To support humanity's transition into the Ecozoic Era
Ecocity Builders' delegation, which in the end totaled 28 people, has returned from Rio de Janeiro and Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Although Rio+20 did not deliver a clear pathway and consensus for how to launch the global green economy "in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development", the process did convene an earnest conversation and a vetting of new concepts and ideas about how to address the issues, with a corresponding long list of proposals and voluntary commitments headed towards the goal. Please see the articles in this newsletter edition for commentaries on what Rio+20 did and did not deliver.
The Rio+20 process helped to promote Ecocity Builders' visibility and outreach to the world. Over the next year we will work to advance the policies, measures, timelines and implementation strategies we have introduced into the global agenda for sustainable cities. Building on the energy and momentum generated through the Rio+20 process, the next Ecocity World Summit, slated for September 2013 in Nantes, France, will present a high potential for deepening our global influence which we intend to leverage as much as possible working in partnership with the conference organizing committee. Here are some of Ecocity Builders' next steps based on our achievements over the last 10 months.
- Achievement 1: Annexed into the Rio+20 Outcome document (facilitated through the RioDialogues civil society process) we now have the following directive: "Each head of state should identify a sustainable city to develop a network for knowledge sharing and innovation. Governments should channel resources to develop people-centered sustainable cities with timed and measurable goals, in such way that empowers local communities, promotes equality and accountability."
- Next Steps: Work with the United Nations, the Major Groups, the "Friends of Sustainable Cities" nations and other partners and associates to help guide the process to develop specific timed and measurable sustainable city goals and measures while empowering local communities through providing access to ecocitizen tools, strategies and technologies.
- Achievement 2: ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, in partnership with Ecocity Builders, launched the Ecocity Network just prior to Rio+20 at their World Congress meeting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. A core group of early partner cities has been identified to take the lead during the next stage of indicator development and testing of the Ecocity Framework and Standards.
- Next Steps: Coordinate with ICLEI to plan the program for development of the Ecocity Network, including the testing and implementation of ecocity indicators that are globally applicable and locally adaptable.
- Achievement 3: We have been invited to participate with UN Habitat, the lead UN agency for cities and urban issues, in the formative process of the upcoming World Urban Campaign (WUC). We can hopefully bridge this process to the development of a new platform for the next generation of sustainable development guidelines and measures that will replace the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire in 2015. Our influence within this process, linking to the Rio+20 sustainable cities mandate coming through the Rio Dialogues process and the ICLEI Ecocities Network, could help shape how millions of dollars are invested in cities around the world after the MDGs expire.
- Next Steps: Work with UN Habitat and partners to steer the World Urban Campaign in the direction of a holistic, urban system approach to healthy cities and citizens with clear and specific goals and measures.
- Achievement 4: In partnership with crowdmapping organization Ushahidi, we launched the Ecocitizen World Map Project at Rio+20 and began testing it in several favela communities and neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. The map offers a place and a pathway for people everywhere to add their voices and be counted as contributing members of the new green and equitable economy.
- Next Steps: We will continue to work with our partner communities in Rio de Janeiro in partnership with our local NGO partners, Catalytic Communities and Transition Town Santa Teresa. Our intern Ana Puhac is staying on in Rio to advance the citizen engagement process we've begun through use of the map and its applications. Ecocity Builders is also partnering with Esri, a GIS (geographic information systems) mapping software company helping people understand and visualize data to make decisions based on the best information and data available. Esri had created an ArcGIS based add-in for the Ecocitizen Map that allows ArcGIS to connect to the Map, convert text between languages, and download the data into a geodatabase. This opens up the feed of data being captured by the EcoCitizen Map to the rich spatial and temporal analysis tools within ArcGIS, allowing users to empower action and inform decision makers using a sound scientific approach. We are additionally partnering with the Mozilla Foundation to test out Popcorn Maker 1.0 and the EcoCitizen Map with youth. Popcorn Maker 1.0 will empower EcoCitizens to make web-based media based on the data and citizen information posted to the Map. EcoCitizens will be able to publish and share their creations on their blog, Twitter, or Tumblr.
