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Seeing Green Urbanism

16 November 2009 No Comment

After years of talk and countless pie-in-the-sky plans to revamp Cleveland, it’s a blessing that an increasing number of urban planners and developers have their noses pressed to the glass of the city. Blockbuster projects, like the Medical Mart, port relocation, and Scott Wolstein’s Flats redevelopment have faltered, dragged, or halted indefinitely.

But as big projects get underway, creative urban planners are seeing green innovation in smaller nooks and crannies—alleys, façades, neighborhoods—that can spur an urban makeover. The movement is dubbed “green urbanism”.

Dr. Timothy Beatley, author and University of Virginia’s sustainable communities professor and guru, shed his light on a packed house at Cleveland’s Natural History Museum Friday night (Nov. 14).

13Dr. Timothy Beatley, UVA

Invoking examples from mostly European cities that have embraced green innovation in dense urban pockets—Copenhagen, Melbourne, Freiburg, Stockholm—Beatley submitted that “a city ought to be thought of as a natural system.” One that recycles nearly 100% of its waste.

Sounds like something out of Biology 101, right? The 101 part is, at least. Beatley suggested that while it’s going to take more than urbanites hopping on bikes and redefining the concept of waste via thorough recycling, implementing green urbanism is common sense. From supporting city food gardens and investing in solar and wind tech, to getting your kids away from the TV and outside, the groundswell of adopting a green lifestyle on the micro level will paint a broader mosaic. A mosaic you don’t have to drive out into the country to enjoy.

Seeing green yet? In Cleveland and its rust-worn cousins, it might not be long before we do.

A snapshot of Beatley’s presentation, which was underpinned by key concepts: cities that are “resilient, healthy, biophilic (see below), intergenerational, livable, distinctive, affordable, small ecological footprint.”

Biophilia: popularized by American biologist Edward O. Wilson. The “psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital”.

Cities embracing green urbanism trends:

Melbourne, Australia: CH2, a new ecologically sustainable office building (editorial note: this is very cool).

Copenhagen, Denmark: Two big goals. 1) 50% of all home-to-work commutes will be made on bicycles by 2015. 2) First carbon-neutral city in the world by 2025.

Freiburg, Germany: A town without cars? NYTimes: In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars

Adelaide, Australia: Where there’s a “Solar District” in the CBD

Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm, Sweden: A thorough look from environmental writer Bill McKibben, and more of a flyover look here.

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Cleveland Museum of Natural History Explorer Series

By Nick Wright