Ecocities Emerging – February 2013 Issue

Jay Owen Sustainability News

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Ecocities Emerging

To support humanity’s transition into the Ecozoic Era

Ecocity Builders

February 2013





For many years now we’ve seen headline grabbing debate — and efforts to kill the conversation — about climate change. But at the same time, we hear very little about urban form and design in the debate. As I often say, cities are the largest things human being create and are the biggest engines of climate changing forces — how’d they miss that?!  


Some few of the climate concerned mention something cursory about cities, but not much, and certainly it doesn’t roll off the tongue as part of the solution like, “hey let’s amp up solar and wind!” At least on the supply side we have that discussion, but on the demand side, we hear little about designing cities, towns and villages to require very little energy in the first place.  


And so when three weeks ago the New Yorker came out with the usual article on adaptation, I went ballistic all over again. When will we get with actually trying to prevent the problem?


There are a few important essays that change people’s perspectives or encapsulate a crucial issue for more social clarity. One was William James’ 1906 “The Moral Equivalent of War.” Another was Garrett Hardin’s 1968 “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Somewhere there needs to be one on getting climate change strategy right. My article in this month’s newsletter, “Much Better Than Climate Change Adaptation” is my best attempt on the topic at the moment.

As we build, so shall we live.

Richard Register
President, Ecocity Builders  





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  




Thank you to our major supporters: British Columbia Institute of Technology – School of Construction and the Environment; Helen and William Mazer Foundation; Columbia Foundation; The California Endowment and our patron members and long time supports. Your on-going support is crucial for helping to build the healthy city of the future.



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“10th International Ecocity Conference” 


Ecocity Updates

Upcoming events and announcements

3rd Fridays – Ecocity Builders’ general meeting

February 15, 6-7:30pm

Ecocity Builders’ members general meeting. 6:00pm – 7:30pm followed with drinks/dinner. 339 15th St. Suite 208, downtown Oakland. Cross street is Webster.Membership information. RSVP to[email protected]



April 2013

Ecocity Builders’ Board Meeting, Arcosanti, Arizona


Ecocity 2013 logo

September 25-27 2013  SAVE THE DATE Ecocity World Summit, Nantes, France

Ecocity Builders: Advisor Spotlight


andyAndy Likuski, Technical Advisor

Andy Likuski believes in the capacity of public space to create vibrant communities, regardless of today’s technological influences. He started his career as a software developer, having completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering at UC Davis at the height of the dot-com boom in California in 1999. While working for startups and large companies, he found that the built environment has succumbed to automobile use, leading to inefficient use of space, environmental neglect, and social isolation. He searched for like-minds who wanted to improve public space via pedestrianized streets, passenger rail, cycling paths, and the integration of the natural environment. He subsequently completed master’s degree in urban planning at Tufts University in 2012, during which time he applied his software skills to urban planning projects. He joined Calthorpe Associates, one of the country’s earliest and most influential New Urbanist architecture and planning firms, in early 2012 to help them complete a sophisticated open-source software product, Urban Footprint, to assist in planning long-term regional development. The software enables public entities to “paint” a variety of future land uses on a map of the parcels of their jurisdiction. It continually produces comparative results about per capita vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water usage, public health, and other important measurements of sustainability. After the completion of the initial version of Urban Footprint, created for the state of California, Andy currently leads the software development of the next more powerful version of the software. Additionally, Andy is on the board of directors of Californians for High Speed Rail, the primary advocacy group for the first high-speed rail network in North America. He also enjoys studying foreign languages, speaking French and Spanish well and currently learning German.

svenSven Eberlein, Communications and IEFS Advisor

Sven is a San Francisco-based writer, storyteller, and whole systems thinker covering issues of social, environmental, and economic significance. He’s a regular contributor to Yes! Magazine and Shareable, and his work has been published in Grist, Ode, Sojourners, Alternet, Planetizen, and many others. A creative muse at heart, Sven has co-written and recorded five albums with his band Chemystry Set, including Dancing on the Brink of the World, a multimedia book/CD combining archetypal short stories, music, and art.

