Cities win big in leaked agenda for UN Rio+20

Rio20Logo2.png

A leaked agenda for the United Nations Rio+20 conference places urban sustainability in a major role for UN member nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forth for ratification this June. The document acknowledges that cities are on par with nations in terms of implementing and measuring sustainability progress over the next 18
years–the-make-or-break period for mitigating and adapting to global
climate change.

The Rio+20 agenda, leaked today in the UK’s The Guardian under the Ogilvy Mather
promoted slogan “The Future We Want,” lays out ten areas for new
Sustainable Development Goals that will be released in Rio; urban sustainability is one of the key goals (other nine major categories include climate change, food security, water, green jobs, oceans, natural disasters, forests and biodiversity, mountains, and chemicals and waste).

The Rio+20 draft agenda states: “We recognize the need to integrate sustainable urban development policy as a key component of national sustainable development policy and, in this regard, to empower local authorities….We recognize that partnerships among cities have emerged as a leading force for action on sustainable development. We commit to support international cooperation among local authorities, including through assistance from international organizations.”

Officially, the
UN Conference on Sustainable Development,follow-up to the historic UN 1992 “Earth Summit,” also held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, isdedicated to marshalling the global Green Economy.

The leaked 19-page agenda calls for major global actions in financing, policy, technology implementation and collaboration in the face of global climate change and economic turmoil, developing-nation poverty and climate-exacerbated natural disasters. Continue reading

Share

Post Carbon Reader Hits the Shelves

Thumbnail image for cover_Post-Carbon-Reader.jpg

The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises from Watershed Media and the University of California Press hit bookstores this week. The compendium of 35 experts explores how previously
unimaginable advances in health, wealth, and technology, fed an
explosion in population and consumption that came at an
incredible cost.

Climate change, peaking oil, freshwater depletion,
species extinction, and a host of economic and social problems now
challenge us as never before. Writers including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Sandra Postel, Wes Jackson and others (including myself), explore not only causes in the 523 pages, but lay out detailed “post-carbon” solutions, many which are inter-related.

According to Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute and founder of Worldwatch Institute, “For a comprehensive, integrated overview of the relationship between the human species and its planetary home circa 2010, look no further. The Post Carbon Reader is an invaluable primer, resource, and textbook. This is what you need to know–period.”

Most of the authors are Post Carbon Fellows at the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), which is based in Santa Rosa, California, where author and Senior PCI Fellow Richard Heinberg also lives.

PCI “fellowed” me early last year, when I began work on my contribution to the Reader, a chapter titled, “The Death of Sprawl: Designing Urban Resilience for the 21st Century Resource and Climate Crises.” (pdf) This chapter takes a look at how cheap oil and the financial industry created an unsustainable explosion of suburban and exurban sprawl, driving the US economy over a cliff with the still ongoing 2007-201? foreclosure crisis.

About 25 of 29 PCI fellows gathered for the first time together or participated electronically in a two-day event held in Berkeley, California earlier this year.

The results of the event included a forthcoming mission statement that
was co-authored by nine different subgroups. My group on cities also
consisted of Johns Hopkins professor Brian Schwartz, City University of New
York professor (and former New York City green building standard
originator) Hillary Brown, and transportation expert Anthony Perl,
author of Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil.

We
contributed concepts around “bioregionally grounded human communities”
based on non-automotive transportation options, human-scaled
neighborhoods and regionally produced sustainable food and energy. 

Much like the Club of Rome’s 1972 treatise, The Limits to Growth, the work of PCI fellows now presents a publicly available collective analysis of where we are, where we are headed and what our options might be in terms of climate, biodiversity, economies, cities, food, energy, culture, population, health, education, transportation and developing better resilience.

Most importantly, thanks to editors Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, The Post Carbon Reader illustrates inter-relationships among these categories, instead of just providing a laundry list of issues and challenges.

I discovered, for instance, that the chapter I wrote was reinforced by Sandra Postel’s chapter on water, “Water, Adapting to a New Normal”, (pdf) where we both examined how solar thermal power plants in the desert Southwest require surprising amounts of water. Same with my chapter and chapters by Tom Whipple, “Peak Oil and the Great Recession”, David Fridley, “Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy”, and Dr. Peter Whybrow’s, “Dangerously Addictive: Why We are Biologically ill-suited to the Riches of Modern America.”

Kudos to PCI executive director Asher Miller and my old friend, Daniel Imhoff, publisher of Watershed Media, for pulling off what may be a milestone in post-Great Recession sustainability thinking, hopefully spurring others to action in order to bring us back into balance with our beleaguered natural world.

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 of
a forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management. 

   
 

Share

NRDC Seconds My Urban Resilience Planning Advice

photo-kbenfield.jpg

Big surprise for me today, as the formidable Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has seconded my analysis of how communities need to prepare for changing conditions related to the economy, climate and resource availability.

Kaid Benfield, NRDC’s director of Smart Growth reviewed my recent posts about the urgent need for urban resilience planning in a NRDC blog post today titled “What Cities Should do to Become More Resilient (and It’s Not What they are Doing Currently).”  Benfield writes, “NRDC has chosen sustainable communities as one of its strategic priorities for the next five years. Karlenzig’s advice seems right on target as we further refine that agenda.”

That advice was recently provided for Green Flow readers here in a two-part series. Part 1 was “Urban Resilience Planning for Dummies” and Part 2 was “Urban Resilience Planning for Dummies: Failing the Milk Test.”

These posts were teasers for a standalone publication I wrote that is coming out very soon from the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), titled, “The Death of Sprawl: Designing Urban Resilience for the 21st Century Climate and Resource Crises.”

A shorter version of “The Death of Sprawl” will also appear in the Post Carbon Reader, which is being published by The University of California Press and Watershed Media this summer, alongside writings from PCI’s other 27 fellows.

I’m honored to be profiled and credited by author Kaid Benfield, who besides his affiliation with NRDC, is one of the top thinkers, doers and writers in the urban planning realm.

A few months back when I published an excerpt from a case study on Victorville, California– where sprawled finished luxury houses were demolished last year after the exurban foreclosure meltdown–I learned that Benfield was one of the first people to write about the incident in his NRDC blog, which includes graphic video footage of what may be a watershed moment in the end of exurbia.

Besides being ever-prescient, Benfield’s “almost daily” blogging provides readers a detailed perspective of what’s right, what’s wrong and what needs to be drastically improved in the way our communities have been planned, developed and operated.

Thanks, Kaid.

Warren Karlenzig is president
of Common Current, an
internationally active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author
of
How Green is Your
City? The SustainLane US City Rankings
and a Fellow at the Post Carbon
Institute
.

 

Share