A powerful triumvirate,
the United Nations, Bureau International Des
Expositions and the mayor of Shanghai, released this week the Shanghai Manual:A Guide for Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century.This timely (and free!) manual is
aimed at helping leaders of the world’s cities use integrated urban
planning, management, financing and technology to green their
economies and build climate and economic resilience.
“The Shanghai Manual details
the experience and practices of cities across the world in addressing common
challenges and achieving harmonious development…and is therefore of great
theoretical and practical value,” Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said at
Monday’s launch, according to the Shanghai Daily.
Aimed at a
target readership of mayors and executive leaders of developing nation cities,
the bilingual (English and Chinese) Shanghai
Manual is the basis for capacity building and training being rolled out in Asia next week by the United Nations. City leaders representing 12 Asian nations will attend the United Nations Center for Regional Development in
Nagoya, Japan, where UN officials and I will lead urban sustainability training
for leaders ranging from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Karachi, Pakistan,
to Makati (Manila), Philippines. In addition smaller cities including Chiang Mai, Thailand are participating.
Hourly Japan ‘s tragedy grows almost beyond comprehension (3/16 Update: The head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said this afternoon that releases of radiation at Fukushima have been “extremely high” and that “could impact the ability to take corrective measures.”). There is universal empathy over the pain and
suffering being experienced, fear about impacts on Japan’s and the world’s
economy, and anxiety about releases of radiation. For those of us living in seismically
active coastal earthquake zones (me), or anyone living in the airshed of an
active nuclear facility (most of us),or living downwind (the West Coast of the US and Canada), concerns are multiplied.
We must use this teachable moment to comprehensively
plan for climate change, energy availability and transformational natural
disasters. These multi-dimensional factors present non-linear problems bound up
together, a “wicked problem.”
The urban need for effective resilience planning has never
been more urgent or daunting. The Sendai Earthquake shattered existing risk models
with a 9.0 initial offshore earthquake, spawning a colossal tsunami from the
epicenter toward shore, resulting in a humanitarian crisis underpinned by now-uncontrolled
nuclear radiation releases.
Loss of life is rampant, and amongst survivors physical and
psychological suffering is acute.
All grids are down, no transportation, communications or
energy are available in impact zones. Yet, the modest bicycle has emerged triumphant from the
chaos in Tokyo
Infrastructure, communications, trains, subways, roads,
energy, soil, air, water, and food are all impacted in terms of delivery, quality
and supply. People are wisely cloistered indoors, but getting basic supplies
will become the next concern for survival even before the radiation leaks subside.
In terms of global economic fallout, supply chains are getting hit, (microcontrollers,
airplanes, and the automotive and electronics sectors,
impacting global trade at least for the year.
Trend: World supply of renewables are being recalculated and
Nuclear has lost its dubious “renewable” status
permanently. Anything that makes land and resources unusable and dangerous for
years should not qualify as a first solution. But with coal use likely peaking
as an energy source and because its threat to climate, we are forced to consider nuclear
as an energy option.
Trend: Need for New Nuclear Power Plant Criteria
Earthquake, and Cat 3 to 5 hurricane and typhoon zones
should be taken off the global list of available nuclear energy generation sites.Nuclear needs a complete re-examination in
terms of lifecycle energy costs (how much energy is used in mining uranium and
other material) as well as lifecycle radiation risks.
Trend: Nuclear won’t be Dismissed Outright
Considering the increase in the cities of the developing world
(China, India) and their need for energy–it will be almost impossible to
dismiss nuclear as an energy source, unless some very massive leapfrog
technology comes along. We’re stuck with most of the nuclear plants we have,
at least for now. Plants should be
scrutinized, even temporarily or permanently closed if they can’t be run with “Post-Fukushima” confidence.Germany is doing just
that to its older nuclear plants. The EU is stress testing more than 100 of its nuclear plants, according to the American Public Media show Marketplace.
