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I suggested the title of this article as the overall theme for the 11th International Ecocity Conference in Abu Dhabi, which will be convening next October 2015. This will be the first Ecocity Summit to be held in the Arab region. The official theme is still being discussed and debated, with the hosts leaning towards a regional theme with an emphasis on ecocity adaptations for hot climate conditions. They in Abu Dhabi do have real expertise on this subject to be sure, and it is deeply rooted in their history. Examples of city planning and design that meet the challenges of such an extreme environment of sun and sand date back hundreds of years. High-density towns like Shaban in Yemen, with their heavy building materials of sun-dried earthen bricks – nine stories high in Shaban – and their narrow streets create a pedestrian environment pleasant in temperature and conveniently “mixed use” in the way of complete communities with lively economics and culture. We have a lot to learn from such examples in the Arab Islamic world. Another car-free model, also ancient, is the Medina of Fez, Morocco. While larger in population than the world’s other substantially car-free city – Venice, Italy – Medina shares with that Italian city a plan of narrow, shaded and “passively” cooled streets and buildings. In addition, Abu Dhabi is home to one of the most interesting modern ecocity projects I know of: the car-free, once again compact, pedestrian-oriented town of Masdar. Masdar is partially built and has the potential to exert powerful influence around the world in the realm of planning, especially if it pushes boldly in ecocity directions.

[caption id="attachment_716" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Richard Register"][/caption] I have noticed that there were few tools offered in my memory of the Degrowth conference for actually bringing in a new economics that embodies degrowth. I followed Joan Martinez-Alier’s links and some of the text of the contents of the publication he mentioned, in an issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production, and it seemed to me, as usual among business people, economic theorists and even climate change solutions advocates, the built environment and what its variety of expressions imply was completely omitted. Since various different designs and layouts of cities vary massively in their impacts, this line of investigation seems to me to be crucial.