Those are a few of the key outcome highlights from our Rio+20 experiences. We have a variety of colorful reports back from Rio for your enjoyment in this newsletter edition. Over the past 10 months we've met so many inspiring people and have made many new friends and partners from all corners of the world who share the ecocity vision. I know they will inspire all of us onward.
As we build, so shall we live.
Keeper of the International Ecocity Conference Series
Ecocity Builders is a non-profit organization dedicated to reshaping cities, towns and villages for long-term health of human and natural systems.
339 15th Street, Suite 208
Oakland CA 94612 USAwww.ecocitybuilders.org
| Favela as a Sustainable Model|
|"Favela como Modelo Sustentavel" |
with English subtitles
In June, Ecocity Builders joined Rio NGO Catalytic Communities
and attendees of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
on a visit to Asa Branca, one of many progressive, action-oriented favelas in Rio de Janeiro. We also joined CatCom at the People's Summit for a joint side event on "Favela as a Sustainable Model." Ecocity Builders, CatCom and the favela leaders attending pledged to continue to work together to help shed a positive light on favelas and their potential to become ecocities of the future.
|Visiting Asa Branca with community leader Carlos Alberto Costa (in blue shirt)|
We will continue to engage with these communities and other neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro around the ecocity framework for sustainability, utilizing the tools for citizen engagement we are building with Ushahidi, Esri and Mozilla Foundation. See The Ecocitizen World Map
for real time updates posted directly to the map!
Forte do Leme with Suzana Gueiros, organizer, University of Rio de Janiero (in right foreground) for "Sentinals of Sustainability" with Ecocity Builders
Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientist for UNEP; Russel Gault, ICLEI, and Richard Register, Ecocity Builders
Small special square we noticed while wandering around the city
"Building Ecocities" side event at RioCentro. With Senator Ronan Dantec, France, and Kirstin Miller, Ecocity Builders
Ecocity Builders' Ashoka Finley at the People's Summit charging up his cell phone
Side event at the People's Summit with Catalytic Communities.
Global Forum on Human Settlements - evening reception
Nicholas de Monchaux, UC Berkeley, presenting his work at the Building Ecocities side event
| POSTCARD FROM RIO|
Environment Ministers at Rio+20
By Jonn Bramen, Regional Director, Ministry of the Environment, British Columbia, Canada
As a public servant and environmentalist, one of the things that impressed me at Rio+20 was the number of Environment Ministers attending who took time to interact with the Major Working Groups.
Brasil's minister spoke at a couple of events I attended, highlighting her country's achievements toward sustainability, which are many. I am not sure their shift in policy around the Amazon forests is being seen as positively by others as she described. But certainly their progress away from fossil fuels is impressive and if my nose's impression of Rio's air quality is accurate, even with this cold, vehicles burning cleaner fuels will be most welcome here.
Denmark's Ida Auken spoke briefly about the successes and challenges in her country. Geothermal energy provides them with huge potential for green energy export, but comes with nature's own air quality challenges for the planet, and in particular for those living on the smaller islands, while the much larger Greenland continues to "green" as the ice pack on it melts at an ever alarming rate. Recent measurements of CO2 levels at 400 ppm on Canada's equally northern Ellesmere Island seem to indicate the permafrost melting feedback loop may have begun. I would very much liked to have heard more from her, but she cut her talk short to accommodate Ban Ki-Moon arrival at the session.
Of all the environment ministers I heard (and I didn't get to all sessions) it was the Singapore Minister for Environment and Water Resources that resonated most for me. As a city nation responsible for 5 million citizens on a 30 km long island they, like many island nations, are good allegories for our only planet. They do not have the space for waste or contaminants and they have a very real water supply challenge with a fully built environment. Unlike our planet, they do have neighbors to trade with and they are supporting their commerce, in part, with "green economy" such as export of their desalination technology. Tianjin, a Sino-Singapore Eco-city development is another example. While neither Singapore, nor Tianjin are 'perfect' EcoCities in the visionary sense, they are huge steps forward in the recognition of the finite capacity of our planet and our species essential role to 'get it right'. We can only hope all our countries 'get it' and soon!
|POSTCARD FROM RIO
|Cities Discuss Sustainable Approaches at Global Town Hall
At the ICLEI Global Town Hall meeting held at Rio Centro on June 21st, several sustainable cities approaches were showcased.
