Ecocities Emerging – November 2011 Issue

Welcome to the November 2011 edition of Ecocities Emerging, an initiative of Ecocity Builders and the International Ecocity Conference Series.

In collaboration with leading scientific reseachers and Nobel laureates, a group of Earth system and environmental scientists led by Johan Rockstrom from the Stockholm Resilience Centre have developed a global framework defining nine Earth system processes whose boundaries, to the extent that they are not crossed, mark the “safe zone” for life on the planet.

As outlined in last month’s Ecocities Emerging, three of these boundaries have already been crossed (climate change, biodiversity and biogeochemical flows) while others are in imminent danger of being breached. These breaches are a result of human actions and activities originating, directly and indirectly, from cities and citizens and the industrial sectors that provide our products and services.

In a systemic way, cities are the both the problem of and the solution to this immense global crisis situation. And fortunately cities, when called upon, can take mass action to solve massive problems, as they have before. Cities already helped restore one planetary boundary in 1989 through passing local laws to phase out CFC’s and other atmospheric ozone-depleting compounds in accordance with the Montreal Protocol. The group went on to form what has become one of the largest and most influential coalitions of cities in the world working to address long-term sustainability: ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability currently led by Secretary General Konrad Otto-Zimmermann). ICLEI now has 1220 local government members from 70 different countries and in that sense represents more than 569,885,000 people. You can click here to read ICLEI’s submission to the Outcomes Document for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) (also referred to as ‘Rio+20’).

Whereas most previous approaches to environmental problems have centered on minimizing human impacts, planetary boundaries thinking takes a new approach to defining a safe operating space for human development. Which leads to the question, “How should we build and live in order to exist within the planet’s safe operating space?” This, we believe, leads to the ecocity solution (cities in balance with living systems) and international initiatives such as the International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS).

Ecocity Builders and the IEFS Advisory is currently in discussions with ICLEI, other city networks and local government associations, as well as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs organizing the Rio+20 event, to help think through what concrete actions cities and citizens can propose to catalyze the systemic changes needed now in order to ensure sustained human life on earth.

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