Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vancouver EcoDensity Initiative

Building communities in Vancouver that are green … livable and affordable.

Vancouver EcoDensity Initiative and Project summary
"Ecodensity- how density, design and land use will contribute to environmental sustainability, affordability and livability" can be found here.

Chickens to Cut Down on Garbage

Belgian families accused of posing a health hazard with garbage cans overflowing with food waste are to be offered chickens to clean up their mess, a town official said on Friday.

Fifty families in the western town of Mouscron will receive two egg-laying hens each to help reduce the environmental threat from leftover food tossed away, offering "dual benefit," health official Christophe Deneve said.

Deneve said that families in the town of 52,000 people, near the French border city of Lille, would have to give written assurances that they would "not eat the chickens within two years" and authorize inspection visits.

(2010-02-26 AFP from NewsCore)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Transition

See the movie "In Transition 1.0" by Transition towns

Transition Towns on Vimeo.

Cities that have succeeded

Bogotà in Colombia and Curitiba in Brazil have many things in common. One is that they started large scale project for the city and that was without too much money. The other was that they had to make radical changes: in both cities they forced people to move from their homes to reduce the slum areas and with that violence, drog trafficking and povertry. Both of the cities also reduce the traffic problems, with broad scale busline systems, Transmilenio in Bogotà and Rapit-transit-bus in Curitiba. Common spaces, like squares, librarys and green areas have been important in the cities planning too.

One hour documentary of Bogotà in English and Spanish with Swedish underlines can be seen here. "Cities on speed. Bogotà, change". About the work in Curitiba can be read in New York Times, The road to Curitiba and a film of some of the changes in Curitiba can be seen in "City of dream" in google videos.

The documentary Cities on speed is devided into four different parts with four different cities and stories, Bogotà Change, Mumbai Disconnected, Cairo Garbage and Shanghai Space. See the trailer:

Cities on Speed. Produced by Bastard Film, Nimbus Film & Cosmo Doc for DR

Monday, February 22, 2010

Urban farming project in Uppsala

Day after the storm, a meter of snow, blue sky and sun, Marina shows me where the project have its boarders. "Here is the field where we will make different herb gardens with stone arrangement and here is the old garden with fruit trees". I can see the project in my head, now its just white. With some skiers going around.

Matparken, the Food park is a project from Ylva and Marina with backup from the Municipality of Uppsala. The location is perfect; a recreation area, close to the center of the suburb to Uppsala, Gottsunda. Gottsunda have problems with unruly youth, fighting, violence and burning cars, but is also a place where there are a lot of gathering and organisation among both immigrant groups, culture events and programs for kids.

The food park shall be a place where you can go and see small and big, growing. Not only the plants, but also the creation of the Food park. It will be open for everyone and because of the location, they hope that more people will be involved.

A first group is already made with 8 experienced allotment people, who plan to make a "farm area" to grow vegetables and herbs, not in different small squares but togehter, a community allotment. The project also got money to educate children in the subject of gardening. Marina and Ylva goes to different kindergarten and present their idea. They also want to involve some of the immigrant groups to have bigger events.

More about the project can be found in their blog Matparken, Swedish here and English google translate tool here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We are all living in a dream

-What is reality and what is really relevant?

Seemingly not so much happens where we live.We may live together with many others in a house or apartment house. Outside the windows, we see the carpark. People go to work, come home, watching TV. It is a quiet area to live in.

In reality, far from the quiet area- industries, pollution, hard working children. But we all have our problems and why worry about major problems, like environmental problems? We can't do anything about them, anyway?

When it comes to change both in an ecosystem or a society, it is common to talk about top-down and bottom-up . Top-down is when higher positions affect those who are in the system, like in an ecosystem, this suggests that predators keep populations down to levels they are at. In a bottom-up society, it is instead the bottom that could affect, for example how much plants are available in turn affect the amount of grazing animals that may exist and, in turn, how many predators and top predators it can be. In the human society, many blames the politicians when something is wrong, they are the ones who must change society if something should happen, a top-down perspective, while many environmental groups believe that we as individuals must take a stand and make the active choice to change what politicians (or business) will decide (or sell).

