Monday, October 1, 2007

Ecocities - Chapter 7

I read chapter 7 in registers Ecocities. In addition, to discussing some of the ideas that came up in this chapter i will compare and contrast some of the concepts to things that i noticed while exploring the downtown Ithaca area and then conclude with my desires for the remaining six classes.

In chapter 7 "what to build" Register covers many ideas surrounding the idea ecocity. Of the chapters read so far i enjoyed this one the most and for the first time i really could visualize a lot of the ideas he presented. Many of the overarching concepts were somewhat redundant from those that he has brought up in past chapters. Although i believe that this was the first and most successful time that he brought all of these concepts together in a very cohesive and integrated manner. I really felt as though he was making a city with his ideas instead of somewhat randomly throwing them out to the reader.

The first idea that he really emphasizes is that "you can't build a house starting with the can't be done randomly". This is one idea that he and other previous authors have presented many times, but for the first time Register really demonstrates the importance of this. In terms of a comparison with Ithaca i believe that the current state of Ithaca was not thought of in the holistic foundation first manner. It definitely does not display the continuity and thoughtfulness towards sustainable practice and the residents best interest that Register would like. I do believe that the people of Ithaca are attempting to rectify this by thinking in a much more holistic way in terms of the future of Ithaca. This includes taking a lot of time to think about land use and the implications that every decision will have. Such as the new developments behind the wal-mart or the future of city transportation.

The next important concept explored by Register were his principles of the ecocity. I really enjoyed his principle but the one that i enjoyed the most was to "build soils and enhance biodiversity. I personally really enjoyed this concept for the obvious yet difficult reason that diversity is one of the keys to sustainability, too much of anything will never be a good thing. In Ithaca i believe that they are trying very hard to have biodiversity. They are attempting to appeal to the masses through big box stores while still maintaining much of the small town charm that the commons bring. They also work very hard, as they should, to maintain much of the outside resources available to the area.

Definitely the most enjoyable part of this chapter form me was the bike tour, although a bit silly at times i literally felt as though i was on the tour with him. Many of the pictures that he painted through his descriptions seemed so peaceful and happy i really wanted to be in this fictional place at many times. Some of the elements that i enjoyed the most were the public spaces on roofs, and the high rise environment. He almost made it seem like in an ecocity everybody would always be happy and everyday would be a sunny and happy good time. One problem that i did have was that i think he gets a bit too caught up in some of the ideas and overlooks many of the practical sides of a city. Such as his solutions for the police and the ambulances just seemed laughable and ridiculous to me i think that many of the physical ideas were great but much of the systematic elements need much more thought.

Finally i must end with a question that has been bothering me for some time. In many of our readings and especially in those of Register the ideas for the ecocity seem to be geared towards the small to mid-sized city, like Ithaca, but i must ask what do these eco-theorists think we should do about the megacities? Is there any hope for new york city to become more sustainable or is it too late has it been completely lost? This kept appearing in my mind and i would really like to explore more sustainable practice in both governmental approach and actual implementation in the large city. We have talked a bit about the community garden but other than that and public transportation i see very little towards an ideal ecocity.

Environmental Justice Screening WED OCT 3 6:00pm

THIS WEDNESDAY, October 3rd, 6:00pm

HEC Auditorium, Goldwin Smith What:

Radiation Power: Past and Present

Screening Two Documentaries:


A documentary about the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have fled wars and political turmoil in Chechnya, Tajikistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan in order to find peace in the radioactive pastures surrounding Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.


Twenty survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings tell their stories.

