The 20th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) is taking place in Lima this week, with Ecocity Builders in attendance. Lima is an obvious choice to host this gathering focused on solutions to climate change. Lima is the 2nd largest desert city, right behind Cairo,...

Infinite growth is impossibleOur newsletter readers all know that infinite growth in a limited environment is impossible so I’ll mention here, without trying to prove the case, an interesting fact: life depends on energy, 99.97% of which arrives in the thin zone of life on...

Brief Note from Richard leaving ChinaI’m on my way back from China reflecting on some of the best opportunities and heaviest responsibilities I’ve gotten myself into since starting ecocity work almost 50 years ago. I first gave a plenary talk at the Tenth International Green Building and Technology Conference and Expo in Beijing. Then I spoke to university audiences at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Tongji University, Shanghai; Tianjin University in Tianjin and Southeast University in Nanjing. How my hosts at C&P Architecture in Beijing, especially Mr. Bin Fan, President of C&P, and Ruby Yangxue, my translator, guide and general assistant, pulled it all together is quite amazing—and at very short notice too.The story is long and my space here short, but two photos and two short observations, one something of a confession, are in order.Confessions first, so, as usual with confessions, I can then move on more relaxed.

Tall buildings

In my slide presentations I frequently feature images of the two big towers in Shanghai. I took the picture six years. I make the comment that super tall buildings are linear development. They are not integrated into the community in the three-dimensional arrangement of complex living organisms obeying the rule of internal and external “access by proximity.” One has to be relatively close to things in the environment (external), both natural and built, to have easy, efficient, healthy access to the benefits of the environment. So too for the organism itself (internally). An organisms internal functions work best with organs close together in a 3-D, not flat (2-D) or linear (1-D), arrangement.

by Richard Register, President, Ecocity BuildersDancers by RenoirFirst, it’s helpful to understand that we live in a capital system, not a capitalist system. That system is a subsystem of an economic system made up of the total system of natural economics and human economics entwined in the ecological realities of solar energy, the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. For better elucidation here I’ll call that the total economic system or total economics, italicizing the terms I want to emphasize so we can hone in on the ideas behind the terms as we go.As the Gaia theorists have amply demonstrated with little if anything to counter their assertions, life plays a role of regulating the entire natural economy plus human economy on Earth, the total economics. Life forms in their billions of species through time and their mind boggling number of individuals, through various negative feedback loops, have regulated oxygen in the atmosphere at levels supportive of life and salinity in the oceans within limits, also amenable to life. It is hard to see this pattern on something as gigantic as the Earth with its towering mountains and endless plains and oceans but that’s mainly because we can’t easily grasp the enormity of time involved in the total evolutionary process. Simply this: given enough time, little things add up – especially if their numbers are as staggering as the time over which they work.

by Richard RegisterI’ve lately struck up an e-mail correspondence with Shin-pei Tsay, friend and colleague of Deborah Gordon author of Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability, co-authored by Daniel Sperling with introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger, my very own former governor who I met at a breakfast place in 1971 on Venice Beach a couple hundred feet from “Muscle Beach” where he was working out at the time, pre-movie star days. Shin-pei is presently Director of Research and Development for a start-up nonprofit in New York City called TransitCenter, Inc. that deals with public transportation related issues. We had been talking about major changes in cities and habits and attitudes toward them. She signed off a couple days ago like this: “Let me know if you have any breakthroughs from the 70s through the 80s.” That got me thinking and I came up with some from ecocity perspectives, but leading into other “breakthroughs” sliding into more modern times, post 2000. But first…There are the changes, not exactly breakthroughs, but good signs nonetheless and it’s educational to think about them some, cheer ourselves up some after thinking about climate change, species dying out, economic and social problem, the Middle East, etc. and on and on. I’ll come up with some of those, illustrated, the assess what I think, if not breakthrough, are important steps or stones – milestones – along a way toward ecocity improvement.Mariposa Grove De-pavingMany of you know that “depaving” has been a preferred activity of Ecocity Builders from the start. My own first depaving project was for the San Diego Ecology Centre in 1973 when the group hired me to organize Earth Day events of a wide variety. That first depaving project was at the Campus Lutheran Center, hosted by the enthusiastic and imaginative Jim Nessheim, still there in San Diego. The project tore up about six parking places he courageously donated to the cause and put in a Native American food garden featuring corn, beans and squash: corn as a pole for the beans to climb, beans for fixing nitrogen in the soil and all three including the squash soaking up the nutrients providing a pretty balanced set of vegetables, plus it got stunning coverage in the local media.

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


[caption id="attachment_3655" align="alignright" width="200"]Richard Register at Ecocity World Summit 2013 Richard Register at Ecocity World Summit 2013[/caption]I’ll get to highlights 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.”)

by Richard Register, President, Ecocity BuildersAre these ecocity times? Perhaps I should put a question mark at the end of my title. Putting forward that notion – that we might be at the dawn of ecocity times – might produce some interesting insights, maybe strategies for success.We are approaching our Tenth International Ecocity Conference to be held in Nantes, France and it is intriguing to notice how much Ecocity Builders and the whole ecocity enterprise going back several decades now has seeped into the unconsciousness of what Tielhard de Chardin called the “noosphere,” aka “noesphere.” By that the Catholic priest, philosopher and evolution theorist meant the total flux of consciousness, unconsciousness and preconsciousness, all that information plus the physical substance housing, remembering, accessing and carrying that information, which is our brains, books, phone wires and microwaves, radio sets, even our schools and cities, and etc. You could even add that the neurological material of all the other animals, their mating calls and displays, warnings of aggression, and even the rudimentary signs of some kind of awareness in plants all participate in wildly various way in the noosphere. You could think of the noosphere in brief as the planetary brain/mind. That planetary noosphere has recently been practicing the design, planning and building, in so many places around the world, bits and pieces of what an ecocity would be if… if all those pieces were drawn together and organized well into a physical new type of city. That’s why I say the ecocity features that are being built now are emerging from an unconscious place rather than a conscious one: it seem impossible for today’s noosphere to quite yet get the overall design of the whole urban system, the largest physical component of the planetary brain going about its citified business. But, ecocity neurological information flux and communications could go live and conscious any time now.[caption id="attachment_3488" align="alignnone" width="408"]Image From “Mannahatta – A Natural History of New York City” we see a satellite image of the greater New York metropolitan area taken in 2009. It is pretty much the same today.[/caption]