The challenge for urban planning agencies in the
Pacific Rim: cities are more likely to be coastal, putting them at heightened
risks for Pacific earthquake zones as well as climate change risks. The rising average
ocean levels resulting from melting polar ice caps will only make tsunamis
and flood events worse. The West Coast of the US dodged a bullet when the tsunami from Japan hit at
low tide: still, California alone had more than $30 million in tsunami damage
Sea level rises will exacerbate the damage caused by tsunamis, and will also increase
sea water intrusion into drinking water supplies and fresh water ecosystems. About 1.6 million households in Japan were without water as of 3/18.
Distributed Energy, Communications, Transportation and Radiation
Energy: Solar, biogas and fuel cell technologies will gain as
they can be used on or near where they generate energy, providing energy
supplies even after disasters take down the power grid. Distributed forms of
energy require only local transmission lines, which can be repaired quickly.
Wind energy relies more on national grid energy transmission networks (though as
the most affordable major renewable energy supply, wind demands a share of the energy pie). Because
of transmission risks, coal plants will decline, even if “clean coal” is
perfected, let alone invented. Electricity supply is spotty from Tokyo north. Tokyo faces six months of brownouts, or reduced power because of the nuclear crisis (nuclear provides the nation with 30% of its total electric power).
Communications: Cellular telephone service in Japan was severely disrupted,
not so for land lines and internet communications. The recommendation according
to the US Department of State: “Where
possible, you may be able to contact family members using text messages or
social media such as Facebook or Twitter.” Of course that means email, chat,
Skype, Vonage, etc. work in Japan, too.
Mobility:Trains and subways are back up in the Tokyo Metro, after being mostly down for a few
days, as they are the lifeblood of urban Japanese life. The northeast region,
however, is physically cut off from the urban spine of Tokyo. My Japan
sources, Eric and Ken, tell me the regions should be able to be linked with
cycling, if the right bikes are used (mountain or cruiser tires). I got around
after the San Francisco earthquake of 1989
with an old Fisher (pre “Gary”), and was even regularly able to clamber with
that bike down a post-earthquake four-foot San Andreas Fault road drop on State
Highway One, on cliffs above the Pacific. Though Highway One north was not reopened to
cars for over a year, it still provided cyclists safe passage between West
Besides the immediate risks to health, the big unknown risks
jeopardize land, infrastructure and food. How will Japan safely assess radiation
levels and then make a go/ no go decision for what’s inhabitable or edible? How
will that information be conveyed to the international community? Already the
US has made multiple requests that Japan release more data on its basic air radiation levels. (Update: in the first break of policy with Japan, the US today, 3/16, has set an evacuation zone of 50 miles for US citizens versus a Japanese zone of 12 miles.)
Imagine the complexity of trying to obtain,
analyze and effectively communicate radiation levels in soil, water, food and
Overall, Japan has remained stoic, calm, and orderly for which its
leaders and people should be greatly commended. There have been no reports of looting or price gouging. Now may we all breathe carefully, take
stock of the lessons that emerge, and plan for a world of new forces and
We should take heed from Japan. Its situation at present may
seem unbelievably hellish, but it could demonstrate for the world how to face
not only natural disasters that rightfully grab headlines, but also how to deal
with the forces that will always lurk in the background: climate change and
energy supply volatility.
Image: Associated Press via The CityFix
Karlenzig is president of Common
Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, strategic adviser to
the Institute for Strategic Resilience and co-author ofa
forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and
This weekend I’m attending the Shanghai Expo Summit Forum as part of a United Nations delegation. The Oct. 31 event,
which will be on “Urban Innovation and Sustainable Development,” will mark the close
of the largest World’s Fair in history: more than 70 million have visited the
Expo (the Osaka, Japan, World Fair of 1970 attracted 64 million) where a record
two hundred countries are exhibiting through Sunday.
The Shanghai Expo has been targeting
sustainable cities throughout its six-month run. Developing nations such as
China and India will be the focus of not only emerging strategic sustainability
frameworks, but also of large-scale financial, technology system and cultural
innovation, all of which will constantly intersect with new ways of managing
resources and mitigating and adapting to climate change.
About 2,000 are invited to the fair’s closing ceremonies, including heads of state, governors, mayors, Nobel Prize recipients and CEOs: China will be represented by Premier Wen Jiabao, while Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will appear for the UN. The Obama Administration is sending Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council for Environmental Quality, to present on “Green Development and Ecological Cities.” Former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern, author of the pivotal 2006, “Economics of Climate Change,” (The Stern Review) will also speak.
