The Ecocity World Summit kicked off last night with a welcoming address and two inspirational presentations. Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, addressed the crowd, pledging to be the greenest city. Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, offered creative solutions and a roadmap for cities that don’t allow cars to be central to planning.
Newsom indicated that San Francisco is moving forward aggressively on many fronts:
- Just enacted the stringent green building standards that I reported on here, even for building remodels
- Converted all fleet vehicles to biodiesel and other alternative fuels
- Strongly considering congestion pricing such as in London to discourage single-person vehicle traffic
- Shut down one of the worst polluting power plants in the nation
- Beginning construction to generate power from tidal energy in the San Francisco Bay
- Exploring ways to harness wave and geothermal energy
- Have plans to put a carbon tax on the ballot in November, replacing payroll tax with a tax on carbon footprints
These are just a few of the steps that Newsom outlined, and he pledged to take an entrepreneurial approach to all environmental issues. He downplayed the difficulties in enacting such change, saying that signing papers and mandating change is easy work, thanking his constituency for providing the political will for him to keep trying new things.
Jaime Lerner’s talk was from a different perspective as Lerner has accomplished astonishing change in his home state. While Lerner is still active locally, he’s also focused on spreading the word and helping others achieve change.
Lerner asserted that cities are not the problem, they’re the solution. He focused on issues of mobility, sustainability and identity, saying that ignoring or separating any one of these city functions spells disaster for a city.
Lerner is widely praised for his idea of bus rapid transit, with dedicated lanes and bus entry that mimics the pay before boarding and boarding on the same level as the bus. The efficiencies that he’s squeezed out of double-accordian buses are amazing compared to the efficiencies of other modes of public transport.
Lerner’s slides were filled with multiple inventive and inspiring creations that espouse his ‘urban accupuncture’ philosophy. By providing beautiful and functional spaces, the people come out of their houses more and sustain a much more vibrant community. This short video on YouTube provides a good overview of the effect of Lerner’s work.