In my first article on the 14th Annual Ecocity World Summit, which took place in February, I explained how CFACT attended the virtual forum to report back on efforts to unite cities around the globe on sustainability and climate change strategies.
Unfortunately, in day one of the conference, many of the ideas discussed involved limiting freedom, limiting growth, and finding ways governments can push people toward having smaller apartments, smaller diets (less or no meat), and traveling less. You can read about that here.
In this article, I will cover what was discussed on days two and three of the gathering.
Day 2 began with a keynote by ICLEI’s Deputy Secretary General, Kobie Brand. ICLEI is the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives, a longstanding United Nations NGO headquartered in Bonn, Germany, also known globally as “Local Authorities.” Hundreds of major US cities have a Memorandum of Understanding allowing ICLEI to assess their greenhouse gases and help create the city’s Climate Action Plans. ICLEI has been instrumental in propagating doom and gloom climate change propaganda as well as “sustainable development.”
In her speech, Ms. Brand wasted no time in getting to her message by only quoting selectively the early 19th century Russian philosopher and author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, who said: “Every blade of grass, every insect, ant, and golden bee, all so amazingly know their path…” Then, she built off her misapplied quote saying, “unfortunately human beings may be the only element of nature deflecting from this natural path.” She condemned humans for what she describes as “complex, systemic socio-economic and environmental” disruptions to our planet – which includes things like climate change, human health issues, water and food shortages, disaster risk, species loss, and economic disparities.
Of course, Dostoevsky might be appalled by the misapplication of her quote. Here’s Dostoevsky’s full comment, and the inconvenient part Kobie Brand left out: “Every blade of grass, every insect, ant, and golden bee, all so amazingly know their path though they have not intelligence, they bear witness to the mystery of God and continually accomplish it themselves.”
Here’s Dostoevsky’s full quote, and the inconvenient part Kobie Brand left out: “Every blade of grass, every insect, ant, and golden bee, all so amazingly know their path though they have not intelligence, they bear witness to the mystery of God and continually accomplish it themselves.”
Following Brand’s keynote, Yvonne Lynch, Royal Commission for Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), then spoke about “greening” a hot city in the desert via a mega project called “Green Riyadh”. It’s considered the largest urban forestation and irrigation project in the world to be completed in time to meet The Saudi Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and UN’s 2030 Agenda (conserving 30% of the world’s lands and waters by 2030).
Of particular interest in Riyadh’s strategy: creating 3,300 more parks and gardens and planting 7.5 million trees (many non-native canopy trees) to provide shade, a cooling effect, and help make hot Riyadh more “walkable and livable.” Apparently letting mankind transform nature is fine as long as it’s being done to fulfill left-of-center climate change objectives.
“We understand as an arid city/a desert city water is a very precious resource,” Lynch said, so to water the new parks and new trees will require hundreds of kilometers of new underground irrigation pipes using a network of recycled water systems. Lynch noted, “in terms of adaptation” (referring to globally “a lot of urban greening driven by a response to extreme heat”) in Riyadh “we call that summer – they’re not events, they’re months, and [extreme heat] happens every year.” Thus, Lynch believes Green Riyadh will be viewed as a “wait and see” test case for others trying to physically change their city’s temperature to a cooler one.
The final speaker worth mentioning from day 2 was James Ehrlich – a man of many titles. A Barack Obama Administration appointee to a White House/U.S. State Department Joint Task Force on regenerative infrastructure, “now thankfully continuing under Biden/Harris,” says Ehrlich. But most pertinent to the Summit, he is founder of RegenVillages Holding BV – a Dutch Holding company that’s a Stanford University spin-off company.
Copied from its website (www.regenvillages.com), RegenVillages uses “artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to enable thriving and flourishing communities with surplus energy, clean water, high-yield organic food that support urgently needed neighborhood regenerative resiliency.” Said another way, Ehrlich envisions people existing in self-reliant, car-free, “co-living” quarters that utilize “pre-fab” 3D printed homes which take just weeks to build and not fabricated with concrete, but something called “hempcrete” and “bamboocrete.”
He suggested urban sprawl could be replaced by a “passive home movement” of ecovillages surrounded by vast open spaces with working lands feeding a “full menu” year-round to the entire ecovillage of several hundred to a few thousand people. Mr. Ehrlich discussed his patented operating system software (VillageOS) that is being designed “to essentially change the rules around zoning and planning” and also gather data, design, run, and “oversee the management of these neighborhoods.”