Stern asserted that with one-percent investment worldwide in climate change mitigating technologies and development, estimated climate change-related damage to the global economy in the 5 to 14 percent range will be avoided.
Other sessions at the Shanghai
Expo Summit Forum will include:
Knowledge Innovation and Cultural Cities
Science and Technology Innovation and
Economic Transformation and Sustainable
Community Management and Livable Cities
Youth Creativity and Future Cities
This year I’ve
been collaborating with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social
Affairs, which has been preparing for the Summit Forum with Premier Wen Jiabao
and the National Organizing Committee of Expo 2010 Shanghai China. Together,
with the input of other UN agencies and the World Bank, we have been writing the Shanghai Training Manual on
Sustainable Urban Development. The publication will come out in May 2011 as
one of two “legacies of thematic substance” from the Shanghai Expo, the other
being “The Shanghai Declaration,” which will be released at the Summit.
The “Shanghai Manual” will be an
instrument for knowledge sharing and capacity building for cities around the
globe as they struggle to tackle the economic, social and environmental
challenges of the 21st century. The largest challenge will be the
result of China’s expected increase in urban population from nearly 50 percent
of its 1.3 billion citizens to about 75 percent of its total population by 2050:
that means 400-700 million people will settle into China’s cities in the next
four decades, mostly from rural areas of China.
Such unprecedented growth in
developing-nation cities prompted the Shanghai Manual to analyze the
intersection of sustainability management and urban planning with the emerging green
economy, science and technology innovation,
management and governance approaches, as well as traditional environmental management
sectors, such as transportation and land use planning, solid waste management
and wastewater management.
The Shanghai Manual will address
topics covered by previous Shanghai Expo urban sustainability forums that have
been held in and around Shanghai since its opening in May (which has an
overarching theme of “Better City, Better Life,”):
and communication technologies and urban development
heritage, creative cities and urban regeneration
and technology innovation and urban futures
carbon cities: environmental protection and urban responsibilities
carbon economic transformation
campus; better living: learning for a sustainable future
transformations and urban-rural relationships
change and city responsibility
urban governance and sustainable lifestyles
Mayors from North America appearing will
include Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, who announced a year ago the goal of
attempting to make the Canadian city “the greenest in the world.”
By 2015, according to the UN,
Shanghai will be the seventh largest city in the world, after (in order):
Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; New York,
New York; and Delhi, India. The Shanghai Energy and Environment Exchange, based
in the city’s Pudong District, has 300 companies involved in a market-based
trading system for pollution credits that may become the basis for a city-based
and even national carbon trading platform.
How fitting that China focuses an
international expo on sustainable urban planning in a city that is its largest,
most dynamic example of how climate change, financial markets and urban
planning are merging into an entirely new global socio-economic model.
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current,
an internationally active consultancy based in San Anselmo, California. He is a Fellow at the
Post-Carbon Institute and co-author ofa forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management.
It’s time for the United States and the Obama Administration to take a stand. Either this country will become a leader in sustainability technology, services and implementation, or it will languish forever behind the European Union, China, the Middle East, South Korea and other nations.
After a promising start by the Obama administration recognizing the importance of clean technologies, particularly clean energy and transportation, we are one year later paralyzed: Copenhagen was a qualified failure, Congress has abdicated passing climate change-related regulations, and the backdoor plan for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases is being challenged in Congress.
Part of the blame has to go to the White House. During President Obama’s first 30 days, a raft of new programs under the Stimulus, about 11 percent of the $787 billion dollars, were announced that would benefit clean technology research and implementation.
By April the administration moved on to health care, leaving the green economy and climate change measures twisting in the wind. Instead of bolstering the effort with statistics, stories and demonstrations of why the world is already moving toward green as the biggest next-generation economic opportunity, the US green D-Day troops landed on the beach without air cover, supplies or a mission objective.