As a member of Ecocity Builders’ communications team and the International Ecocity Framework & Standards core advisory committee, Sven has been intimately involved in the advancement of ecologically healthy cities for quite some time. His natural affinity for car-free living, however, dates all the way back to his first tricycle ride down the middle of the street in front of his childhood home in Stuttgart, Germany.

When he’s not in his Mission District neighborhood looking for new murals, tasty street food or guys in leotards on unicycles, Sven is helping clients with messaging and web design or musing from the spaces between soil and soul on his blog. Find out more or get the quick twitter fix @ecomuse.


CityBuzz: The “Mushroom Garden” underground park

by Naomi Grunditz, Ecocity Builders



The High Line Park in Manhattan — an old elevated railway transformed into a snaking park trail-has officially sparked a frenzy of excitement about rehabilitating old transit areas into green space, even through the idea has actually been around for a while (Paris’s Promenade Plantee debuted in 1993). But what happens when you’ve got an out of commission rail line-underground?


The defunct “Mail Rail” tunnel — a narrow gauge railway used for transporting mail around London-closed in 2003 and UK’s Landscape Institute, in partnership with the Mayor of London and the Garden Museum, has run a design competition to decide what to do with it. The 170 entries included some wonderfully creative ideas, from public swimming area to rehabilitated wetlands and a floating park. The winner: London-based Fletcher Priest Architects created a plan to turn the tunnels into an urban mushroom farm and pedestrian stroll. The pedestrian walkway would be lit at street level by glass-fiber, mushroom-shaped sculptures and the ‘shroom crop could supply pop-up “Funghi” cafes at the tunnel’s entrance and exit.


Check out the plans for the “Pop Down” here: Fungi are truly wonderful and under-appreciated organisms. In addition to providing food and visual delight for the visitors, the colony can help clean toxins from the soil. This is a wonderfully creative concept for a public park and truly unique-hopefully it will will be built!




Car Free Journey

By Steve Atlas


Sarasota, Florida

When you think of Florida, what comes to mind? Sunny winter beaches, escape from the cold-but don’t forget lots of traffic. Fortunately, many Florida getaways can be enjoyed without driving. Today, we visit one of them: Sarasota: the cultural center of west Florida with many attractive beaches. Our visit this month spotlights one of Sarasota’s top attractions: The John and Mable Ringling Museum.


The Ringling Museum is an experience you can savor for several days. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is well known for its outstanding baroque and renaissance art collections. The Ca’ d’Zan Mansion recreates the splendor of Venice-substituting Sarasota Bay for the Venetian canals. Two circus museums celebrate Ringling’s legacy as a circus owner. Each of these can easily take 2-3 hours to explore. 5 p.m. comes all too quickly, and you probably won’t want to leave. We didn’t when we visited in December 2012.


Fortunately, you can come back anytime during the next two days. By adding $10 to your normal admission fee, you can get admission for 3 days: the day you arrive, plus the next two days). When my wife and I visited, December 2012, we could easily have returned for a second day. Since our focus is visiting without a car, we will include information about how to get to Sarasota, where to stay, a Saturday visit to the Ringling, and spending Sunday exploring downtown Sarasota and nearby attractions.


You can even come here FREE if you belong to a participating NARM (National Assn. of Reciprocal Museums) or MARP (Museum Alliance Reciprocal Program) museum. To find a museum near you to join (ask for a membership that includes reciprocal membership privileges), visit  (for NARM museums) or  (for MARP museums). Before you arrive, be sure to visit the Ringling’s web site:  




ca d zan

Ca’ d”Zan Mansion

ECB logo


Founded in 1992, Ecocity Builders is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reshaping cities for the long-term health of human and natural systems.



Much Better than Climate Change Adaptation

For the New Yorker


By Richard Register, President, Ecocity Builders 


October 27, 2009 and I was getting off Vancouver’s SkyTrain at the Lake City Way Station. With me was my friend Jennie Moore, Director of Sustainable Development and Environmental Stewardship for the British Columbia Institute of Technology. “There it is,” I said, camera in hand. “I’ve been looking for that poster for my ecological city slide show.” Before me was a sign I’d seen several times flashing by through the window of my moving train. It turned out to be part of a campaign by the Vancouver Aquarium. Featuring an image of a polar bear floating on a slab of ice in an almost open ocean, the copy read:


“Adaptation is not an option. Canada’s Arctic. In the grip of change. Visit the new exhibit to understand the impact.”


