Professor Herbert Girardet has spent much of his working life on this issue and has come up with the concept of ‘regenerative cities' that aims to set out a roadmap of transformation in the way cities function - and also offers hope that humanity's fate need not be one of resource wars, conflict and climate chaos.
Girardet gradually came to realise that the concept of ‘sustainability' is no longer fit for purpose;
"Today there is much less to sustain than when the term was coined in the 1980s. We've exceeded the limits to growth on nearly every aspect of development. Sustainable development will not dig us out of the hole we find ourselves in. We have to start thinking in terms of regenerative development. This means working towards giving back to nature as much we take.
So, what is a regenerative city - ‘Ecopolis'? It is one that relies primarily on local and regional food supplies; it is powered, heated, cooled and driven by renewable energy, and it reuses resources and restores degraded ecosystems. This is diametrically opposed to how many cities are currently run: they use resources without concern for their origins or destination of their waste products; they emit vast amounts of carbon dioxide without ensuring reabsorption and they consume huge amounts of meat produced mainly with imported feed, often from devastated rainforest regions.
Waste management is an absolutely key concept in regenerative cities as it not only reduces waste going to landfill, but helps capture organic waste for composting, increases the recovery of recyclables and facilitates the growth of small businesses that use the ‘waste' as raw materials.
For instance, since 2006 the city of Oakland, California, has worked to implement a strategic target of Zero Waste, and has already achieved an incredible 75% reduction in waste dumping. This was accomplished by pursuing ‘upstream' redesign strategies to reduce the volume and toxicity of products and materials, and by improving ‘downstream' reuse and recycling of end-of-life products including the re-use of products and materials, to stimulate local economic and workforce development.
Local food production is also a key element of regenerative cities. Currently many cities import their foodstuffs from all over the world, resulting in huge and highly unsustainable ecological footprints.
Professor Girardet is eloquent and animated on the subject of regenerative cities. He believes that cities, at best, are important global assets and can be the places where solutions to the world's environmental and climate problems can be effectively implemented. It is in cities where creativity flourishes and people can interact and engage vigorously in the search for solutions.
We have to change course and to adapt and thrive in ‘Ecopolis' if humanity and the biosphere are to survive.
Via Steven Putter, ddrrnt