Host organization: City of Yoff
Conveners: Joan Bokaer and Serigne Mbaye Diene
This conference on the edge of hot desert and the thundering cold North Atlantic was an adventure deep into another culture and a rare perspective. Many considered it the most exciting conference they had ever attended, thanks in large measure to the generous hospitality of the village of Yoff, near Dakar, which provided foreign conferees with lodging and a fair portion of their fish catch, drumming and dance, and to the hospitality of the city of Dakar, which provided the National Conference Center.
Of City and Village
Besides the very moving cultural experience of living in a traditional village and studying it and the adjacent big city of Dakar, another particularly powerful aspect of the conference was its attention to both city and village problems and solutions. It was a black African, mainly Moslem, French- and Walof-speaking community, friendly, open and clearly communicating across innumerable distances – all reduced to face-to-face.
Presenters came from throughout Africa: Senegal, Mali, Egypt, Guinea Bissau, Swaziland and South Africa, the Indian Ocean – Comoros – and the broadest array of countries among the conferences to that date. The other countries represented included Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Chile, Brazil, Malaysia, Australia and the United States.
Highlights included the first presentation to our conference series of Curitiba, Brazil by Cleon Ricardo dos Santos, Director of the city’s Open University for the Environment. Curitiba was then seen as the world leader in ecocity policy and projects – and probably still is regarded to be at the forefront. Peter Newman’s research partner, Jeff Kenworthyof Perth, Australia presented updated information on their work. Innovations from village and very personal scale separating toilets for composting and use of diluted urine for fertilizer were discussed by architect Anders Nyquist. Whole community-scale constructed wetlands for treating sewerage and turning waste to biological richness in towns and cities was covered by Harriet Hill for Arcata, California and several other locations. The Planning Department of Bergen, Norway was represented by Bente Florelius who focused on that city’s dedication to historic preservation, enhancing density and diversity in the city center and its dedication to not building freeways. A city councilmember of Barcelona, Spain, Josip Puig, spoke of his efforts to capture rainwater runoff from the whole city to minimize draw down of regional rivers for the city’s needs. The history of colonial exploitation and subjection of women around the world was related to ecological degradation by Janis Birkeland of Canberra, Australia. The colonial dismemberment and exploitation of Africa itself was covered by Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasango of Nigeria and New York, while the Mayor of Dakar,
Among other topics covered:
- Land use rearrangements for ecological health of cities
- Benefits of compact and diverse land use patterns in Europe
- The richly productive “kampung” gardens of Indonesia
- Native American life ways in close relationship to nature
- Traditional villages under assault in Africa, nature preserves in Africa
- Ecovillages the world over, with a focus on Denmark, original home of the Global Ecovillage Network and much more.
The book Village Wisdom / Future Cities was published as the conference report, giving all speakers substantially long and thoughtful representation with the support of many photos, maps and drawings. Village Wisdom / Future Cities