The polar bear, on all fours, gazing to the horizon, looked like any you’d expect on a poster, calendar or in a coffee table book… except that it had the black stripes on white of an African zebra. Obviously telling it to adapt was writing it off to extinction. Some changes are exterminating and that’s all there is to it. Working to promote “adaptation” might not be such a good idea. It’s something we should contemplate most seriously.


The New Yorker feature article in the January 7, 2013 issue entitled “Adaptation – how can cities be climate proofed?” took the usual automatic look at solving climate and sea rise problems that is all too ordinary these days. But why start our thinking with adapting to something that disastrous when we could focus our thinking and strategies on preventing it? It is too late to avoid some impacts but the possibilities for worse is more than a little troubling. The positive feedback loops such as the loss of ice on the Arctic Ocean presenting a dark sea to the sky, instead of reflective white ice, absorbs more heat and accelerates heating. The permafrost has begun to melt in Siberia, Alaska and Canada releasing methane from enormous deposits of methane bearing ice, called alternately methane clathrate or hydrate, potentially in immense quantities, a gas with 23 times the heat capturing capacity in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. As the melting permafrost heats the air and ground it releases more methane which heats more, releases more, heats more, releases more and so on around the “positive feedback loop”. The accurate information and good predictions about carbon dioxide some have been in denial about for more than twenty years now was brought to you by the same folks who also warn us about the even more catastrophic potential of methane release in a world with a rising fever. So we don’t know how bad it can get and our efforts at adaptation may be just distraction enough to lose us the opportunity to stop far worse disasters, and maybe even prevent us from figuring out how to reverse the heating trend.



23 Laws from Other Countries the US Should Adopt 

by Sven Eberlein for

german wind farm

The amount of electricity Germany produced using renewable energy, including wind power, rose from 20% to 25% in the first half of 2012. Photograph: Patrick Pleul/AFP/Getty Images

Traveling is a great way to learn about other cultures and ways of thinking. While most of our encounters with a host country’s legal system usually revolve around visas and Customs offices, there is a much broader and underlying set of laws that guides the flow of daily routines and reflects a people’s values and beliefs.


Here are 23 laws from around the world that, while maybe not perfect, could be steps in the right direction to make the United States a better place to live.


The Law of Mother Earth

Bolivian President Evo Morales recently enacted his country’s Law of Mother Earth (Pachamama) and Integral Development to Live Well, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that redefines the Earth and all its inhabitants as a living system with rights instead of a commodity to be exploited.


Gross National Happiness

Expanding conventional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measurements of wealth to include non-monetary factors like psychological well-being, community vitality, and environmental quality, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population’s general level of well-being. Proposed policies in Bhutan must pass a GNH review similar to an Environmental Impact Statement in the US.


Renewable Energy Act

Germany’s Renewable Energy Act mandates that 80% of the country’s power will come from renewable sources by 2050. With new wind and solar installations as well as huge investments in overhauling its entire grid, a complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is now becoming a realistic target.



Sven is an Advisor to Ecocity Builders

jenniemoorecolor.jpgHEALTHY SOIL  


by Jennie Moore, Director, Sustainable Development and Environmental Stewardship, British Columbia Institute of Technology   



Cities are utterly dependent on nature’s services, including provisioning of food and fibres from healthy soil. The International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS) identify healthy soil as one of six essential bio-geophysical conditions. “Soils within the city and soils associated with the city’s economy, function and  operations (should) meet their ranges of healthy ecosystem functions as appropriate to their types and environments” ( This means that ecocities and their residents work to ensure that fertility of soil is maintained or improved both within cities and in the rural areas all around the world from which cities draw sustenance.