During late spring and summer last year, I spoke with numerous administration and Congressional officials. I proposed that the administration develop and release detailed figures on where green job growth was occurring. I also advised projecting those figures into a future of guaranteed clean technology dominance, with specific stories about where record numbers of new jobs were already being created:
Toledo, Ohio has 4 percent of its metro workforce (6,000 jobs!) engaged in clean technology production, at all levels including executive, research, marketing and labor. That’s equivalent on the regional level to major industries that have picked up and left the Midwest and moved overseas.
California’s green economy grew almost three times faster than the rest of its economy during 1995-2008. That job growth was in geographic regions all over the state, including wealthy urban coastal areas as well as in less prosperous and recession-ravaged inland regions.
The greater Boston metro area has become a hotbed for clean energy research and production through state programs and private sector collaboration, with MIT and Cambridge acting as important science and policy advancement centers.
Austin, Texas is a leading center for incubating renewable research, production and deployment, demonstrating public-private partnerships and academic collaboration, with the University of Texas.
Obviously, the officials did not understand that supporting “green jobs” means more than talking up the merits of each technology, which was their tact.
They told me, “We can gather and promote those statistics after the stimulus jobs are created.” Or, “The White House staff is taking up every day with health care discussions–there is only one day per month for environmental discussions, so it’s not enough time.” (I couldn’t believe at this day and age, they failed to frame the issues as “economic development” not “environmental” issues!)
The urgency of demonstrating how the clean technology economy is taking root in many Congressional districts and media markets is evident: people just need to see what these new opportunities are without having to understand the complex technologies themselves.
Only through such visceral stories, demonstrations and a few choice statistics will the American public public and media recognize that taking on the challenges of climate change and foreign oil dependency present untold opportunities for domestic jobs and market leadership.
New green cities are being either planned, designed and built in China, South Korea, The Middle East and even India, based on new clean tech ecosystems combining renewable energy, with water and material conservation processes, along with information technologies. It’s ironic that a US-based company like General Electric needs to base one of its largest clean technology research investment in Abu Dhabi, but that’s the reality of our new economic era.
President Obama and Congress need to illustrate that we are falling behind in this race for the future of our national economy, planet and local livelihoods. They need to shine a solar spotlight on this new world that is emerging all around us, in our factories, universities and research laboratories to make them a recognized engine of our regional economies.
The president can look to a US city for inspiration. Seattle has set a goal of making itself North America’s first carbon neutral city by 2030, which will require a Manhattan Project-type approach among local government, businesses, civic organizations and local experts. Only through well-researched shout-outs from the bully pulpit of the Presidency will such efforts capture and sustain the national imagination.
Our past has proven that once our nation is inspired, we all can move collectively toward a common goal: Let’s use our existing and expected progress in sustainability to define a future of hope and economic regeneration.
It’s the end of the decade 2000-2009, and there has been
progress as well as potential disaster for sustainability. In chronological
order, I’ve chosen these ten stories to show a range of relevant global and national
issues and events on climate, business, government, media, design, technology,
language and demographics. Some of the entries are pegged to an exact date, while
others cover a time period.
The first entry, climate change is impacting all aspects of
sustainability thought, planning and action.
of the Decade: Global Climate Change Confirmed by…Climate, IPCC, Heads of State
Time Period: 2000-2009
The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that we humans are
changing the earth’s climate in ways in which millions are beginning to regret.
Ten of the hottest years on record globally have been recorded in the ten years
1997. Some of the impacts: rising overall sea levels from melting polar ice are
already damaging low-lying areas in Bangladesh, India, Egypt and China, and
threatening the very existence of island nations. More intense hurricanes (Katrina
killed more than 1,300 in 2006 and helped shut down the oil and gas refining sector in the Gulf Coast);
droughts, heat (the Europe heat event of 2003 caused more than 35,000 deaths) and wildfires (Australia’s Melbourne-area deadly firestorm of 2009 exploded
during one of the hottest periods ever recorded Down under, dramatizing the
ravishes of an ongoing 8-year drought).