Roots and Shoots contact: Caitlin Corner-Dolloff

Ecocities - Chapter 5

As I sat down to read another chapter of Richard Register’s Ecocities, I quickly forgot that I was doing work and felt like I was just reading for enjoyment. His writing style is terrific and the manner in which he deals with the subject matter is well thought out, if slightly ethereal. It quickly became more apparent that it wasn’t only his first few chapters that encompassed grandiose ideals. If readers are looking for a roadmap on exactly how to build a green city, they may be disappointed, but if they want to understand the really important concepts that should sit at the core of any plan for an ecocity, Register pulls together some fabulous ideas in this area. Register paints a picture of future urban environments that are almost utopian. The skeptic in me is looking for major problems that would make the authors visions unrealistic, but I don’t see any insurmountable barriers. Of course there is the ever-present “change is bad” mindset that exists with nearly everything different, but though this force is strong it is also can change dramatically in a reasonably short period of time.

Consider for example this nations attitude toward protesting, and how that has changed over recent decades. In the 50’s protest considered un-American. This changed drastically in the 2 decades to come where protest was part of the earth-child’s birth right, but in recent times protest is again considered outside of the mainstream. It is difficult to imagine a time where protest will again be acceptable in today’s political climate, but it will.

One of the recurring themes that Register emphasizes as important in any ecocity or ecoburb is density. By bringing all of the amenities that we need/want into a close proximity we can shop, go to the movies, garden, swim, party all in a few city blocks. Of course for this plan to work, our cinemas and supermarkets, for example, would be smaller, and we would have to lose our “super-size me” cultural attitudes of bigger is better.

One area where I do disagree with Register is in the use of bridges as a truly practical means of transport between buildings. Perhaps in the densest of urban areas there may be a need, but Register’s image of 6 and 7 story buildings connected with multiple bridges (pg. 117) doesn’t seem to be necessary or practical, especially when streetscapes are free of cars. Minor point? Sure, but I had to disagree with something, or my praise wouldn’t seem credible.

Perhaps the greatest reason that Register’s writing is so enjoyable to read is that it is relatively free of the sour-grape type style of writing that focuses on what needs to change before real change can occur, and why things can’t be done. Instead, Register seems to be able to point to real world examples as inlets into his fantasy (for now) Ecoworld in a way that has me saying “Yeah, that actually seems possible”. And yes, I did just quote my own brain.

I do hope we can keep reading this book.

P.S. It appears that after reading some of the other posts Register does provide practical steps and concrete measures that should be taken in establishing a ecocity. I will suspend my charachterization of the author as completely etherial until I read on.

Input on upcoming Syllabus/schedule

Hi folks
We’d like your input, please, on the remaining classes:
There are 6 remaining regular Tuesday classes:
Oct 16, Oct 23, Oct 30, Nov 6, Nov 13, Nov 20 plus
Nov 27 Project Presentations & Thu Nov 29 Last Class Project Presentations
During exam period Dec 5-14 Closing session, but no exam

Given 6 upcoming sessions, not including Project Presentations and class finale:
These 5 areas strongly recommended, but still possible to drop one or two, if strong enough demand for other areas:
• Transportation systems
• Economic development (Community-based/”Green collar “)
• Green buildings & design (policy, systems, neighborhood & municipal level)
• Energy use & renewable systems
• Local Food Systems & Food Justice

These are very valuable options, could definitely add in one or possibly 2 or 3, if we drop one or more of above or consolidate 2 into one.
• Second field trip –Food systems, Econ Dev, Green Bldg (1 or 2 of these)
• Integrating Community Systems – Skills for Building social capital and participatory democracy (visioning and participatory planning, partnership and coalition building, facilitation, conflict resolution, communication, etc.) One session or more, could include skill-building practice sessions
• Waste/recycling/reuse systems
• Fostering Sustainable Behavior Change/Creating a Culture of Sustainability
• More depth/follow-up on earlier areas: Systems Design & Planning, Justice/Access/Equity Issues, Participatory Planning, Urban Greening, Land Use & Urban Form, Connect Ithaca’s program
• More in-depth group learning time, with ongoing learning areas, including a whole session for one or more of the following:
*****Sharing about our behavior change efforts
*****Sharing about our projects
*****Sharing case presentations & Nature in the City observations
*****Open discussions about any aspects of our learning
*****More small group discussions.