Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Cities’

Constantinople: An Example of Urban Resilience

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 10th, 2011

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Image: Ian W Scott via flickr CC

From “Revisiting urban resilience: Echoes from ancient Constantinople can inspire visions for modern green urbanism:

You may love it or loath it, but the contrasts of Istanbul are impossible to ignore. It is a city where history meets modernity, where palaces, mosques and cathedrals lie next to chaotic bazaars, steaming hamam baths and small shops selling things you never need. It is a city that, despite plague, war and economic regression for more than 2000 years has always stood up against the test of time. Today, it is one of the 25 largest cities in the world and the bridge (literally) between Europe and Asia.

2000 years and still relevant
In a new book on urbanism and environmental dynamics, centre researchers Stephan Barthel and Sverker Sörlin have looked at how Constantinople has succeeded to persist and develop despite regularly occurring disturbances. Their findings demonstrate that in the quest for more ecologically sound urbanisation, urban planners of today have a lot to learn from this ancient city. “Our message from having revisited the resilience history of Constantinople during more than three millennia is that the keeping of green space for tacit co-production and community-based relationships to land and water have been essential properties for long-term survival and success”, Barthel and Sörlin say.

Strategic location and smart food production
Constantinople is a city whose origin can be traced back to the establishment of Greek cities and colonies in early antiquity. Eventually it became the capital of the East Roman Empire and since then its role in the region has never really diminished. One answer to this long-term resilience is the city’s capacity to produce significant amounts of food within the urban settlement itself rather than having to rely on others. The productivity of gardening, livestock keeping and fishing proved essential to how well the city could cope in times of stress. Even in periods with population peaks such as the early 6th and 12th centuries, Constantinople was resilient in terms of food and water when trade was cut off. “The rulers of the city invested not only in military infrastructure but also in systems for supplying and storing food and water. And when sieges were efficient and supplies ran dry, there were still possibilities to cultivate food within the city walls and catch fish in the Golden Horn. Hence Constantinople had a variety of options to sustain the city with food.”

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Making Cities Flow: Integration & Infrastructure

Posted in Models, Opinion, Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 3rd, 2011

Source: Forum for the Future

Image: fsse8info via flickr CC

From “How to make a city flow” by Matt Kaplan & Anna Simpson:

Cities never really sleep. Even in the small hours, before commuters surge from their homes onto the roads, the things they need for the day ahead are travelling to and fro: groceries from the countryside; water down the pipes; electrons through cables; news down the wire.

In many cities, all this ebb and flow is like a relay race without proper teams: there’s no real coordination, and so the baton keeps falling between the runners. The people responsible for public transport don’t speak to the ones distributing the food; the energy providers don’t communicate with the information experts. Delivery vans make a one-way trip and come back empty; leftovers from the canteen travel, at best, to composting sites, and at worst, to landfill – while fresh and processed food is brought in from far away.

The daily frustrations of city dwellers asides, this failure to think and plan across different sectors means we waste everything from energy, food and water, to money, time and space – all critical resources that no city with a burgeoning population has to spare. By 2040, two in every three people on the planet will be living in urban areas, and providing them all with the bare necessities – never mind a seat on the bus – will be a huge challenge.

It may seem a way off yet, but less than 30 years isn’t much time in which to make major changes to infrastructure that – in some of the bigger cities – has been around for centuries. Where do we start, and whose job is it anyway? In an effort to help get things started, Forum for the Future has launched ‘Megacities on the Move‘, a new initiative in partnership with the FIA Foundation, Vodafone and EMBARQ (the sustainable transport centre). It’s set out six key priorities for action to ensure the smoothest flow of people and resources.


Read the rest of the article by Matt Kaplan & Anna Simpson – the section reproduced here is less than a quarter of it!


Sustainability: Longevity V. Maintenance

Posted in Opinion, Research by Kate Archdeacon on February 24th, 2011

Source: Wide Urban World

Photo of Teotihuacan © K Archdeacon

From “Were ancient cities sustainable?” by Michael E. Smith:

As an archaeologist, I have a very different view of sustainability than most scholars who study the contemporary world. For sustainability today, one of the standard definitions is that of Gro Harlem Bruntland: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There is much debate and discussion about this definition and its usefulness, but the dual components of current practices and potential future outcomes are fundamental for most writers.

Archaeology deals with human society over long time spans—centuries and even millennia. For me, a sustainable society is one that lasts for a long time. In central Mexico, Teotihuacan society flourished for five centuries or more, while many of the societies that came later were only around for a couple of centuries before collapsing. Teotihuacan was far more sustainable. People sometimes wonder why Classic Maya civilization collapsed, assuming that their society and practices must have been defective. But the Maya cities lasted even longer than Teotihuacan. My own society in the USA has lasted less than half as long as the Classic Maya, so perhaps the Maya had a more sustainable society than we have today.


Read the rest of this article by Michael E. Smith.

Dispersed Cities Vs MegaCities

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on February 7th, 2011

Via Trendwatching

Image of Mumbai by Abhisek Sarda via flickr CC

As unfashionable as it might sound, what if we thought less about the benefits of urban density and more about the many possibilities for proliferating more human-scaled urban centers; what if healthy growth turns out to be best achieved through dispersion, not concentration?

Foreign Policy article Urban Legends: Why suburbs, not cities, are the answer by Joel Kotkin:

The human world is fast becoming an urban world — and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we’re heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space. Global cities, even colossal ones like Mumbai and Mexico City, represent our cosmopolitan future, we’re now told; they will be nerve centers of international commerce and technological innovation just like the great metropolises of the past — only with the Internet and smart phones.

It’s far less clear whether the extreme centralization and concentration advocated by these new urban utopians is inevitable — and it’s not at all clear that it’s desirable.

Not all Global Cities are created equal. We can hope the developing-world metropolises of the future will look a lot like the developed-world cities of today, just much, much larger — but that’s not likely to be the case. Today’s Third World megacities face basic challenges in feeding their people, getting them to and from work, and maintaining a minimum level of health. In some, like Mumbai, life expectancy is now at least seven years less than the country as a whole. And many of the world’s largest advanced cities are nestled in relatively declining economies — London, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo. All suffer growing income inequality and outward migration of middle-class families. Even in the best of circumstances, the new age of the megacity might well be an era of unparalleled human congestion and gross inequality.

Perhaps we need to consider another approach. As unfashionable as it might sound, what if we thought less about the benefits of urban density and more about the many possibilities for proliferating more human-scaled urban centers; what if healthy growth turns out to be best achieved through dispersion, not concentration? Instead of overcrowded cities rimmed by hellish new slums, imagine a world filled with vibrant smaller cities, suburbs, and towns: Which do you think is likelier to produce a higher quality of life, a cleaner environment, and a lifestyle conducive to creative thinking?

So how do we get there? First, we need to dismantle some common urban legends.


Read the rest of this article by Joel Kotkin on the Foreign Policy site for some interesting points about future suburbs (clusters of services in the places people live) and some eye-candy (if you like cities, which I do).

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.

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.

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