Ecocity 9: Montreal, Canada, 2011

People. Ecology. Urbanity: Moving Towards Ecocities.

Palais de congrès de Montréal, August 22-26

Host Organizations

  • Montréal Urban Ecology Center (MUEC)
  • Opus 3, Inc.
  • Palais de congrès de Montréal
  • Tourisme Montréal

Interconnecting Themes

The distinctive conference program will build on work of past Ecocity World Summits while adding new conference themes, participatory methods, and projects that will last beyond the life of the conference. Detailed conference content and design will be developed in collaboration with local and international partners, making sure that the particular urban ecological expertise of Montréal is highlighted.

Climate Change and Urban Planning

Cities must be part of the solution to climate change: up to 70% of GHG’s are generated in cities, home to more than 50% of the world’s population. An ecocity will address climate change by meeting the challenges of urban sprawl, mass transit, waste reduction and treatment, as well as building standards, materials and design. Ecocities will also become more flexible and resilient to adapt to the threats and increased risks to infrastructure resulting from climate change. Sessions in this theme area will focus on how climate change challenges can best be addressed by ecocities. The sub-themes are: combining mitigation and adaptive strategies to address climate change; housing, urban design and climate change; economics of climate change in cities: impacts and opportunities. This theme will be of particular interest to those who provide technologies which reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in cities.

Ecomobility, Urban Planning, Public Space

How should we organise cities and suburbs to enable sustainable forms of mobility? How can we activate public space? Cities and suburbs are dynamic entities—constantly in transformation. They are ceaselessly being recalibrated and adapted, like any ecosystem, to their changing populations. The transformative qualities of urban areas present ongoing challenges and opportunities. Many metropolitan areas are now automobile-dependent because they have been built and rebuilt to favour motoring. Other modes of travel, such as walking and cycling, are not only poorly-supported, but often dangerous. We have not yet come to terms with dominant approaches to planning, which have turned so much urban space over to the automobile. We must instead strive for conviviality in how we meet our basic needs, namely housing, food, self-development, leisure, and transportation. The challenge is fundamentally a question of design. Sessions in this theme area will explore the following key questions. How and why should we rethink the organisation of our cities in a long-term perspective while taking transformative steps in the short-term? On what inspiring examples can we draw, and what are the conditions for their emergence? What outcomes can we anticipate, and with what tradeoffs? What roles can planning and design play in developing realistic strategies to encourage walking, cycling, and the use of mass transit, as well as the implementation of these strategies?

Governance and Democracy in the Ecocity

Transforming our cities into ecocities implies a new vision of not only their physical form, but also of the way they are governed. It will be necessary to re-think the roles and responsibilities of municipal government, as well as those of other orders of government, to bring them into line with an integrated vision of sustainable development. Citizens must also be oriented to new and more significant forms of participation in urban planning and management. Sessions in this theme area will be guided by three sub-themes: civic involvement; social change and innovation; and government and governance. A number of key questions will be explored. What are the political and administrative conditions required to effect these changes? What experiences do we have for guidance?

Economics of the Ecocity

What is the purpose of the economy in an ecocity, and how do we define terms like “sustainable development,” “prosperity,” “well-being,” and “quality of life” in line with that purpose? Three key sub-themes build on this foundational question. First, how can we favour local economies? Here, we will examine ways to keep wealth and prosperity within an ecocity as we consider how its inhabitants feed and entertain themselves. Important challenges must be addressed in regard to financing the economy, confronting the trend toward globalization, balancing public and private sector engagement and managing relations between the ecocity and its surrounding regions. The Transition Town and post-carbon city social movements may produce instructive new approaches. Second, how can we encourage decent work in an ecocity? Here, we will consider green jobs and possible new modes of work, such as work sharing and shorter work weeks, as well as sectors that are best suited to an ecocity. Third, how should we manage energy and materials needs of an ecocity? Here, we will consider issues related to systems of production, consumption and waste management, and the details of how a low-carbon economy would function in an ecocity. What, for example, is the ecological footprint of an ecocity? What systems of water management and wastewater treatment are best suited to ecocities, bearing in mind their geographical setting? How are economic and environmental prosperity maintained in an ecocity?