So what if these are chance events, unrelated to man’s
impact on the globe’s climate? That’s a fair question and an outside
possibility, but odds are that these extreme events were at least partially due
to the rising global concentration of CO2, which is now at about 390 parts per
million (ppm), up from 315 ppm in the late 1950s.The real threat is that things will get much
worse (heat waves, droughts, floods, depletion of glaciers and water supplies,
agriculture and fisheries disruption) if our global greenhouse gases continue
to increase. Human-based greenhouse gas emissions increased 70% between 1970
and 2004, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, also known
as the IPCC). The watershed IPCC Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 developed by 2,500 of the world’s leading climate
scientists, put the likelihood at more than 90 percent that the global
temperature increase of .74 Celsius between 1906 and 2005 has been caused by
human greenhouse gas emissions. How often have 2,500 scientists agreed on
anything? The landmark 2007 “Stern Review on the Economic of Climate Change,” by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern,
estimates that global climate change could negatively impact the world
economy annually at 5-20 percent Gross Domestic Product, while Stern estimated
that the annual costs of reducing the risks of global climate
change are estimated to be about 1 percent of world GDP.
Unfortunately, the UN COP-15 conference in Copenhagen ended with a whimper, producing only a non-binding agreement
to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above
pre-industrialized temperature levels. Follow-up actions, including a potential binding
treaty, will set the agenda for the next decade and beyond.
2. Word: Sustainability
The use of the term
“sustainability” itself has been a major surprise this past decade. In 2000,
only a few policy wonks and academics used the word, traditionally defined as “meeting
present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their needs.”Now the
public (maybe even more than the media) is gleaning that “sustainability”
differs considerably from “environmentalism” as it is based on planning for an
uncertain future based on economics, culture, resources and technology.
As the current decade closes many are searching for a
term that could replace “sustainability,” claimed to be almost meaningless now
because it has been hijacked by greenwashing corporate marketing campaigns (I
bet some such ads pop up next to this post somewhere in future digital
ether!).“Resilience” is currently gaining traction, but we’ll perhaps need another decade to see if the “s-word” gets dethroned.
LEED Green Buildings
Date: March 2000
The US Green Building Council
formally released its Leadership in Energy and Environment Design building standards
full Green Building Rating system 2.0 in March 2000. The impact on the nation’s
building and construction industry over the next ten years has been wildly
popular and transformational on numerous levels. The number of LEED-certified
or registered buildings increased from 10,000 in 2007 to 20,000 by the
beginning of 2009.Providing a system-based measurable standard of what “green” means is useful
for policy, benchmarking and new market development. The LEED ratings, for instance, were
integral to my ability to develop an overall sustainability benchmarking of US
cities starting in 2005 (which can found in my book How Green is Your City?). Critics
have assailed LEED for providing standards in certification that do not reflect
actual performance in energy efficiency. Nevertheless, LEED standards, are now being positioned for international
markets (in competition with Europe’s BREE-AM and China’s
emerging Three Star standard),and they continue to be a powerful
teaching tool, not to mention an industry onto themselves. Today’s savvy urban
planner, construction manager or architect must possess the LEED-AP,
“Accredited Professional” tagline on their business card. In addition to new
commercial building construction, LEED is now being applied to homes, existing
buildings, schools, neighborhoods and may even extend to cities, under the LEED for
Neighborhood Development standard
that was launched in 2009.
The next challenges for green building standards will be
rating life-cycle impacts (carbon, water, scarce resources) of construction processes and material, while integrating measures of building performance–how much buildings actually save energy or water once they are occupied.
The Toyota Prius
Date: July 2000
Back in the 1990s, Toyota
Motor Corporation CEO Katsuaki Watanbe helped birth the “G-21,” later known as
the Prius, when he decided that middle-class consumers wanted a car that used
new motor innovations to be fuel-efficient. The Prius hybrid gas-electric car
was introduced in the United States in July 2000. It quickly became a Hollywood status symbol after Leonardo DiCaprio bought one
in 2001, and he and other stars such as Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart
(remember her?) began showing up at the 2003 Oscar ceremonies not in
chauffeured limos, but behind the wheel or driven in their own Priuses. By the
decade’s peak sales year of 2007, the Toyota Prius had sold 180,000 units in the
United States.These cars get 40-50 miles per gallon but
perhaps even more importantly provide a meter showing real-time and historic
fuel efficiency; self-monitoring feedback is one of the greatest ways of changing behavior to reduce energy use.
