(Summary of talk at Universidad Espiritu Santi, Campus Sambopondon, 7PM February 21, 2003.)
Along with all of the technological advances of our time like computer and space technology, the most significant cultural change for our species in the last 15,000 years is taking place in this decade. Homo sapiens is becoming an urban species.
In less than 5 years 50% of all the people on our planet will live in cities of 25,000 or more.
Only China and Africa are presently holding this percentage back because most of their populations are still rural. But China already has an official policy to create 100 new cities of one million people or more, so the halfway mark for the whole planet will soon be reached. In the US, Canada, Mexico, most of South America, Europe,, Japan, and Australia the figure is over 75% and in some places close to 90%. The percentage of people living in cities is projected to become larger and larger.
Significance of Growth of Urban Populations
The shift of people off of the land and into cities is the greatest change in human behavior since the adoption of agriculture 15, 000 years ago, but cities aren’t prepared for the huge changes in energy and water use, food production, handling of garbage, treatment of human waste, and other factors which will be involved.
Cities currently consume outside resources and generate wastes. They must begin producing their own resources and recycling or reusing wastes.
Two Main Directions for Transforming Cities to Become Sustainable
- Rebuild infrastructures to make them sustainable.
- Change urban identity of citizens so that they carry out sustainable practices.
Audience participation exercise with examples of how people think of resources in cities today:
- Where does water come from? The faucet.
- Where does energy come from? The wall switch.
- Where does food come from? The store.
- Where does garbage go? Out!
- What happens to the stuff when you flush the toilet? It disappears.
Real Sustainability Can Only Come Through Recognizing the Bioregion
Every human community exists within a specific and unique bioregion consisting of natural features that maintain the life of that place. Every city is in a bioregion.
Characteristics of a bioregion (detailed for Guayas Bioregion):
- Watershed (Guayas river basin).
- Climate (Winterwet-summerdry).
- Native plants and animals (Dry tropical forest).
- Soil (Foundation of Pacific Ocean floor uplifted limestone and clay).
- Influences of seacoast near the equator.
- Continuous human population with an adaptive culture for 5,000 years.
- Other natural characteristics.
Goal of living sustainably is to restore and maintain natural bioregional life-systems that are the basis for continued harmonious living in the place, and carry out ecological ways to supply basic human needs.
City Infrastructures Must be Adapted to Bioregional Life-systems
- Renewable energy that is local to the place.
- Water that is naturally available, reused and recycled.
- Food grown nearby or in the city using compost from urban organic wastes.
- Building, manufacturing, and other materials produced sustainably within the bioregion (for example, no trees cut without planting new trees).
- Education, culture and celebrations to emphasize bioregional information.
Examples of Bioregional Activities in Other Cities
San Francisco Green City Program
- Volunteer network of sustainability oriented groups (hundreds of groups).
- Volunteer Directory (connects thousands of people with groups).
- Workshop/workdays (hundreds of adults to assist projects).
- Education + Action in Schools (hundreds of school projects to create sustainable activities).
- (Example of covering sidewalks for stopping skin cancer from hole in ozone layer).
- (Examples of various city agencies using bioregional workshops for city planning).
Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
- Declaration of Ecological City (1999).
- Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas native plants revegetation project in Maria Auxiliadora barrio to control erosion and provide “wild park” with paths and plant identification markers.
- Fanca Produce for composting organic waste from public market and Fanca barrio.
- Revegetation to control erosion for six kilometers entering into Bahia de Caraquez and create “wild corridor”.
- Mangrove restoration in Rio Chone Estuary.
- Club Ecologico of school age children involved in education and action about local ecology.
- Eco-tourism and eco-cultural activities.
- Organic agriculture and aquaculture.
- Eco-paper manufacturing.
Guayaquil — Examples of Rebuilding Infrastructures and Initiating Public Policies
- Restore water purity of nearby sources and provide protection to maintain them.
- Recycle gray and black water.
- Provide means for reusing gray water within office buildings, factories and residences.
- Produce public electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, tidal, etc.
- Develop rooftop solar collectors to provide hot water for individual office buildings, factories and residences.
- Retrofit and renovate all buildings to provide cooling and conserve energy.
- Support development of small-scale agriculture by groups and individuals within the city by all means ranging from community gardens to former manufacturing and storage spaces to rooftops.
- Provide access to food-growing programs, facilities and tools for all citizens.
- Transform garbage collection to become a recycling agency for separated materials.
- Separate discarded organic materials in markets and households to make compost for city gardens and to sell to nearby farmers.
- Separate and filter gray water to irrigate parks and other uses that don’t require pure water.
- Use biological treatment to turn black water into useable plant food for gardens and public parks.
- Refit government and public transportation vehicles with renewable means of energy such as electricity.
- Prohibit use of private automobiles in all downtown and shopping areas. Rebuild streets as pedestrian malls.
G. Production and materials
- Support small-scale manufacture of products from recycled materials (park benches from recycled wood, etc.).
- Encourage replacement of consumed resources (plant new trees for each tree cut to construct buildings, etc.).
- Support use of recycled materials in all construction and manufacture.
- Teach sustainability as a required subjects in all levels of schools and universities.
- Create citizen information campaign for government agencies, libraries, and other public places.
I. Celebrations, art, plaques, murals, and markers commemorating native plant and animal species, natural systems, bird migrations, and other natural features
J. Planning for sustainability
- Adoption of sustainability as core foundation for considering land use, zoning, and future. developments.
- Creation of sustainability goals for all aspects of city operation and activity.