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How to build an eco-city

How to build an eco-city
Hi. My name is Federico Cugurullo, and I am an Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism in the Geography Department at Trinity College Dublin. As my colleagues discussed in the previous videos, we know that cities are responsible for a number of environmental, social, and economic problems such as climate change, water pollution, and inequality. But what if I told you that there was a way through which cities could fix all these problems at once? There is a model of city making called the ecocity, designed to create cities in balance with nature. In other words, ecologically healthy cities.
The idea is that we have a lot of environmental issues because when we plan a city we tend to separate the built environment from the natural environment, and an ecological urbanism is about breaking these divides and bringing nature to the city and the city to nature. And you can do this by simply combining the sciences of the city– urban planning, urban design, engineering, architecture– with the sciences of nature, ecology in particular. In this way, you can make sure that urbanisation is sensitive to local ecosystems such as forest and rivers and does not destroy them. It sounds very simple, right? Well, technically, it is. We have all the scientific and intellectual expertise necessary to create ecocities.
So what are we waiting for? The main challenges are political. First, government needs to decide to build ecocities. And this is a big deal because it means that we’re going to have to stop prioritising economic objectives and change the way we think of developments. I’m happy to do this, and as you’re watching a MOOC on sustainable development I think that you would be happy, too. But we live in capitalist societies in which the logic of endless economic growth is still the strongest one. So it is hard for an ecological rationale to kick in and inform urban developments. Second, there is the question of governance, which is something that Carol and Gillian touched upon at the beginning of the course.
Remember what I said about combining the sciences of the city with the sciences of nature. But all the sciences are linked to different expertise, which are linked to different people. Therefore, we need to design a system of governance which facilitates the formation of a network so that all these experts can work together towards the same goal– to make cities sustainable. I have some good news and bad news. There are a lot of ecocity projects around the world. But some of them, like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, are not sustainable. They’re not developed by following the laws of ecology, and they are replicating the same environmental issues that they should be fixing.
But there are also some fantastic cities, like Freiberg in Germany, where planners worked together with ecologists on their state-of-the-art governance systems. We can learn a lot from both successful and unsuccessful projects. We can see what works, what does not, and how good examples of sustainable urbanism can travel and be replicated elsewhere. So it is time to start exploring.

In this video we have explored the concept of eco-city and discussed the main challenges to a sustainable urban development.

  • Do you think it is important to build eco-cities in order to achieve sustainable development?
  • Why / Why not?
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Achieving Sustainable Development

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