Plug-in electric models of the Prius will begin to be released on test basis in
2010, in a challenge to the introduction of GM’s Chevy Volt. Plug-ins may
create fuel efficiencies that can truly reduce carbon emissions and oil
dependency, getting from 51 to 100+ miles per gallon. One problem with electric
cars or plug-in hybrid electrics is that their true sustainability impact depends on exactly
how the electricity they use is produced at the power plant: renewables or
dirty coal? In parts of the United States that continue to burn large amounts
of coal to generate electricity (Southeast, lower Midwest and Plains states),
driving an electric car does little or nothing to reduce a person’s overall
carbon footprint when compared to gas-burning cars. When you consider cars and
health, social, land use and material life-cycle impacts, driving less is better for people’s
environment and the planet.
Story. Wal-Mart Embarks on a “Green” Path
I must admit, I was a skeptic when I first heard of
Wal-Mart’s plan to go green in 2004 from Jib Ellison, founder of Blue Skye
of the major collaborative forces behind Wal-Mart’s transformation. Wal-Mart,
at that point the largest company in the world (it’s now number 3), had
been known for its ruthless management style, questionable labor practices, and
for helping put locally owned stores in towns across the country out of
business. Ellison had met with Wal-Mart’s then-CEO Lee Scott at the behest of
Conservation International’s CEO Peter Seligman, and
Scott decided upon a serious campaign to make the company more resource and
energy efficient. Since that meeting, the company has been streamlining its
transportation fleet, buildings and some products to be less environmentally
destructive. The company is now targeting its supply chain, which is primarily
in China, in a loosely defined, greening protocol.
The impact of Wal-Mart going green helped awaken the
nation’s business leaders to the potential of making their own operations and
supply chains energy and resource efficient, (just sounds like good business to me). Wal-Mart announced earlier in 2009 that it would require
manufacturers to calculate and disclose the full environmental costs of
ingredients and processes on product labels sometime in the next five years.
Suppliers, formerly isolated or little regulated, are now assessing their
operations in a way they never would have without the threat of greater
scrutiny from their biggest customer.
6. Regulations: California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006
When California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger made the declaration in June 2005 that, “I say the debate is
over (on climate change),”
many were still heatedly arguing that climate change needed more studies before
action was taken. The Governor and the California Legislature pressed ahead in
2006 to sign the nation’s first major climate change mitigation legislation,
known as AB 32 . Now AB 32 will soon be implemented across industries and even in local
communities through follow-up legislation such as the regulation known
as SB 375, the nation’s first statewide
regulatory attempt to limit suburban and exurban sprawl. Meanwhile, opponents
of AB 32, are gearing up for 2010 gubernatorial elections, claiming AB 32 will cost the state $143 billion in auction taxes alone. Whatever happens
next, California is being looked on by the Obama Administration and world
leaders as the pace setter in climate change mitigation with its aggressive automotive
fuel standards, green building standards and AB 32’s goal of reducing
greenhouse gases 80% over 1990 levels by 2050.
7.Film: An Inconvenient Truth
Released in Summer 2006 at the Sundance Film Festival, An Inconvenient Truth made the debate on
climate change public. The documentary, which was actually just a series of
lectures and slideshows that former Vice President Al Gore was giving around
the world, hit a nerve. Despite “action scenes” that consisted of Gore either
1.) riding up elevators or 2.) riding down escalators, the film created a major
public buzz and introduced the subject of climate change to popular culture. An
Inconvenient Truth received an Academy Award in 2007 for Best Documentary
and went on to set records for box office revenues in its category. An Inconvenient Truth offered very few
solutions, suggesting compact fluorescent bulbs and little more. This critical
learning opportunity was finally addressed when Gore released a follow-up book
in 2009, A Plan to Solve the Climate
8.Book: The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Michael Pollan’s 2006 book TheOmnivore’s Dilemma made clear the benefits of sustainable
agriculture and food production, and even foraging or killing your own food:
it’s healthier for people, animals, farmers, the land and nature. The ongoing
popularity of this book has helped create a demand for sustainably raised food
that has out-paced supply. The Omnivore’s
Dilemma patiently outlined what is wrong with industrial agriculture and
livestock production, where highly subsidized ingredients such as high fructose
corn syrup have become a surplus commodity to be forced upon products or
animals in order to reduce the price of ingredients, without regard to health
(diabetes, reduced nutrition). I had the good fortune of meeting Angelo Garro,
the Italian forager, now based in Northern California who was profiled in the
last half of the book. As we traded notes on wild huckleberry picking one
afternoon at a friend’s orchard party, he was pulling off some strips of meat from a boiled
carcass. When the sun went down most were unknowingly eating a jack rabbit that
Angelo had shot in the orchard a few hours before–it had made its way into a
delicious bolognese pasta sauce.