Jeb Brugmann, ICLEI founder and past Secretary General, highlighted the value of "productive cities" that can produce food, energy and water within the built environment through use of various technologies including passive solar for water heating and space-conditioning, photo-voltaics for electricity generation, urban agriculture, rainwater harvesting, etc. He called upon the mayors and city officials present to pursue creativity and courage in leading their cities to innovative solutions that address the need for more sustainable modes of production and consumption. While he acknowledged that transformation in the economy is also critical, his message that cities are key to sustainability solutions echos that of Richard Register's message about ecocities.
|Richard Register at Global Town Hall, Rio+20|
Register's presentation at this same event emphasized the important role of cities in addressing climate change by creating places where people can live free from automobile dependency. Register outlined the five strategic areas that must be addressed to achieve cities that are in balance with nature:
i) population: enable women to access education, jobs and family planning services
ii) agriculture - diet nexus: secure productive agricultural spaces within and surrounding cities and avoid excessive consumption of meat and other foods that are energy-intensive to produce
iii) built environment - design cities, towns and villages to meet the needs of the human body, not the car body
iv) generosity - this is the opposite side of greed! We must focus on how we can help each-other to produce safe, happy and fulfilling lives while living within the means of nature
v) education - that helps inform people about the above four issues.
Konrad Otto Zimmerman, the current ICLEI Secretary General, summarized the ICLEI Global Town Hall Cities Day event by observing that "if you listen to the political statements, you realize that we are going to need ecocities."
At the ICLEI World Congress 2012 held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil prior to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, ICLEI agreed to launch the Global Ecocity Network comprising five cities that will engage with Ecocity Builders to test and further contribute to the development of the International Ecocity Framework and Standards. Mayor Joao Coser of Vitoria, Brazil, has agreed to chair the ICLEI Global Ecocity Network. Mayor Coser is also the President of the Brazilian National Front of Mayors.
Mayor Coser joined Richard in a panel discussion at the June 21st ICLEI Town Hall (Cities Day) to talk about the importance of sustainability in cities. Other panelists included Tong Yen Ho, CEO, Sino-Singapore Tianjin Ecocity, Investment and Development Company and Marianne Fay, Chief Economist for the Sustainable Development Network of the World Bank. While panelists represent different perspectives and experiences, they all agree that moving towards sustainability in cities is key.
Car Free Journey
By Steve Atlas
York County, Maine: Use the Trolley Instead Of Your Car
When vacationers travel to southern Maine's ocean beaches, most people sigh and join the traffic lines and congestion. They assume anyone visiting Maine needs a car. However, that doesn't need to be true. Take AMTRAK's Downeaster train, from Boston (North Station) or Portland, Maine, to Wells.
At the Wells (Maine) station, get off the train and transfer to the Shoreline Explorer's Shoreline Trolley (Route 4). The Shoreline Explorer is a network of four summer trolley routes (three are private operators), and three shuttle buses that serve five beach communities in York County. Because many beaches and hotels are located near a trolley stop, you don't need a car to enjoy a vacation here.
|Photo credit the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce.|
Getting To York County Without a Car
From Logan Airport in Boston, take the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority)'s Blue line subway marked Bowdoin to State Street. Transfer at State Street to the Orange Line marked Oak Grove. Get off at North Station where you will board Amtrak's Downeaster Train. going to Portland. Get off at Wells.
If you are coming to Boston by train (either AMTRAK or MBTA commuter train), get off at Back Bay Station. Then take the Orange line marked Oak Grove. Follow the directions given in the last paragraph.