Among other things, Ehrlich’s regenerative villages and cities will recycle water, sewage, and waste to be used on agriculture land. Automobiles will be taboo, but folks will be able to get around town with shared “EV” mobility. He said Silicon Valley understands autonomous level five transit is coming soon, “within the next decade we will see car-free communities where drone deliveries and drone taxis create hyper-local and regional supply chains.”
Day 3 Keynote speaker included Rob Roggema, a landscape architect. His message: “The transformation of our urban landscapes is conditional for our future well-being and survival. This requires a shift in mind, and a shift in power, he asserted. Instead of finding separated technocratic solutions for isolated problems, Roggema said, the future is asking for an “organic, self-organizing” approach, in which decision-making is left to experts in the fields of design, sustainability, climate and ecology, the arts and complexity. We must rebalance our societies and communities, seeking intergenerational, ecological, gender and social justice,” he insists, because “only then the BiodiverCity, the ResilienCity and the AgriCity can be truly linked.”
Of course, the “BiodiverCity,” “ResilienCity,” and “AgriCity,” must be achieved for the sake of the planet, at least in the conference organizers’ minds, whether the citizens want to give up their current livelihoods or not!
Many of the Summit workshops discussed, of course, nature-based solutions and a so-called “Circular Economy” ad nauseum. The Circular Economy is growing in popularity with politicians, city planners, and academics and has goals to transform the way we make and consume/use products and services with emphasis on how we purportedly should use (not abuse) the environment. Its three main principles are: 1) design out waste and pollution so that it is considered 100% renewable, 2) design products to exist for as long as possible (think reuse over and over), 3) restore the world’s wilderness.
Circularity will also generate and redistribute jobs – so-called Circular Jobs – so that “any occupation that directly involves or indirectly supports one of the key elements of the circular economy.” A Circular Jobs Monitor, a co-creation by the United Nations Environment Program, actually classifies jobs in the Circular Economy as well as observes and monitors jobs created and distributed (globally). It’s suggested the workforce is key to a “global transformation” that will help save planet earth.
How much autonomy will city governments give the UN to monitor and direct the types of businesses and jobs allowed in their jurisdictions based off of whether they adhere to “circular economy” guidelines? Only time will tell.
Finally, onto the Closing Session:
Williem Ferwerda, founder of Commonland and former director at the IUCN, Netherlands, gave the final keynote presentation. Commonland’s mission is to transform large-scale degraded landscapes into “thriving ecosystems and communities” by aligning with international policies and contributing to all of the UNs’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Some of Commonland’s biggest partners are The Nature Conservancy, The United Nations, IUCN, IKEA, and Rainforest Alliance.
During his presentation, he showed a map from The Living Planet Report (2016) and said there are heavily degraded ecosystems, massive land degradation, degradation of ecological systems, in many parts of the world — especially in the Western United States where it is dry. “We are talking about a very big topic” he continued, as “Biodiversity is our life-support system” and “it’s weaving into a lot of topics like infrastructure, agriculture and food security, climate change and energy transition, health and the pandemic.
Yet Ferwerda’s talk ignores reports from National Geographic that show that “roughly half of Earth’s land has minimal human impact.” While dry areas, erosion, and species extinction are all concerning developments, not every instance is mankind’s fault, despite what Ferwerda and the UN might have you believe. You can read that report from National Geographic here.
Technically, the first truly virtual Ecocity World Summit was successfully run, from a procedural standpoint. The conference was hosted live Central European Time and encompassed well over 40 hours of content — keynote speeches, breakout sessions, live Q&A, chat rooms, poster sessions, and even a virtual after party/social networking event where personalized avatars could meet and exchange information with other attendees from around the world.
Two “big announcements” were made at the World Summit: ICLEI and Ecocity Builders created a new partnership to bring together “thought leaders” (effective community organizers, policy makers, and academia) to reshape the future into one that’s “greener” and “wilder” that will purportedly put us all on a “bolder” path to living in “harmony with nature.”
The other “big announcement,” the next EcoCity Conference (June 6-8, 2023) will be in London and with a virtual opportunity all of us can go! Or, if spending many hours listening to Mr. Gore’s fans discuss their plans for our future isn’t your cup of “green” tea, just send CFACT again and read our updates.