Health and the Built Environment

An emerging body of research shows that urban living conditions influence the health of individuals and populations and that the uneven distribution of environmental conditions, resources and amenities in urban areas result in social inequalities in health outcomes. This new field of public health study touches on several subjects including but not limited to air quality, urban heat islands, pedestrian and cyclist safety, active transportation, water quality, obesity, heart and lung disease, and mental health. This theme area will focus on ways and means of urban development that result in health promoting environments for all (e.g., acting on building, street and sidewalk configurations, quality of public spaces, greening of public spaces, promoting social engagement and social cohesion, etc.). Specific sub-themes include: (i) determinants and processes through which urban living conditions influence health and social inequalities in health; (ii) interventions, programs, and policies to improve urban living conditions which improve health and reduce social inequalities in health; and (iii) measuring and evaluating the impact of interventions, programs, and policies designed to improve living conditions and which improve health and reduce social inequalities in health.

Biodiversity and Urban Agriculture

Biodiversity, green spaces and urban agriculture are inter-related concepts which contribute (directly and indirectly) to our general well-being: to health, the environment, and the quality of our lives and that of the landscape around us. Over the past few years, science has made possible many advances in social, economic and ecological services. Among these are solar shading and the cooling effect, the capture of rainwater and atmospheric pollutants, and food safety. Furthermore, it is widely recognized that protecting the greatest possible number of living species is necessary for the preservation of healthy ecosystems. With community outreach, these efforts have extended to involvement in our economic health, taxation system and social development. Despite recognition of the value that biodiversity, green spaces and urban agriculture have delivered, a part of this heritage still requires development, solidification and enhancement.

Youth Leadership and Engagement in the Arts, Culture and Environment

Transforming our cities is a creative act on a grand scale. There needs to be space for everyone to participate in imagining and making the ecocity-and keep on reimagining and remaking it as it evolves. Showcasing youth leadership in the arts, culture, and the environment of the ecocity allows academics and artists, thinkers and doers to share the ideas and actions with all kinds of people from different histories, different perspectives and different ways of being in the ecocity. These diverse contributions, both within the Congress center (interactive conferences, workshops, roundtables, posters, etc.) and outside the Congress center walls (creative and participative public events and the discovery of Montreal’s burgeoning ecocity), enhances the emerging ecocity and ensures its resilience—playing a similar role to that of biodiversity in an ecosystem. We invite youth and those collaborating with them in environmental, artistic and cultural milieus to present the creative leadership of the next generations and their ways of facing our environmental challenges in the creation of ecocities.

An Ecocity Project… on the Ground!

Design charrettes to “greenstorm” on potential projects to be realized on the ground after the conference will be organized to take advantage of the presence of international experts at Ecocity 2011.


  1. Northern climate cities: Ecocity policy, planning and design
  2. Re-building better in Haiti and other post-disaster zones
  3. Ecocity Montréal
  4. Community engagement/citizen and youth participation
  5. Measuring ecocity progress: indicators, standards and best practices

Ecocity World Summit- 2011 Conference Reflections

There is the truism, partial though it is, that we hear at many of our events and those organized by others that Ecocity Builders people participate in, that “the city is the people.” Well it is the people but it is also their arrangement, the buildings and streets, the energy, transport and food systems from adjacent lands, trade terminus points for route linkages, products and traditions, etc. But with conferences it really is the people. Everything is distilled down to the conversations between people, the meetings, the sometimes depressing often exhilarating exchange of experiences, ideas, commitments and often plans for follow through back in the good old infrastructure we call our home towns. In the case of Montreal’s Ecocity World Summit, we the people came from far and near, Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe and the Americas with sparkling insights, tales of advance and retreat, success and challenge. There were presentations and debate and meeting one another for future reference, all in service to making cities “healthy for people and other living things,” as the peace movement slogan went in the 1960s. A sampling, then some of the highlights from my personal, limited, not-trying-to-be exhaustive perspective.

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Montreal City of Bikes

by Sven Eberlein

Last year I visited Montreal to attend the Ecocity World Summit, a biannual gathering of visionaries from around the globe committed to creating cities where people live in mutually enriching relationship with each other and with the Earth. Looking at cities as living breathing organisms, with all their residents — human and non-human — forming an intricate web of interdependence, the very idea of an ecocity is rooted in a sharing principle, where citizens understand not only the physical value of making the most of our natural resources, but the cultural, spiritual, ecological, and ultimately, economic value inherent in building networks and communities.

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