You can also begin your vacation in Portland, Maine. From Portland Maine's Airport, take Metro Transit route 5 to the Portland Transportation Center, located at 100 Thompson's Point Road.
Get on the Downeaster and take it to Wells. Amtrak's Downeaster has five trains every day between Boston and Portland, ME. Take the train to Wells, ME ($19 one-way from Boston, or $11 from Portland). The Shoreline Trolley stops at the station.
| The Two Big Conferences in Brazil -|
Some Strong Seeds in Degrading SoilsBy Richard Register, President, Ecocity Builders
|View from Fort Leme, Rio de Janeiro|
(June 14 through June 17, the "World Congress of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability" and June 18 through 23 the "United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development" organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and associated events hosted by many others.)
First, the bad and the ugly...
You have undoubtedly heard by now another major UN conference bit the dust, this one on sustainable development in the gorgeous, even extravagantly beautiful natural setting of Rio de Janeiro. Stewards and stewardesses on airplanes radiating outward from Rio around June 24 must have noticed an unusual scattering of glum faces.
Among the representatives of cities and city issues, however, we did alright. Ecocity Builders I think I can say with some assurance provided among the brightest contributions and this time - we were at Rio in 1992 with both booth and a few talks - for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. I was also at the Stockholm UN environmental conference back in 1972 - I seem to be stuck on giving the UN a chance. In Rio again a week ago, we figured in, in shall we say, a medium major way that could lead to major positive advances. Kirstin Miller, our Executive Director had grabbed the UN conference bull by the horns and managed, in ten months ranging from Oakland to New York to Bonn, Germany to Nairobi, Kenya to work us and our issues, especially our International Ecocity Framework and Standards, into several different venues, workshops and tours, some fairly influential. Meantime inter-national progress continued de-progressing.
Now the question is, can we strengthen our side, the positive side, the side where cities take the initiative and influence the nation states which are doing all they can to ignore the world's largest environmental and development - read "sustainability" - problems? A few positive ideas emerged from the conference. First though the broad strokes which most conscientious environmentalists and sustainability advocates see as more than a little discouraging. Then a few details, from my ecocity/ecotropolis/bioregional point of view of course, some of which amount to promising new ideas.
Crimes of state
Leida Rijnhout of the Northern Alliance for Sustainability out of Brussels, Belgium representing the "Organized Partners of the Major Groups" of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at the Rio+20 Summit identified several glaring omissions in the outcomes of the official deliberations of nation states.
She started out like this: "It feels amazing to be sitting in this room among all the world leaders, and feeling all this power around me that can shape the world. We all know the threat that is facing us, and I do not need to repeat the urgency. Science is very clear. If we do not change in the coming five to ten years the way our societies function, we will be threatening the survival of future generations and all other species on the planet."
And what did she say the representatives of nations had done in Rio?
1.) Failed completely to mention planetary boundaries, tipping points or the Earth's carrying capacity as if nothing was learned from the continually advancing science of ecology since before Earth Day 1970, 2.) silently continued the subsidy in 100s of billions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry, the most profitable industry in the world whose main products' byproducts are throwing off the planet's atmosphere and climate balances, 3.) failed to give a clear mandate to even start negotiating an agreement to stop the Wild West abuse of the high seas, 4.) failed to address women's reproductive health issues, 5.) missed opportunities to start new global treaties on civil society participation and sustainability reporting, 6.) didn't make a peep about armed conflicts, the war budgets and arms trade around the world, and, 7.) omitted reference to nuclear energy - particularly noteworthy after the Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan during and following the Sendai/Fukushima Tsunami of March 11, 2011. And much more.
George Monbiot, author of "Heat - How to Stop the Planet from Burning," copyright 2006, eloquent as usual, speaking through the publishing auspices of the Guardian in the UK added these points noting in particular the role of the United States in "savaging" the Earth summit's draft declaration. "The word 'equitable', the US insists, must be cleansed from the text," Monbiot notes. "So must any mention of the right to food, water, health, the rule of law, gender equality and women's empowerment. So must a clear target of preventing two degrees of global warming. So must a commitment to change 'unsustainable consumption patterns' and to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources."
