Ecocities Emerging

Jay Owen Sustainability News

top bar

Ecocities Emerging

To support humanity’s transition to the Ecozoic Era

Ecocity Builders

October 2013




Ecocity World Summit 2013, Nantes, France, has concluded. It was a very successful gathering and also a lot of fun! Our sincere congratulations and thanks go out to Nantes Metropole, Senator Ronan Dantec, Annie Claude Thiolat and the conference staff, and last but not least to the 2000+ delegates from 77 countries who joined with us to advance the global ecocity movement. You can learn more about the conference in this edition of Ecocities Emerging.  


In other news, Ecocity Builders and the International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS) initiative, in conjunction with its citizen outreach component, the EcoCitizen World Map Project, has received several recent grant awards, one through the Eye on Earth Community Sustainability and Resilience Special Initiative for implementation in Morocco and Egypt, and one from theOrganization of American States’ Sustainable Communities Program for a pilot project in Medellin, Colombia. We’ve also been asked to bring the IEFS and our international network to a countrywide effort being launched out of El Salvador called the El Salvador Sustainable Logistics System. This bold and transformative initiative is being spearheaded by CEPA, the organization in charge of developing El Salvador’s infrastructure, led by its President, Alberto Arene.   


Immediately following Ecocity World Summit 2013, Ecocity Builders was made a Lead Partner of UN Habitat’s World Urban Campaign. This honor and opportunity will afford us and our network added visibility and prominence and will enable us to share the ecocity model with an established international community working towards a world that works for all, not just for the few. We’re looking forward to contributing to this important campaign.   


Our continued consultation with the Kingdom of Bhutan on their future plans for sustainable development using the ecocity model is currently under discussion with the Ministry of Human Settlements and Public Works. It could be a breakthrough alignment between the ecocity approach and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Initiative. We are additionally scoping a bioregional plan proposal for several clusters of ecocities and ecovillages on the South Korean island of Jeju. This development is following Richard Register’s keynote talk at the “International Green Island Forum” in Jeju last month. In November, Richard will be speaking at the Fifth Ecopolis Forum in Beijing organized by the International Ecopolis Society under the leadership of Professor Wang Rusong with the Chinese Academy of Science.  


Last but not least, we would like to take this opportunity extend a warm welcome to Abu Dhabi as host of our next International Ecocity Conference/Ecocity World Summit 2015. Suhaila Al Munthari graciously received the conference baton during the closing plenary in Nantes and conveyed Abu Dhabi’s commitment towards an influential global event in 2015. It is of particular note that this will be our first conference in the Middle East. The decision to award the conference bid to Abu Dhabi was based on both geography and principle. First, as said, we have yet to hold a conference in the Middle East. But much more than geographic representation, we believe it is important to go there and learn, not only about Islamic and “Kasbah Belt” architecture and city design that has a great deal to offer ecocity knowledge ­­- but also to better understand this extremely important and often much misunderstood area that has been for over 60 years the source of the lion’s share of the energy that has powered the urban enterprise internationally. That also has been the double edged sword that has brought both material wealth and poverty – in very different measure to different people – to the area.  


We believe that our experience gives us the power to bring good ideas to help people, cultures and nature in the form of improved city ideas wherever we gather. In Abu Dhabi the potential for learning, teaching and simply communicating will be enormous.


As we build, so shall we live,  


signature, white
Kirstin Miller

Executive Director



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.

Ecocity Builders 

339 15th Street, Suite 208

Oakland CA 94612 USA




24 Years of Ecocity Conferences

by Richard Register, Founder of the International Ecocity Conference Series and President of Ecocity Builders

Richard Register, Founder of the International Ecocity Conference Series

I’ll get to highlights from Ecocity World Summit 2013 shortly but first… Am I proud of launching the first of the International Ecocity Conferences? Well it does feel great to see that in Nantes the tradition marches on. And yes we who put on the first in the series worked fabulously hard in 1989 and l990 and had some real successes at the time – as I noticed so did Senator of the Loire Atlantique départnent and Conference Chair Ronan Dantec and Annie-Claude Thiolat, Project Manager for the Tenth International Ecocity Conference and the rest of their crew. It all took place in Nantes, France, the European Commissions’ European Green Capital 2013 and home of Ecocity 10, aka, The Nantes Ecocity World Summit. (The European Commission is, says Wikipedia, “the executive body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union’s treaties and day-today running of the EU.”)