In our communities, we live in a dream on several levels, individual, interaction level and politically. We live here and now, but very common is to have a hope of something else, "if we only ..". A large part of the dream is also ignorance, an ignorance that is hidden to those who are not looking up facts. Or maybe happen to hear about it in the newspaper or in their social circle. I think maybe most of our primary needs: food, clothing, stuff, freetime and transportation.

The dream of the perfect life, from an environmental perspective, from an ideology, from a prior image. We want to follow recipes, lifestyle, fashion, exercise program. Perhaps also a sense of how it works which might not be true.

This is easy to see in the dream about the foods that we find in the store, where can we imagined ourselves to a perfect dinner- but where does the food come from? The dream or ignorance makes it easy for us in the shop, "I want fish, and I want potatoes, some vegetables and sauce". In our minds, we think small fishing boats and a small farmer who harvests small potatoes. But the reality is far from it. From company to company the food goes and are sometimes transported around the globe to get to our table. Meat and fish have become large-scale industry. And we have not a clue what's going on, and what if we found out? It is up to individuals to try to opt out of it? And what are the consequences if some or many choose something else, once in a while or always? We all live in a dream, in which products are available but we have no idea where they come from. And if we had, how should we choose? And if we choose, what are the consequences?

To make it simple, we close our eyes, and continues to live in our dream worlds. Where it is safe and where we do not need to do more choices than what the deal is already giving us, in the jungle about what to have for dinner.

Who will wake us up? And how would this awakening be arranged? Is it up to individuals, groups, and then decision-making bodies to make this change?

Do we have the energy to make it happen? How do we do otherwise? Why destroy the dream? And if we wake up from the dream, are we then in a nightmare?

One way is with a bottom-up perspective to join together in groups and have the support or motivation from others. Here you can discuss and have plans. But if the plans do not match with the reality? Then you are more people who make mistakes and have dreams in the wrong direction.

But in a top-down perspective, when politicians would decide everything, from what do eat to what to wear, everyone would feel over driven and controlled. It would be a communist regime.

What to do? Dreams leads us, dreams keep us going..

What is the ideal society, anyway?

"The British people can win full employment while remaining free. But they have to win it, not wait for it. Full employment, like social security, must be won by a democracy, it cannot be forced on a democracy or given to a democracy."
About employment but also about wills, health and all other needs for a good society. William Breveridge, 1944

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Plans for sustainable cities, green cities, ecocities

From Ecocity Builders newsletter today; Ecocity Builders is launching the International Ecocity Standards (IES) project to define "ecocities" by developing a set of standards, criteria and metrics against which to evaluate and guide new and existing cities' progress towards becoming an "ecocity." International Ecocity Standards will evaluate different scales of development, from the small neighborhood scale to the regional scale. Similar to LEED green building standards, the Ecocity Standards will rate urban development at various levels of attainment.


In 2007 SIDA, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency gave out a draft version of the manual Sida Manual for Support to Environmentally Sustainable Urban Development in Developing Countries, with the believe that it may form a starting-point for further development of methods and tools aiming at sustainable urban development in developing and transition countries, paying special attention to the conditions and needs of poor women, men, girls and boys. Summary report can be found here The Sustainable City Approach.

The main steps in the working procedure are:
Step 1 – Define and organise the sustainability review
Step 2 – Make a diagnosis of the current situation
Step 3 – Specify key issues and objectives
Step 4 – Develop alternative proposals
Step 5 – Analyse anticipated, potential impacts
Step 6 – Choose a strategy for implementation and follow-up

the manual goes through these steps in a very useful way


The main aim of the ECOCITY project was the integrated and implementation-oriented planning of seven model urban quarters in seven European countries seen at the map.