Masdar City, First Planned Net-Zero Carbon City
Time Period: 2006-2017
Masdar will be a 50,000-person city based on applied sustainability
research and technology that is being developed in Abu Dhabi, United
Arab Emirates. While other cities have been planned to be net-zero carbon
(Dongtan, China, which is not being developed because of local corruption and
other issues), Masdar
has been one of the few net-zeros that appear to be proceeding as planned. With
financial partners Credit Suisse, Siemens and General Electric, Masdar is also
backed by the city-state of Abu Dhabi, as well as technology partners from the
UK and Spain. The complex is being used for cutting-edge research in: renewable
energy (including dozens of active and passive solar and wind technologies), water
conservation technologies that can distill drinking water from ambient moisture
both indoors (sweat) and outdoors (dew), as well as local urban food production
schemes. In fall 2009, the Masdar Institute of Technology opened, in conjunction with
MIT, where students get degrees in engineering,material sciences, IT, water and the
environment, all with a relationship to the real world demonstration projects
taking root in the city that in Arabic means “the source.”
Trend: Mega-growth of Unregulated Asian Cities + Mega Drought
Between now and 2027 Asian Cities will account for more
than half of the world’s greenhouse gas increases,
according to a study by the Asian Development Bank.
From Mumbai to Beijing, cities will add a projected 1.8 billion people over the next two
decades; they are almost entirely unregulated in their growth, carbon
management and environmental impacts, despite some new siloed attempts to
manage their industries, power production and energy efficiency. The daunting
challenge is that no regulatory structure exists to monitor this collection of Asian mega-cities,
despite the fact that many of these cities has or will have populations of 10-20 million individuals. This megagrowth began
around the beginning of the 00’s, when Asian urban population was at 1.4
billion. Asia is projected to have about 3 billion urbanites by 2030.
Water is the first epic Asian city resource
crisis. The Tibetan Plateau, source of most of the region’s major
sources of fresh water (including the Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, Ganges,
Irrawaddy and the Indus rivers) has been experiencing a seven percent loss of
glaciers on an annual basis, according to a report released last week (pdf) at the
Copenhagen climate conference.
Beijing has been hit especially
hard by a ten-year drought (pdf): the city of 17 million has enough water for only 14
million. Beijing has been forced to procure
water from surrounding agricultural regions and rapidly diminishing groundwater, while some cities in India have
completely run out of water during periods of drought over the past decade.
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common
Current, an internationally active urban sustainability strategy
consultancy. He is a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.
The Copenhagen climate summit ended today, with a non-binding agreement signed by industrialized countries to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the temperature when industrialization began.
The island nation of Tuvalu led a revolt last week by developing nations against the 2-degree idea, asserting it wanted increases to be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialization levels.
Apisai Ielemia, the Prime Minister of the 10,000-person island chain in the south Pacific, said his people will have “no other inland to run to,” when average ocean waters are expected to rise because of melting polar ice.
Developing nations also protested a pre-conference paper that was discovered to be circulating among developed nations, with suggested stipulations that have proven to be similar to today’s end agreement.
China and the US, meanwhile, went head to head over what could be quantifiable and verifiable in China. There was even talk early this week of border tariffs that may be imposed by the United States on Chinese imported goods if they do not transparently demonstrate their greenhouse gas reductions.
The agreement called for the US to cut CO2 emissions between 14-17 percent by 2020 from 2025 levels. Presdient Obama called the deal “meaningful and unprecedented.”