But the conference series wasn’t actually my idea. I started off our conference this year with the keynote talk mentioning that. Though in important ways I am the founder of the series for organizing the first of the International Ecocity Conferences and many people assumed I’d had the idea, I had not. But it has been a wonderful success in the eyes of thousands of participants by now and if there is a lesson in the story it is that each of you in the audience, I said, can take away a good idea and apply it yourself – you’ll be hearing many extraordinarily powerful and helpful ideas here in Nantes at this conference – go for it! Carry them back home, out into the world and do something about them. We can do it.

It was a zoologist named Lee Altenberg, I told the audience, who in 1988 suggested the idea for a major ecocity conference. He knew the 20th anniversary Earth Day events were coming up in April of 1990 and there would be a major opportunity to bring important environmental ideas into action through many events because of the anniversary’s added attention. He also had been noticing that it seemed no one but Urban Ecology, the organization I was president of previous to Ecocity Builders, was working energetically on ecocity issues. I realized the conference was a great idea and adopted it. I chose the rather generic name for it – the International Ecocity Conference – borrowed $1,000 at 7% interest and started work, volunteering my time otherwise, paid for mostly by my labors in earthquake retrofit construction – we’d just had the Loma Prieta Earthquake and everyone was bolting down their houses to their foundations or reinforcing the strength of their walls in other ways. I worked about 30 hours a week doing that up to three months before the conference, after which a few small grants and registrations for the event began rolling in paying the bills. At that point an assistant and I started getting paid for the work.

The idea of a conference series wasn’t mine either. To my delight Paul Downton, architect from Adelaide, Australia and one of our star speakers at the First International Ecocity Conference, seeing the high spirits and fabulous information at Ecocity 1, immediately after offered to hold Ecocity 2 in Adelaide in 1992 – and we were off and running as a conference series. The series idea itself, then, was another good idea I happily adopted and activated.

As said, I stressed to the Nantes audience, if there’s a lesson in it, it is that good actions for powerful ideas can echo through history for decades. All that’s required is that people of good conscience gather up their energy and do something. This admonition goes out now to all you readers of this newsletter too.

Nantes Highlights

Senator Ronan Dantec

This was our first conference with a national legislator,Senator Ronan Dantec, hosting. It was also the first of our conferences to be attended by a country’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. Both of them in their talks had a great deal to offer in terms of real substance for major moves toward ecocity change. Currently I’m in correspondence to get the transcripts of recordings to make them available to our Ecocity Builders members and those in the galaxy of our past conferences attendees, most of whose addresses we have in our Ecocity Builders records.

One of the highlights was in fact their pledges, the Senator’s and the Prime Minister’s, to carry one of the main themes of the conference into international debate. Specific recommendations to link ecocity concepts, current policies and projects to climate change at up-coming international events, such as the COP 19 taking place in November in Warsaw, was among them. As readers of the newsletter will note from many earlier articles herein, we have for years been trying to get the issue of urban layout and design into the deliberations at the highest levels about those ecocity/climate linkages. All sorts of supply side solutions, many very good, such as promoting solar and wind energy, have gotten considerable attention and entered into various national policies and into the global consciousness. All sorts of technologies for conservation, better constituent materials in products and buildings, better recycling, more preservation of natural areas and support for “alternative” transportation infrastructure and vehicles have been debated and turned into policies of various sorts around the world. But precious little was to be heard in these deliberations of the basics of ecocity principles and major changes in the physical arrangement of cities. And this despite the glaringly obvious fact of the scale of cities, largest creations of our species. Maybe this will change and maybe largely due to efforts of people in attendance at our conference, including Senator Dantec and Prime Minister Ayrault. It might be mentioned also that the Prime Minister was also Mayor of Nantes in past days and in that position must have learned a great deal about the workings of and importance of cities in policy, society and nature. It wasn’t for nothing Nantes was chosen by the European Commission as the European Green Capital of 2013.