That's what he wrote looking at the draft outcomes document going into Rio + 20 Conference. After the conference on June 25, he wrote, again in the Guardian, an article titled "After Rio we know. Governments have given up on the planet."
"It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth's living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations - the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia - could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit in Rio last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue 'sustained growth', the primary cause of the biosphere's losses... governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it." He adds, "The declaration is remarkable for its absence of figures, dates and targets. It is as stuffed with meaningless platitudes as an advertisement for payday loans, but without the necessary menace. There is nothing to work with here, no programme, no sense of urgency or call for concrete action beyond the inadequate measures already agreed in previous flaccid declarations. Its tone and contents would be better suited to a retirement homily than a response to an escalating complex global crisis."
|POSTCARD FROM RIO|
Ecocity Builders' Rio+20 Bid for Sustainable City Systems & Measures By Rick Smith, Ecocity Builders, IEFS Core Advisor Professor at Wayne State University
What do Ecocity Builders, Jeff Sachs, and Walmart have in common? They each came to Rio+20 to promote the need to measure, set standards and goals for sustainable development.
In 2008 in San Francisco at the Ecocity Summit, attendees urged Ecocity Builders to launch a program to create an Ecocity labeling system for cities. After all, anyone could claim that they were an Ecocity and not have to justify the label. Well meaning developers build green buildings in locations that have a bioregion that cannot support a major city. Until that point, Ecocity Builders focused on design, advocacy and demonstration projects. After almost three years of incubation with a set of core advisors, the International Ecocity Framework and Standards was launched at the 2011 Montreal Ecocity Summit. This new framework proposed 15 Ecocity Conditions that include the Bio-physical, Socio-Cultural and Ecological Imperatives.
Ecocity Builders has partnered with the British Columbia Institute for Technology (BCIT), the William and Helen Mazer Foundation, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and China to move the IEFS forward. The next step will be joining Early Partner Cities to crowdsource and Beta test the standards.
The excitement of the IEFS launch helped bring Ecocity Builders into the Major Groups process for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, otherwise known as Rio+20. For 10 months, Executive Director Kirstin Miller flew back and forth to New York to help negotiate the zero draft of the cities portion of the outcome document. While this conference was not set up to have a treaty as an outcome, the consensus document for the conference was anticipated to be a firm global policy framework to encourage voluntary commitments among member states and civil society.
Although the cities section placed an emphasis on cities as a solution to sustainability, the document did not contain any language to encourage an IEFS. However, the Government of Brazil provided one bright opportunity unprecedented in United Nations conferences. They created a social media site for conference participation and invited the world to join. Global citizens were asked to crowdsource ideas and vote on the best ones. Ecocity Builders convened a meeting with other city NGOs and came up with a proposal to promote global standards of sustainability for cities. Two weeks before the conference, this proposal was selected to be in the top ten that went to the world for a vote. When we arrived in Rio, the Government of Brazil scheduled a panel discussion for these recommendations on Monday, June 18th. The world would pick one of the top ten by an internet vote, the attendees of the conference would pick one and the expert panel on cites would come up with a third recommendations. For about a week, we had no idea if our proposal would go forward or exactly how this would work.
There were three rounds of voting. In the first round of voting, our proposal came in 6th. The winner was "to use waste as a source of energy". While biomass has a role on a small scale, it is not always the most efficient use of resources because some biomass has embedded energy that can be recycled for other purposes.
The panelists had a similar reaction to the world vote on solid waste for energy. Indeed, informal waste pickers staged a bit of a protest in the audience when it was time for questions and answers. Millions of people make a living in recycling industries. If we simply burned our trash, it would put these families out of business.
Mayor Jaime Lerner made a good pitch for standards as did Mr. Oded Grajew, President Emeritus of the Ethos Institute. However, when it came time for the Sustainability Director of one of those "self-proclaimed" ecocities to speak, she said, "We do not need sustainability standards for cities because every city is different. If you want to see a sustainable city, come to ours."