From the book; The term Ecocity has so far been used mainly by movements which were aiming to realise new, consistent urban solutions as alternatives to current developments. A pioneer in disseminating the Ecocity idea is the Ecocity Builders organisation in the USA, which is dedicated to reshaping cities, towns and villages for the long-term health of human and natural systems, by organising a series of ‘International Ecocity Conferences’.

Ecocity - How to make it happen

Example from Tübingen, South-West Germany

The little town with a medieval town center is situated close to Stuttgart. The ecoproject was held in the neighborhood Französchises Viertel, an old area for military. When the new neighborhood was planned, the old buildnings was left and have been transformed to fit the new area. Here a combination of old and new, and most of all, mixed use buildings with art studios, cafés, a lot of green and common areas.

When the new area was in planning stage, the new inhabitants, architects and city planners made decisions together.

The triangle is a scholar example from environmental communication and also one of the figures found in the book above. Click to zoom.

When we plan cities and neighborhoods in the future, one important aspect is that the planning look like the upper part of this triangle. The citizens are not only part of the planning, they are a part of their future life. Only if people can have a say and also change decisions and plans if they are not good enough, then we can reach sustainability.

Another example how to work with future holistic approaches is the Eco2city project from World Bank. With these principles very similar;
  1. ‘A City Based Approach,’ which enables local governments to lead a development process that takes into account their specific circumstances, including their local ecology;
  2. ‘An Expanded Platform for Collaborative Design and Decision Making’ that accomplishes sustained synergy by coordinating and aligning the actions of key stakeholders;
  3. ‘A One System Approach’ that enables cities to realize the benefits of integration by planning, designing, and managing the whole urban system; and
  4. ‘An Investment Framework that Values Sustainability and Resiliency’ by incorporating and accounting for life cycle analysis, the value of all capital assets (manufactured, natural, human, and social), and a broader scope of risk assessments in decision making.
More about the concept can be read here; Ecological cities as economical cities

Sunday, February 14, 2010

To focus on the right things

In an older post, you can read one of my papers from school, found here; Ecological modernization vs ecocities, where I try to point at the important inequality between the meaning of ecocities and the meaning of ecological modernisation. I lead the discussion with the goal to focus on human health instead of a world with a focus on capital. When you do this distinction you would see that ecological modernisation is just a combination of them. Prof. Dr. Joseph Huber, one of the first who used the term mean that the industrialization has to come to this phase: it is a natural transitional period in the industrialization which is devided into three parts;

* First phase is the industrial revolution,
* Second phase is the building of the industrial society
* Third phase is the necessary ecologization of the industry to get the environmental problems under control

But the question would be, is ecological modernisation the only way then, or is it just a combination or a prephase of something else? We can not ignore that we are running out of both resourses and ecosystem services and a society that takes more than it gives back are domed to fall.

When we talk about environmental sustainability, we can see a lot of companies that jumped on this line, and they say that this is the new market. But can you say that sustainable development is about the market at all? as the "green market". Or is it just how it should be, because the alternatives are not many.

Take the car problem for examples. It's not only about CO2 emissions. Health problems connected to a lifestyle with cars is the truth. Also, cars are a big time consumer in a lot of countries.

"Transportation is what you do, when you are not where you want to be" the quote from Richard Register that I nag over and again. What we have to do is to work closer to our homes.

"You see only what you know, and you protect only what you are familiar with" -From Freiburg, green city

It is time to change our mind of how it should look. Rebuild to get a better sense

Ecological eyes in south west Germany

Some of the 700 pictures from the trip Paris- Strasbourg- Freiburg- Titisee-Neustadt- Tübingen- Baiersbonn- Freudenstadt- Schwarzwald forest- Freiburg- Breisach a. Rhein- Strasbourg-Stuttgart. Right-click on the pictures to enlarge.

--> Listen to A rogue friend is a wild beast and dream away for an eco-logic trip

Breisach, next to Rhein. On the hill.




Intrested for more? See pictures from Freiburg- The Green City found here.