Dasho Dr. Sonam Tenzin, Bhutan

Gross National Happiness was the notion of the fourth King of Bhutan back in 1971, represented at our conference by the country’s Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Dasho Dr. Sonam Tenzin. His brief: highways, bridges, dams, power plants, airports and cities. In 1971 when asked how his country’s Gross National Product was doing King Jigme Singe Wangchuck (pronounced WONG-chook) retorted that Gross National Happiness was more important. Thus, in an off handed manner, he launched that most serious and should-be-legendary GNH initiative of Bhutan. That simple but powerful notion, that the economic objective of production and consumption should be in service to the people’s happiness instead of being the objective of economic policy, was in itself a profound and courageous notion to put into the international debate. And so it was that it became a major emphasis of our conference as well. With approximately the same population of San Francisco and a land area a little smaller than Switzerland, the country’s efforts for GNH made it among nations the mouse that roared out a message of powerful importance putting values ahead of profits. And in the confluence of ecocities and GNH I for one am hoping we can magnify both concepts and show that through far better city design we can make nature as well as people much happier.



Echanges croisés Ecocity World Summit Nantes 2013

“Ecocity s’inscrit donc comme une étape collective dans la préparation des grands rendez-vous internationaux qui vont converger vers 2015, sur l’agenda du développement comme sur la conclusion du nouveau cycle de négociation climat Durban-Paris 2015. Une convergence qui nous fait penser que 2015 sera, pour notre avenir collectif, l’année la plus importante depuis 1992. Sur le chemin vers 2015, Ecocity va ainsi être l’opportunité de réfléchir ensemble sur les perspectives nées des conclusions, même modestes, du sommet de Rio+20, sur l’évolution de la gouvernance mondiale de l’environnement ou sur les objectifs de développement durable.”

LINK TO ARTICLE @ Courleux SansFrontieres – JeanLouis COURLEUX


Ronan Dantec, Sénateur de Loire Atlantique, Porte Parole Climat de Cités et Gouvernements Locaux Unis (CGLU), Severn Cullis-Suzuki, activiste écologiste, écrivain, Canada, Rob Hopkins, Co-fondateur de “Transition Town” et du Réseau Transition, Royaume Uni, Arab Hoballah, Nations Unies, PNUE, Ecocity, World Summit Nantes 2013. (c) Jean-Louis Courleux 

Richard Register, Président fondateur Ecocity Builders, USA Ecocity world Summit Nantes 2013 (c) Jean-Louis Courleux


(c) Jean-louis Courleux

READ ARTICLE (in French! with very nice photo gallery)

The EcoCitizen World Map Project comes to the Middle East- North Africa

Ecocity Builders, Mundiapolis University, and Cairo University to launch the EcoCitizen Map Project in Casablanca, Morocco, and Cairo, Egypt, under the Eye on Earth Community Sustainability and Resilience Special Initiative. 


Dr Mohammed Barkaoui (Vice-President Student Affairs and Director of Engineering School, Mundiapolis University), Tarik Nesh-Nash (E-governance Research Center, Mundiapolis University), Kirstin Miller (Ecocity Builders), Dr Amine Bensaid (President, Mundiapolis University)

The EcoCitizen Map Project provides a low cost platform and toolkit that facilitates sharing and analysis of important local information about urban ecosystem strengths and weaknesses – as a whole and as a collection of parts (i.e. neighborhoods and districts). Urban problems and issues, as well as potential short and long-term solutions, can be inventoried, assessed, documented, shared and monitored. Additionally, the idea of geodesign – bringing together the fields of geography and design to create better places (more green, energy efficient, healthy, etc.) is fundamental to the approach. The Project will demonstrate an accessible, easy-to-use, comprehensive, globally applicable and locally adaptable urban sustainability framework via an online portal supported by social media and a geospatial map application and toolkit.

The Eye on Community Sustainability and Resilience Special Initiative will provide tools and data for sustainable development at the urban level, and test a replicable and accurate methodology to link community crowd-sourced (foundational sustainability) data and information to national, regional and global data sets.  In addition, the CSR Special Initiative will demonstrate the efficacy of crowd-sourced data at urban scale and provide tools and training to public officials and others who want to ensure a more sustainable urban environment through more informed decision making.


33 Million Strong, Women Form Unprecedented Alliance

Declaration and Action Agenda Takes on Climate Change and Promotes Sustainability Solutions  


New York– Unlikely partnerships, meaningful policy, reaching beyond the choir, gender equality and a commitment to bold action were all on the agenda as 100+ women from around the world gathered in New York for three days of dialogue and deliberation at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Emerging from the gathering, a burgeoning collaborative of organizations with a combined reach of 33 million women and men is now poised to become a major force in the climate and sustainability movements.