Developed countries including the United States will provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help “most vulnerable” poor
nations (Tuvalu?) cut their carbon emissions in a deal that was announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday. They will
also pay out $30 billion to developing countries from next year through 2012.
The agreement occurred after US President Barack Obama had at-the-deadline talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh, and South African President, Jacob Zuma
No agreements have been made for emission reductions by 2050, and follow-up talks will be necessary to put binding measures into effect. A scheduled meeting in Mexico City in December 2010 may be moved up to this summer if negotiating countries decide they want to act sooner rather than later in establishing a binding treaty for global greenhouse gas reduction.
That doubt makes the US Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement earlier this month that it will begin to regulate greenhouse gases even more critical in terms of how the US will actually achieve its pledged 14-17% greenhouse gas cuts by 2020.
At a release event in downtown San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, a panel addressed why, according to the Institute’s president R. Sean Randolph, “No place else in the nation comes close to the economic connections that the Bay Area has in India.”
The sheer numbers of Indians employed by Bay Area firms in such as Cisco, Visa and Semantec are a testament of India moving from a contractual model (think of the call centers in Slumdog Millionaire) to being a true strategic partner, because of its rich base of domestic and ex-pat engineering, management and venture capital talent.
With a fast-growing population of 200 to 300 million earning “disposable income,” Hewlett-Packard and other Silicon Valley product manufacturers have been fighting for market share throughout the South Asian nation. Economic growth may lift some from the slums, but experts worry about the capacity of India to grow so quickly without detrimental climate and other sustainability impacts.
Like China, it now looks like the cities of India–both existing and new–are on the verge of an unparalleled urban population boom.
Michel St. Pierre, Director of Planning and Urban Design from San Francisco-based architectural firm Gensler, was the sole panelist addressing the topic of Indian urban sustainability of the five other software, biotech and venture capital firms represented at the event.
“By 2022, there will be a need for up to 500 new cities in India to accommodate the urban growth in the country,” St. Pierre said. “Reduced quality of life could greatly affect the success of the nation’s economy if growth is not planned and executed properly.”
St. Pierre said the biggest challenge is to address sustainability in all aspects, with cities such as Mumbai operating its current systems–including transportation, water, energy and environmental analysis–at full capacity and beyond. Then there is the emerging threat of global climate change, particularly flooding.
“The livibility and sustainability of cities like Mumbai and Delhi are critical to the success of the country,” he opined about the city of 14 million, the largest city proper in the world. St. Pierre quoted Prime Minister Singh: “If Mumbai fails, then India fails.”
India’s advantage as a democracy is that it more likely to successfully enact public-private partnerships in such complex endeavors as the densification of its cities and in providing more mixed-use real estate with access to public transportation.
Most of India’s so-called Eco-cities projects have attempted to create more healthy and sanitary conditions in such areas as those in the Kerala state by reducing pollution in rivers and drinking water supplies.
But so far, there has been less success in redesigning slum areas or other development to take advantage of new innovations in renewable energy, green building and advanced water-conserving technologies, let alone district flood-resistant planning.
And then there are the masses of people, buildings and infrastructure. Mumbai has only .03 percent open space, one of the lowest rates in the world, according to St. Pierre–compared to an average of 5-7 percent open space in US cities. The country also suffers from constant power outages, chronic water shortages, and systemically contaminated water.
HP even has its own nascent “Sustainable Cities/ City 2.0” initiative, which is less defined at this point, but hinges upon the mother of all data centers as a massive brain behind Smart Grid, telepresence, intelligent buildings and metro transportation systems.
There is so much more to be launched that can harness the deeply educated pool of talent in India and California’s Silicon Valley, particularly in light of climate change.
President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Singh at the G-20 summit.
Concluded Genler’s Michel St. Pierre, “India can lead the way worldwide for sustainability by addressing innovation just as it has done in software and all these other industries.”
Let’s hope that the buzz tonight at the State Dinner over the fresh veggies and herbs from Michelle Obama’s White House garden goes beyond the gossip of celebrities and at least touches on issues so critical to the future of India, the United States and the world at large.