In the next round, the audience voted for "Plan in advance for sustainability and quality of life in cities." While it was not our proposal, it was not anything to disagree with. However, when the panel deliberated for the final round, Janice Perlman said, "You know, we are all of one mind here at the table, let's integrate some of the comments." The moderator proposed this text and it was adopted by the panel:
Each head of state should identify a sustainable city to develop a network for knowledge sharing and innovation. Governments should channel resources to develop people-centered sustainable cities with timed and measurable goals, in such way that empowers local communities, promotes equality and accountability.
This recommendation, in a nutshell, is the essence of our proposal plus engagement with Early Partner Cites, or something very much like it. This directive will be annexed into the official Rio+20 Outcome document.
Measuring sustainability was very much a theme in other parts of the conference. Business will further advance the Global Reporting Initiative. The consensus document embraced the concept of the Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. Kirstin Miller observed the tail end of the SDG negotiations. She observed that the diplomats scratched their heads and didn't know what to say and called out for the experts to guide them on developing SDGs. We will do just that and we are not alone. ISO will also be engaging with sustainability measures for cites. And UN Advisor Jeff Sachs remarked at a panel for youth, "The Sustainable Development Goals will work because they are not a treaty. The three treaties from Rio 92 were excellent and never implemented but created a cottage industry for lawyers. The MDGs work because no country wants to be seen as being worse off than others."
Ecocity Builders will be moving forward with the IEFS to encourage each city to race to stay within the earth's carrying capacity.
| Rio+20 - A beginning |
By Felix Dodds
Chair of the 64th UN NGO Conference and Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum
Author of Only One Earth - The Long Road via Rio to Sustainable Development written with Michael Strauss and Maurice Strong.
The Rio+20 Conference finished last week amid a set of different views on its success or failure. It was definitely a turning point. What was clear from the beginning is that the leadership for Rio+20 was coming from the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China] and not the developed countries. This was the first sustainable development summit called for by a developing country, Brazil. At times it seemed as if the developed countries had to be dragged to the table.
It is clear that the document lacked vision and firm commitments but to those NGOs and Heads of State saying that I would ask, where were you when there was a chance to influence the process a year ago? Brazil showed amazing leadership finishing the negotiations before the Heads of State arrived, a record for a UN Summit.
What is clear is that there were some battles that were lost. The work undertaken by Greenpeace for an agreement to immediately set up a process to deal with a high seas biodiversity agreement to protect our oceans was opposed by the US, Russia, Canada and Venezuela. The processes set up will, in 2014, let the UNGA will to take "a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea". This puts off without a firm commitment to set up negotiations for a new convention on the high seas. This was one of the big disappointments from Rio+20 which did move forward many other issues dealing with the oceans including ocean fertilization, acidification, marine debris, illegal fishing and reaffirming the WSSD target for restoring fish stocks.
On the issue of fossil fuel subsidy, after 20 years of talking about it, Rio+20 could not agree to any plan for eliminating environmental harmful subsidies (such as fossil fuels). If Rio+20 had delivered, then these subsidies could have been shifted to help us finance the transition to a sustainable world.
Other issues that Rio+20 did not succeed in addressing were the refusal to recommit to reaffirm to a women's reproductive rights, water and sanitation as a basic human right and the lack of an upgrade of UNEP into a specialized agency are some that come to mind.
| "The problem is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result of their sprawl, they literally transform the earth, turn farms into parking lots and waste enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods and services over their expanses. My solution is urban implosion rather than explosion." |
| |The International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS) initiative seeks to provide a vision for an ecologically-restorative human civilization as well as a practical methodology for assessing and guiding progress towards the goal.Website http://www.ecocitystandards.org
To date in English, Chinese, German, French, Korean and Portuguese
Founded in 1992, Ecocity Builders is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reshaping cities for the long-term health of human and natural systems.
|Principal Features of an Ecocity |
|PRINCIPAL SPONSOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL ECOCITY FRAMEWORK AND STANDARDS|