From indigenous leaders to former heads of state, from scientists to pioneers in fields of renewable energy, business and policy, the Summit was a who’s who of women leaders from the Global South and the Global North.  This diverse cohort of delegates found unity around a ‘Declaration Statement for Urgent Action on Climate Change and Sustainability Solutions’ and laid the foundation for a Women’s Climate Action Agenda to be finalized in the coming weeks.  The Agenda builds upon the core concepts of the Rights of Women, the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Rights of Nature, and the Rights of Future Generations, addressing issues ranging from the protection of oceans and fresh water to divestment from fossil fuels and putting a high price on carbon.  See the full text of the Declaration here: 


Link to full press release 

One of eight break-out groups that met during second day of the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit Saturday September 21, 2013 in Suffren NY.Leaders from 35+ countries gathered for the drafting of a Women’s Climate Action Agenda in Suffern, New York September 20-23rd, 2013 as part of the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. For a full list of Summit delegates and an agenda visit Photo by Lori Waselchuk/Magazines

Car Free Journey


This month, our car free journey spotlights Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Despite its old age, Albuquerque is nothing short of a funky, eclectic, sunny getaway. The city boasts a great mix of art, culture, outdoor recreation and family fun. It is situated in the high desert which means four distinctly mild seasons and beautiful sunrises and sets against the backdrop of the beautiful Sandia Mountains and three small volanoes on the western horizon.

It is a getaway that is affordable as well as accessible for weekend travelers. Because most major attractions are within walking distance of a downtown hotel, or along a bus route, the city is a good weekend getaway choice for visitors who don’t want to drive.


Albuquerque New Mexico

Ecocity Updates

News, events and announcements



CEPA President Alberto Arene, (4th from left) poses with regional and international experts at the launch of El Salvador’s Sustainable Logistics System Initiative (Ecocity Builders’ Executive Director Kirstin Miller is 3rd from right)


October 10-11, 2013

Building a Sustainable Logistics System for El Salvador 

San Salvador, El Salvador


Ecocity Builders’ Executive Director Kirstin Miller joined a meeting to launch the design of a Sustainable Logistics System for El Salvador organized by CEPA, the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador and the Basel Convention Regional Center for Central America and Mexico.  



November 17, 2013dopamine

Ecocity Builders teams up with Absinthe Films

Berkeley, California: California Theater 

Door: 8:00pm / Show: 8:30pm

Buy tickets at:

Milosport (East Bay CA) – 


Absinthe Films Full Spectrum Snowboarding brings its 2013 North American Premier Tour to Berkeley’s California Theater. Absinthe will donate part of their proceeds to Ecocity Builders in appreciation for our work to raise awareness about the causes of and solutions to global climate change.      




November 18-21, 2013 

Ecocity Builders’ President Richard Register will participate in the U.S.-China Eco-cities Mayoral Exchange, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development.  


The Exchange showcases U.S. eco-city best planning practices and technologies while learning about the planning and technology needs and innovative practices of the Chinese eco-cities.  The Alliance to Save Energy is organizing the Bay Area portion of their U.S. visit. 




November 21-22, 2013

Ecocity Builders, AGEDI, UNEP, the Association of American Geographers and partners will kick off the Eye on Earth Community Sustainability and Resilience Special Initiative – Paris, France  


The Eye on Community Sustainability and Resilience Special Initiative will provide tools and data for sustainable development at the urban level, and test a replicable and accurate methodology to link community crowd-sourced (foundational sustainability) data and information to national, regional and global data sets.  In addition, the CSR Special Initiative will demonstrate the efficacy of crowd-sourced data at urban scale and provide tools and training to public officials and others who want to ensure a more sustainable urban environment through more informed decision making.  





November 25-26, 2013

Executive Director Kirstin Miller will represent Ecocity Builders at the UNEP-SBCI (Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative) Symposium in Paris, France  


The UNEP-SBCI is a partnership of major public and private sector stakeholders in the building sector, working to promote sustainable building policies and practices worldwide.



November 29-30, 2013

5th International Ecopolis Forum, Beijing, China. Ecocity Builders’ President Richard Register will attend and deliver a keynote talk on “Asian Leadership in Ecocity Design”.    


ECB logo

                                 Our Partners


icleieye on earthworld urban campaign logo

  esri logo

UN Habitatlogo_nantesREDE NOSSA SAOPAULOushahidiUNISDR

bcit logocp-logo 



Feeding the 5000  

Nantes/Ecocity World Summit 2013