This past weekend was the EcoCity World Summit, hosted in San Francisco, California from April 21st through the 26th. On hand were top city officials, planners, designers, and futurists from around the world. San Francisco was lucky enough to be chosen for this years conference. Previous years were held in India, China, Brazil, etc.
I was lucky enough to attend this great venue and meet some of the top thinkers on sustainability and cities of the future. The speakers are carefully selected by their impacts and research into the future of cities and sustainability. Speakers ranged from local Professors, to developers, to government officials, to world leaders in sustainability. The sessions covered topics ranging from transportation, to energy, to panning, to ecology.
A friend of mine, Scott Fossel, an “eco-futurist” with two future projects which will help excellerate green living and business, happened to be moderating one of the sessions. I’m glad I stopped by to see him speak, as I enjoyed that panel of speakers. This may be due to my personal interests, but I believe they did a great job of engaging the audience more than other speakers I heard, a successful practice I have found to make a speech have more appeal. The panel was made up of Jeff Stein, Board of Trustees Chair, Cosanti Foundation, Arcosanti, Arizona; Liz Walker, Ecovillage at Ithaca, Ithaca, New York; and Gus Yates, hydrologist and founder of Car-free City USA, Berkeley, California. Liz Walker brought a great perspective of first hand experience into Eco Cities, as she has helped create and live in one for several decades. Her experiences learned from Ithaca and knowledge gained from talking with other eco-villages like hers, gave great insight into the challenges we’ll face into creating new Eco Cities. Gus Yates brought a funny demonstration of how cities of the future can be designed to utilize shade and light throughout the year, purely by their orientation and shape of the buildings. From this semi-circle shape, they also create a much easier positioning for car-free cities and utilizing the central space for community endeavors.
A session which I missed and wish I could have made it to, was the keynote address by Jamie Lerne, the former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil and co-founder of IPPUC (Institute of Urban Planning and Research of Curitiba). I have heard about what Jamie has done for the city of Curitiba and his amazing futuristic concepts about city planning. If you haven’t heard of Jamie, definitely look him up. He is a true futurist and carries successful programs under his belt, transforming a small city into a thriving city revolving around creative ideas in sustainability.
Luckily, I didn’t really miss Jamie’s keynote address, as most of the presentations are available for free on their website! With that said, I have to note that the conference came with a lofty entrance fee, which the average person can’t really afford. The conference is geared towards leaders around the world, many of which may have the funds for such an event, but not all are so lucky to throw down a large sum of money. The diverse backgrounds of the speakers, as well as the international networking gained, might justify the cost. Also, there were breakout sessions in another venue across the street, which were not blocked from outside visitors to take a gander. This, with the free recordings of the sessions posted on their website, maybe the cost is justified to keep the venue from being over-packed with local activists wanting to get their voice heard.
Besides the cost, I also noticed that they did not go very far to be green in their event practices. Yes there was using compost able materials, recycling, organic food, and directions on how to public transportation to get there, but it all just seemed a little lackluster. I could be very wrong though, as maybe I’m seeing and reading about too many events which push the boundaries of being super green!
In my opinion as well as many in the green industry, we should try to look at the positives these people and events are bringing to the world, rather than scrutinizing the minor details. Most world populations have not been built in a sustainable matter and we should be praising those who have to go out of their way to take a stand against the non-sustainable practices, try their best to find more sustainable solutions, and bring about the future of cities and mankind. Here’s a toast to all those trying to make the future a better place! Keep up the good work and ignore the petty hacks. Leaders are always scrutinized the most, no matter how much they try to do the right thing. The future is unwritten and we’re certainly not perfect creatures.
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