Archive for November, 2010

Urban Cultivators in Romita: Sembradores Urbanos

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on November 25th, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

All photos: K. Archdeacon 23-11-10

From Appropedia:

Sembradores Urbanos is a nonprofit urban agriculture demonstration center and outreach group in Mexico City started by three women living in Mexico. There vision is to transform urban soil into green, productive, and sustainable spaces. They opened the The Center for Urban Agriculture Romita, one of the first urban agricultural community spaces in Mexico. The center demonstrates a variety of urban agriculture and organic gardening techniques as well as serving as a space for workshops and courses. Sembradores Urbanos helps give talks at schools and businesses, puts on community movie nights, and helped start the Barter Exchange Merkado de Trueke in Plaza Romita. They also help install gardens in homes and apartments, hospitals, and juvenile detention centers with local volunteers.”

VEIL colleague Dianne Moy made sure I knew about Sembradores Urbanos before I came to Mexico City, so I visited the site yesterday afternoon.  More than three years after the launch, the demonstration projects have increased in diversity, always following a simple, effective approach – making it, naming it and illustrating it – which is lucky because my Spanish is non-existent.  This tiny corner of Romita is hidden away in a typically dense neighbourhood, so the gardeners here struggle with the same issues many city-dwellers face – small spaces, limited sunlight, polluted rainfall and nowhere for deliveries of compost or other bulk supplies.

The main website is in Spanish, but the Appropedia article on the project has links to most of the gardening techniques and planting information – both sites are well worth a look.

(I noticed a jar of seed-bombs on the shelf there – will have to keep an eye out for guerilla gardens around the city.)

Mexico City Pact: Cities Addressing Climate Change

Posted in Events, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on November 23rd, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

Article via ICLEI:

Mayors from around the world have signed an agreement to address climate change at the World Mayors Summit on Climate, hosted by the Government of Mexico City and Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City and chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. During the summit, representatives from 135 global cities signed the Mexico City Pact, which establishes a monitoring and verification mechanism for cities to address climate change. The Mexico City Pact will be presented to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it meets later this month in Cancun, Mexico.

“With more than half the world’s population today living in cities for the first time in human history, mayors and urban leaders are on the frontline of the planet’s fight against a changing climate. Today, the cities meeting here are taking action to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions through their commitment to the Mexico City Pact,” said Marcelo Ebrard.

In partnership with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the World Mayors Council on Climate Change (WMCCC), the Government of Mexico City organized the summit to provide a forum for the signing of an agreement that commits cities to action and urges national governments to advance a binding global treaty.

“Cities have great capacities to address climate change, even in the absence of a binding global treaty among nations, which is why we are here today. We are demonstrating the leadership of mayors and cities around the world to take action,” said Martha Delgado, Mexico City’s secretary of the environment and ICLEI vice president.

The Mexico City Pact calls for cities to develop and implement climate action plans that promote local laws and initiatives to reduce GHG reductions. To establish and follow up on cities’ commitments, the signers will establish their climate actions in the Carbon Cities Climate Registry (CCCR) at the Bonn Centre for Local Climate Action and Reporting (carbonn).

Visit the website for more information about the pact and the summit, or download the pact (also available in Spanish & French).

10 Actions by Mexico City to Address Climate Change

Posted in Events, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on November 22nd, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

The City of Mexico launched their publication “10 Actions to Address Climate Change” here at the Dome on Friday night, with the assistance of a range of guest speakers including Pedro Miranda, Head of Siemens One. Siemens have sponsored the publication, which outlines programs the City has implemented over the past 4 years to reduce GHG emissions. These actions include:

  • Transport Corridors / Zero Emissions Transport Corridor
  • ECOBICI Individual Transport System
  • Minibus and Taxis Replacement Program
  • Metro Line 12
  • Sustainable Housing Program
  • Solar Energy Use Regulations
  • Mexico City Goverment Enviromental Management System
  • Green Roofs Program
  • Recovery of the Rivers Magdalena and Eslava
  • Restoration of Ecosystems and Compensation for Maintaining Environmental Services

Download the publication in Spanish and English.  We had the opportunity to ask Pedro Miranda some questions after the presentation, and the videos will be hosted at

Based on our time here over the past week, the ECOBICI appears to be well-established, and there’s a Ciclovia here in the city on Sundays – people were being “fitted” for bicycles as we travelled to the World Mayors Climate Summit early this morning.