Indeed, Lester Brown, founder of Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute, identifies soil erosion as one of the major contributors to the collapse of urban civilizations.  Modern technologies including the use of petroleum-based fertilizers have artificially raised the productive capacity of agricultural land. However, this practice is not sustainable. Approximately one-third of global agricultural land is losing top soil faster than it is being replaced (Brown 2009). Drought and agricultural practices that include intensive tillage result in soil erosion which is anticipated to worsen in the face of climate change (Brown 2009).  It takes approximately 500 years for one inch of top soil to regenerate in the temperate wheat growing areas of North America (National Geographic 2010). In the future, a different approach to regenerating healthy soil is needed.

An important question for those interested in ecocities is what can be done to support healthy soils in rural areas? Cities occupy two percent of the earth’s surface, but account for 75% of global resource demand (Giradet 2004). Therefore, while a focus on urban agriculture is important, a focus on the sustainability of rural agriculture is essential. Permaculture (Mollison 1997), the practice of sustainable culture, which includes an emphasis on building soil fertility is a promising start. Permaculture initiatives are springing up within cities and small rural land-holdings. But how can urban residents engage in advancing permaculture or other forms of sustainable agriculture at large scales? Participating in fair-trade and the purchase of organically produced food creates a market signal that stewardship of the land is of value. But is there more that the residents of an ecocity could do?


  • Brown, Lester. 2009. Plan B 4.0. Mobilizing to Save Civilization. New York: W.W. Norton.
  • Giradet, Hebert. 2004. Cities, People, Planet: livable cities for a sustainable world. London: Earthscan.
  • Mollison, Bill. 1997. Permaculture: A designers’ manual. (original 1988) Tyalgum NSW: Tagari
  • National Geographic. 2010. Collapse: Based on the Book by Jared Diamond (documentary film). Universal City, CA: Vivendi Entertainment.


British Columbia Institute of Technology School of Construction and the Environment is Lead Sponsor of the International Ecocity Framework and Standards Initiative 



Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia Conference Center building being photographed by London television eco/health show personality Joanna Yarrow in a photo by Richard Register. Richard’s electronic first edition of his new book “World Rescue – an economics built on what we build,” is a working manuscript nearing completion but seeking comment and suggestions from our ecocity friends. It features 30 illustrations and photos, many never seen before. Available now on CD for our Ecocity Emerging readers.




Advanced Draft Manuscript: 

World Rescue – An Economics Built on What We Build 

by Richard Register, President, Ecocity Builders   



Ecocity Builders is making Register’s “Editor’s Cut” advanced draft manuscript available to our members and friends. The Editor’s Cut will come with a few favorite photos and some of Register’s illustrations, in color. 


World Rescue – An Economics Built on What We Build is about the role of ecocities in economics. The author’s quest in this book has been to clarify the connection between nature’s economy and society’s.  


  • Analysis of the Economic Crisis of 2008, along with a history of the Crash of 1929 and the gifts to the future of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s initiatives and policies.
  • What Adam Smith, Darwin, Gandhi, Greenspan, and Jesus have to do with it and the capitalism/socialism unifying insights of John Kenneth Galbraith and Jane Jacobs.
  • The endosymbiosis evolutionary theory of Lynn Margulis and China’s Special Economic Zones together revising both evolution and economics.
  • How nature’s and society’s economics are linked and unified mainly by Ecocities.
  • The role of exaggerated gamesmanship in hardening economic and political battles.
  • The stages of tool making and industrialization going back 1,700,000 years to the hand ax.
  • The role of war and violence and Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” in economics.
  • How formulas like Pr [TA<1,TB<1] = f2 (f-1(FA(1)),f-1(FB(1),Y) fooled 

investors and wrecked the lives of millions of people  

  • The connections between city building and climate change.

How to get the Editor’s Cut copy:

    • Choose PDF email attachment or CD, 425 pages, 17 inspiring pictures for $20. 
    • CD has 28 higher resolution images and will be sent to your postal address, so $20 +shipping.
    • If you pay by check here’s our address: 339 15th Street, Suite 208, Oakland, California 94612, USA. Make sure to include your email address of the address of the recipient, if someone other than yourself.     

Principal Features of an Ecocity 

eco-city characteristics

lernertube asa branca china dinner    


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