Last year I visited Montreal to attend the Ecocity World Summit, a biannual gathering of visionaries from around the globe committed to creating cities where people live in mutually enriching relationship with each other and with the Earth. Looking at cities as living breathing organisms, with all their residents human and non-human forming an intricate web of interdependence, the very idea of an ecocity is rooted in a sharing principle, where citizens understand not only the physical value of making the most of our natural resources, but the cultural, spiritual, ecological, and ultimately, economic value inherent in building networks and communities.
To get back to this season’s water crisis, it’s the rich opportunities for reuse and recycling – not the scarcity – that should focus municipal debate about water. Actually, conserving or cutting back on water use is only a drop in the bucket of the water cycle-based strategy that’s needed.
As said in the introduction to this lecture held in spring 2011, Christopher Alexander has started a fire that keeps on burning, spread by the “wind” throughout the world. But in the wake of this fire there’s no ash, but only beauty and true living structure. As in the new cosmology of Alexander, matter is not inert anymore — it has spirit, revealed in the field of centers. This means that beauty is seen as a fact of the wholeness found in nature and the universe.
In the word-cloud of current events, the phrase “parasitic financial system” billows up to a degree that suggests even so-called thinking persons begin to understand what’s happening: that banking shenanigans are sucking the life out of advanced societies. That’s why Matt Taibbi’s metaphor of Goldman Sachs as “a Vampire Squid jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” remains so potent years after it was minted.
An urbanizing world requires major policy initiatives to make urban resource use compatible with the world’s ecosystems. Metropolitan Adelaide has adopted this agenda and is well on its way to becoming a pioneering regenerative city region. New policies by the government of South Australia on energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, zero waste, organic waste composting, water efficiency, wastewater irrigation of crops, peri-urban agriculture, and reforestation have taken Adelaide to the forefront of eco-friendly urban development. Working as a thinker in residence in Adelaide in 2003, I proposed linking policies to reduce urban eco-footprints and resource use with the challenge of building a green economy.
Building things by yourself, especially with leftover material, has this air of post-peak self-reliance. But, often, that supposes the existence of industrially made products. When you need wood, for instance, you can get planks or beams from a store or, more in a post-peak style, you use material taken from discarded furniture. But in both cases, the wood you use has been industrially processed.
Suppose, instead, that you live in a remote village in the mountains, a place like Valboncione, in Italy.
The bad news is that it is very difficult to get the American public to embrace household energy reduction despite the promise of financial savings. Local government and utility programs designed to tap into these savings rarely achieve even a 1–2 percent household sign-up rate. However, in the offing could be a game changer to unlock the latent green premium in our homes: an energy-efficiency label equivalent to a miles-per-gallon rating for vehicles. This could provide homeowners and prospective buyers with a straightforward understanding of household energy efficiency relative to similarly sized homes in the community and region.
Have you ever crashed a realtor’s open house — not because you were a buyer, but just so you could see what the owners have done with the house? That’s kind of how we feel when we read about the three Mother Earth News 2012 Homesteaders of The Year. We want to stop by each of these homes, just so we can learn everything about what they’re doing!
Sometimes well-meaning ‘green’ people like to imagine that the eco-cities of the future are going to look either like some techno-utopia – like the Jetson’s, perhaps, except environmentally friendly – or some agrarian village, where everyone is living in cob houses that they built themselves. The fact is, however, that over the next few critical decades, most people are going to find themselves in an urban environment that already exists – suburbia.
Rental or leasehold coops are democratically run organizations of tenants that equitably share costs of renting or leasing a building owned by someone else. Rental coops may share part of the management responsibility and often have more power collectively than single renters leasing from a conventional landlord. Nonprofits can also buy a building and rent it out to lower income folks who might not be able to afford shares. Sharing a house can offer big savings and can help people avoid foreclosure.
Going for a drive along a nearby street isn’t my usual idea of a good conversation starter or a way to get to know someone, but it was all for a good cause, so I gave it a try—and ended up seeing the internal workings of my main street for the first time.
How do cities concentrate energy and materials spatially? What is the relative emergy basis for modern cities, agrarian towns, and rural spaces? Do city dwellers use more or fewer resources than suburban or rural dwellers? Are big cities more sustainable in descent, as some propose, and how do we maximize empower in the future for our cities?