Bluebonnet Energy Co-Op: via Mexico City

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on November 21st, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

Bluebonnet Electric Co-op is an example of a Smart Grid installation in the Dome here in Mexico City.  The Co-op has installed smart meters in its members’ homes after an education and engagement process designed to avoid the criticisms leveled at smart meters – namely that they don’t deliver behaviour change.  Ensuring that the Co-op members have access to tools such as Net Energy Management, pictured here, increases their capacity for observing and responding to their energy consumption data and the related costs.  The smart meters allow the energy supplier to moderate how much electricity they produce, and the related software allows the customer to choose what they use and when.  Smart meters, packaged with appropriate tools by an interested company for an interested market, are a great example of the consumption reduction that ICT can deliver.  An additional benefit, briefly touched on in the Dome presentation, is that the meters no longer need to be physically visited by the company’s readers.  While this saves 30% of the company overheads (it’s unclear what the former meter readers do now), it also eliminates hours of driving from one property to another, and the associated GHG emissions – moving into the territory of sustainable & efficient logistics.

Introducing the Smart Grid! via Mexico City

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on November 19th, 2010

Sustainable Cities Net: Posting from the UCLG Congress in Mexico City 18-25 November

A Smart Grid, described by Siemens as the “intelligent network infrastructure” that supports the “systematic optimization of the energy system”, would allow energy production and consumption to become more aligned, reducing waste in energy production and increasing consumption awareness through smart meters, tariffs and smart appliances.

Siemens have erected their Smart Grid Dome in the Plaza Santo Domingo, here in Mexico City.  The interior dome acts as a projection screen for a multimedia introduction to Smart Grid Solutions, while touchscreens around the walls divide the information into (roughly) Grid Management and ICT, Renewable Energy, and Scales of Application (Industrial, Commercial, Residential).  The information is a mixture of technical specifications, background information, current research, case studies and proposals.

While it may seem like shifting to smart appliances and meters does not reduce the need for “stuff” (and what we do with all the “non-smart” stuff when it’s not wanted anymore), there are opportunities to combine Sharing Services and Product Service Systems (PSS) with smart grids.  For example, a smart grid might encourage people to set their smart washing machine to run during off-peak supply for wind power – say at 3 in the morning.  In this model, everyone still owns a washing machine.  But what if your local laundry service did the same thing – using less resources and energy while creating a central point for water-saving infrastructure? (Local Laundry Service?? Check out this pedal-powered laundry service in Buenos Aires.)

More to come on this…

To follow the posts from the Summit follow or bookmark this link,

Sustainable Cities Net: posting from Mexico City

Posted in Events, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on November 18th, 2010

Centro Historico, photo: K Archdeacon

On behalf of Sustainable Cities Net, I (Kate) am attending and blogging on the United Cities and Local Governments Congress and the World Mayors’ Summit, held this week in Mexico City. The content will appear here and also on a site created by Siemens, who provided a similar service at COP 15 and will do so at COP 16 next month.  Over three thousand delegates from around the world will attend the presentations from city mayors on the pressures and responses they meet in their own city.  The opportunity to expand the discussion and learn about pressures, models, scales, successes and failures in other cities is unique, and the material from Sustainable Cities Net and Sustainable Melbourne will make its way into my perspective and reports.  Bloggers from other countries will be there too, so keep an eye on all the sites for a diversity of opinion!

About the Congress & Summit:

The UCLG Congress – The Local and Regional Leaders World Summit – is organised every 3 years and it brings together over 3000 local and regional elected representatives and practitioners from around the world.

Since its creation in Paris in 2004, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) has worked to make the voice of mayors and local and regional officials heard, in order to guarantee that cities and regions take their rightful place in the international community.  The cities and regions, including their inhabitants, that we work for, are being faced with stark challenges from global phenomena and events that demand individual and collective action from local authorities, such as: climate change, shared sustainable development, financial crises, dialogue between cultures.

The Local and Regional Leaders World Summit, November 18 – 21 in Mexico City, which will bring together mayors, presidents of regions, local elected officials and their partners, will be an unprecedented occasion for exchange and debate on the role of local governments in development and in the efforts for greater between citizens and also between cities and regions.

The World Mayors Summit on Climate (WMSC) will be held on November 21, 2010 in Mexico City, so that mayors from different regions of the world can sign a voluntary Pact (the Global Cities Covenant on Climate “the Mexico City Pact”) that sends a clear message to the international community on the strategic importance of cities in the struggle against climate change.
(UCLG English programme, Spanish programme, French programme,)
(Programmes on the site)

To follow the posts from the Summit follow or bookmark this link,

We will be posting regular Sustainable Cities content as well, so keep adding your articles and photos!

Sustainable Cities: Challenges for the Asia Pacific – Series podcast from

Posted in Opinion, Research, Sustainable Cities by Rob Eales on November 16th, 2010

This series of podcasts from 2008 from ABC Radio, Radio Australia.  It discusses the challenges of cities in the Asia Pacific region with a broad range of local and regional participants.  It discusses transport, infrastructure and livability along with community and identity, how they are defined, exist, can be planned for as well as how they affect the fabric of cities.

