Friday, September 14, 2007
CITIES AS SUSTAINABLE ECOSYSTEMS Principles and Practices
Author/Editor: Peter Newman, Isabella Jennings
Format: Paperback | 296 Pages | 7 x 10 | Tables. Figures.
You may prefer the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Island Press
Pub. Date: 11/30/2007
***Status: Available in the Fall
or call 1-800-621-2736
Modern city dwellers are largely detached from the environmental effects of their daily lives. The sources of the water they drink, the food they eat, and the energy they consume are all but invisible, often coming from other continents, and their waste ends up in places beyond their city boundaries.
Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems shows how cities and their residents can begin to reintegrate into their bioregional environment, and how cities themselves can be planned with nature’s organizing principles in mind. Taking cues from living systems for sustainability strategies, Newman and Jennings reassess urban design by exploring flows of energy, materials, and information, along with the interactions between human and non-human parts of the system.
Drawing on examples from all corners of the world, the authors explore natural patterns and processes that cities can emulate in order to move toward sustainability. Some cities have adopted simple strategies such as harvesting rainwater, greening roofs, and producing renewable energy. Others have created biodiversity parks for endangered species, community gardens that support a connection to their foodshed, and pedestrian-friendly spaces that encourage walking and cycling.
A powerful model for urban redevelopment, Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems describes aspects of urban ecosystems from the visioning process to achieving economic security to fostering a sense of place.
Peter Newman is professor of city policy and director of the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. He recently completed a Fulbright scholarship, which he spent at the University of Virginia studying sustainability initiatives in the U.S. He is the author of Sustainability and Cities (Island Press, 1999).
Isabella Jennings is a graduate student in the School of Environmental Science at Murdoch University. Her past and current research is related to the cities as sustainable ecosystems idea.
PREPARING FOR AND STARTING THE DISCUSSION:
Read the reading for the week and the blog entries for the week's readings in search of engaging themes, questions, or dilemmas that seem critical to what we are doing in the course and what we need to do to effectively create sustainable cities in this country. Consider introducing the discussion topic with a thought-provoking question (or short statement or quotation) that addresses one of these significant issue or dilemmas - and that stimulates people's creative thinking and engagement with it. (Have another stimulating question handy, if needed). You can even do this a day in advance through the blog to warm things up.
Alternatively, summarize for the group the main concerns and interests that came up in the blog reflections and let the group decide what it wants to focus on.
A third option is to warm up the conversation in pairs, triads, or small groups
with the same approach you were going to use in the large group or with a more specific topic or task suited to a smaller unit, e.g. apply the readings & reflections to improving a real or imagined urban situation and then share in the large group.
Be clear about the goals of the conversation. Among other things, they could include:
• Group Learning - to learn collaboratively (from each other and together) about an aspect of the readings you think participants will really care about.
• Resource Sharing - to discover new approaches from each other & together
• Engagement/Application- to engage people in the relevance of the material to enhancing their lives, their professional development, and their community
• Hope/Empowerment - Bonus (may not be possible in a short session): thoughtful, heartfelt conversations about issues that really matter to people, can build, hope, empowerment and sustainable community.
Your primary role is to facilitate and support the group in having a substantial and satisfying conversation where as many members as possible participate and interact. (Ideally, for the group to experience itself as a creative, self-regulating system or “learning community”).
Creating a relaxed, trusting and inclusive atmosphere (not a rushed, heavily task-oriented feeling) is essential to the success of the conversation.
Participate but don’t dominate- If you have experience and expertise in the area being discussed, it's OK to let people know you are a resource and to respond as one when it seems especially helpful to the conversation. Be sure, however, NOT to become the center of the conversation. Similarly, if you have perspectives you'd like to share on the topic, participate respectfully and sparingly as a member of a circle, but don’t use your role as discussion leader to dominate and direct the conversation.
DURING THE DISCUSSION:
Note: It’s hard for one person to do all of these functions well, so divvying up tasks with a co-leader is a great way to go. Either way, do you best and that will be fine.
Model the openness, respectfulness, inclusiveness and engagement you'd like to see happen in the conversation.
Read the group energy and people’s “body language” to sense what it needs next and to see if hidden issues, disagreements, or misunderstandings need surfacing and clarification.
Summarizing- Sense if and when it may be helpful to summarize where the conversation is going part way through, or near the end, but avoid giving your slant about what it all means.
Inclusion- Choose whether to use a “go-around” or anyone-goes/”popcorn” discussion format. If using the latter format, notice over time who is not speaking at all and draw them out by asking for comments from those who haven’t spoken yet.
If someone keeps dominating the conversation, you can: state clearly that we want to hear from as many members as possible, and/or turn to others and draw them out, and/or, gently but firmly ask that person to give others a chance to speak.
Drifting Conversation- If the group seems to wander off in many directions incoherently, you can:
a) Remind people of the main theme and ask them to come back to it. b) Summarize (or ask the group or a group member to summarize) the major thread(s) of the conversation so far, and invite people to build on it (them)them or move on to the next piece that seems appropriate. c) Gently but firmly rein in the 1 or 2 members who may be derailing the focus.
Airy conversation- If the conversation feels nebulous and abstract, remind people of the special opportunity they have to learn from each other’s experiences, resources, connections, etc.
Closing - Optional, very satisfying: Use the last 5 minutes to do a short (20 second or one sentence each) go-around on what people got from the discussion and/or what’s an action step they’re going to follow-up on/try on, when they get back home or back to work.
Thanks for eagerness to share leadership and learning!
Sustainable Communities - Resources
Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources For Citizens and Their Governments, Mark Roseland
Ecocities: Building Cities in Balance With Nature. Richard Register
Green Urbanism: Learning from European Cities T. Beatly
Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages & Intentional Communities, Diana Leaf Christian
Sustainable Community: Learning From the Cohousing Model, Graham Meltzer
Gaviotas: A Village To Reinvent The World, Alan Weisman
Sustainable Communities and The Challenge Of Environmental Justice, Julian Agyeman
The Key to Sustainable Cities: Meeting Human Needs, Transforming Community Systems, Gwendolyn Hallsmith
Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, Lester Brown
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine M. Benyus
Ecological Literacy: Educating our Children for a Sustainable World, Stone, Barlow, Ed.
Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small
Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity's Future, Duane
Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, Alex Steffen
Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth, Wackernagel &Rees
Sharing Nature’s Interest: Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability, Nicky Changers, Craig Simons, Mathis Wackernagel
Fostering Sustainable Behaviors: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing, Doug Mckenzie-Mohr, William Smith
Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth Jim Merkel
Getting a Life: Strategies For Simple Living Based on Your Money or Your Life Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiler
Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things, John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning
The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter, Brown, Isaacs, Et Al.
Turning To One Another: Simple Conversations To Restore Hope to the Future, Margaret Wheatley
Finding our way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, Margaret Wheatley
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves & the World Through Mindfulness , Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming Back To Life: Practices To Reconnect Our Lives, Our World, Joanna Macy
Nonviolent Communication: Create Your Life, Your Relationships and Your World in Harmony With Your Values, Marshall Rosenberg
Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, Roszak, Gomes, Kanner