio.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN. Associate Professor Richard J. Smith, Wayne State University and Core Advisor for Ecocity Builders: Will Detroit become an ecocity? Will any city? We will only know this seven generations from now. The human settlements that are built in harmony with nature are the ones that will remain. The visionaries at this conference will make the connections to walk towards this goal. As Detroit’s own Rosa Parks once said: To bring about change, you must not be afraid to make the first step. We will fail, when we fail to try. Picture: Supplied.
HONOLULU, HAWAII. Associate Professor Judith Stilgenbauer, Director of Graduate Programs, University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Architecture: In times of changing climates and rising sea levels, near-shore urban ecological design practice must focus on dynamic adaptation strategies that decrease waterfront vulnerabilities. We are uniquely positioned to address the urban challenges of our time through water-sensitive, ecological design concepts for climate-change resilient, adaptive urban waterfront zones. Picture: D_Ramey_Logan/Wikimedia.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN. Björn Hugosson, Head of the Climate Unit at the Executive Office, City of Stockholm: Stockholm is one of the fastest growing capitals in Europe. At the same time, the per capita emissions of CO2 has been reduced by 50% since 1990. The city´s goal is to become fossil fuel free by 2040. There are several eco-districts in Stockholm, notably the Stockholm Royal Seaport. The role of these districts is to show what is possible in terms of low-carbon housing, local environmental solutions and high-quality living. The most promising solutions will up-scaled and transferred to existing areas. Picture: Stockholm Royal Seaport.
KANSAS, MISSOURI. Associate Professor Rachel Krause, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas: Kansas City is a national leader in the use of green infrastructure to manage storm water run-off in ways that increase climate resiliency while also contributing local green space, air and water quality, and quality of life. Politics and resource constraints remain obstacles to many cities’ efforts, but what continues to stand out is the dedication, creativity, and leadership of the city staff pursuing these initiatives. The world really does look a lot better from the bottom up than from the top down. Picture: Kansas City Water Department.
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM. Professor Elkhadi Hisham, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford: Cities have reached a point of climate departure with no possibility to return to their original status. Many cities face major societal and ecological transformations that require immediate intervention for their future survival. There is urgency to develop and work simultaneously on complex ecological frameworks to suit the varied status of urban environments in different parts of the world. Greater Manchester is leading on a smart cities programme that is socially inclusive, ecologically responsive and digitally driven. Picture: The Co-Op Group/Flickr.
LAGOS, NIGERIA. Dr John D. Njoku, School of Environmental Sciences, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria: Nigerian cities are in difficulty, arising mainly from man-made rather than natural events, and these are shaping their future. These are cities that are fatigued by an increasing population, high and rising unemployment rates, an over-taxed transport system and weak public policy. The future for these cities is not assured, and they are slowly grinding to a halt in terms of their functionality. Time will tell. Picture: Rainer Wozny/Flickr.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND. John Mauro, Chief Sustainability Officer, Auckland Council: Sustainability is a necessary companion as Auckland grows, helping to convert the challenges of growth into benefits – delivering better, broader and lasting outcomes for people, prosperity and place. Auckland has shifted approaches to transport from an almost exclusive focus on roads to a serious investment in transport choice. While Auckland still has a ways to go to compensate for underinvestment over previous decades, including investing NZ$200m in bike infrastructure over 3 years, its people and its economy take big steps forward. Picture: Auckland Transport.
GUJURAT, INDIA. Arpit Shah, Technology and Environmental Politics,Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad: India is a developing country undergoing rapid urbanisation. As urban populations in India have grown and the pressures on urban spaces and infrastructure have increased, climate conditions in cities have deteriorated. It is also a geographically diverse region, and climate challenges will vary by location. Some of the major challenges will include sea level rise, increase in heat waves, and reduction in forests and green cover. Climate action is still picking up in Indian cities and has not achieved scale yet. Picture: Wikimedia.
SINGAPORE. Dr Abel Tablada, Assistant Professor, Architecture, National University of Singapore: Singapore has made substantial contributions towards the reduction of the intensity of its greenhouse gasses emissions in relation to the country’s economic performance. Important steps have been the shift from oil to natural gas for electricity generation, the development of efficient public transport while taxing private cars and limiting transit in central urban areas, and the increase of the horizontal and vertical areas covered by vegetation. Picture: Wikimedia.

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