It is still current and thought provoking, with the local participants providing a broad range of technical, historical and cultural viewpoints from across the region.

Low cost soil conservation measures empower local farmers

Posted in Models, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on November 14th, 2010

Via International Insitute for Environment and Development

Image from video 'More people, more trees', International Institute for Environment and Development

Image from video ‘More people, more trees’, part funded by the International Institute for Environment and Development

More people, more trees by Camilla Toulmin

This is the name of a new video, part-funded by IIED, which shows two decades of progress in addressing soil erosion in Burkina Faso and Kenya that have significantly improved rural livelihoods and farm productivity.

Twenty years ago, we noticed that some new projects across dryland Africa were attracting a lot of interest for their positive impacts on restoring degraded soils and building more resilient cropping systems. I had recently set up the Drylands programme here at IIED, and was working in partnership with Oxfam’s then-newly established Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), led by drylands expert, Ced Hesse. We produced a video and booklet — Looking after our land — under the direction of Will Critchley from the Free University of Amsterdam. It showed the growing evidence that simple, low cost soil conservation measures can empower local farmers to restore their lands and improve the fertility of their soil.

Nearly twenty years on, Ced Hesse has been with IIED for more than 12 years and we were keen to find out whether the dryland projects had been a ‘flash in the pan’, or the foundations for a better way of managing soils and landscapes. We asked Will Critchley to go back to look at two of the six original sites from Looking after our land — one in Machakos District, Kenya and the other on the central plateau of Burkina Faso.

Sometimes you can be disappointed going back to places you knew long ago — but this time there was no need to worry. In both cases, both soils and plant cover have been clearly restored, with greater investment in trees of all sorts. By following a participatory approach, in which people learn together about better ways to care for their soils, much has been achieved. Many farmers now harvest enough grain to meet all their needs, with extra to sell.

Read the rest and see the the promotional preview film

Food! Slow Food! – A visit to the Salone de Gusto biennial

Posted in Events, Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on November 12th, 2010

Via: Nourishing the Planet

Slow Food‘s biennial Salone del Gusto via Worldwatch Institute.  Photo: Bernard Pollack

Salone is a rare coming together, an opportunity for the stewards of the world's food biodiversity, to share and market their wares. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The endless aisles of Slow Food‘s biennial Salone del Gusto, held at the massive Lingotto Fiere building in Turin, are laid out like a map of the world, albeit skewed a bit towards the land of Caesar. Imagine your favorite farmers market and then multiple that by 100. It’s hard to know where to start and it’s even harder to know where to end.

Cheese maker next to apricot grower next to caper forager next to oyster farmer. After a few days, directed grazing becomes sort of like a game of memory. Was that table offering up incredibly sweet almonds in the Spain section or somewhere in Africa? And did you see those ingenious butcher-case containers, developed by cattlemen from Italy, with a shoulder of rare breed cow along with a leek, carrot, celery and peeled garlic all ready for a busy family to become a stew or roast? And wasn’t it great that the Mexico section included mezcal distillers and cocoa growers, offering up both sips and chocolate nibs, a very fortunate pairing of food biodiversity?

American craft brewers like Dogfish Head and Rogue were pouring samples a short walk from small-batch beers from the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as an impressive display of micro-brews and micro-spirits from every corner of Italy–apparently the new wave of brewers and distillers ain’t just limited to Brooklyn and Boulder.

Read the rest at Nourish the World

Future biodiversity – The role of cities and local authorities

Posted in Models, Research, Sustainable Cities by Kate Archdeacon on November 10th, 2010

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Image: AcidFlask via flickr.  CC license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Image: AcidFlask via flickr CC license

Slowly out of the shadows by Sturle Hauge Simonsen

Cities demand a stronger voice in curbing global biodiversity loss.
It has yet to receive the same acknowledgment as climate change, but putting the breaks on biodiversity loss is becoming increasingly important on the political agenda.

Reports state that continuing biodiversity loss is predicted, but could be slowed (pending required policy choices) and a Stern review-like report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) has given natural assessments a significant boost.

Better frameworks, please
As countries strived to carve out the careful wordings for a ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the COP10 in Nagoya, cities and local authorities used the momentum to boost their own role in managing biodiversity.

Their message is clear: Give us a better policy framework and we will unfold the local potential to protect global biodiversity.

As the world turns increasingly urban, with more than five billion people projected to live in cities by 2030, it is becoming increasingly recognised that cities are important role players in halting global biodiversity loss.

Read the rest