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(eco)Logical: Greening the 21st Century City

(eco)Logical: Greening the 21st Century City

This video was recorded at MIT World Series: Kevin Lynch Award. Without much national fanfare, Chicago has transformed itself into a paragon of green virtue. The remarkable achievements cited by Mayor Daley include: converting nearly every inch of the city's 26 miles of lakefront to public use, including parks, fountains, bike paths, theatre and concert space; planting 1.6 million square feet of gardens on the roofs of city hall, city schools, parking garages, museums and stores like Target and Walmart, thus lowering temperatures in the summer and energy needed to cool buildings; transforming brown fields into new industrial facilities, affordable housing, green spaces, and generating three thousand new jobs; creating environmentally sensitive construction standards for all public buildings, and helping private enterprises achieve similar standards, including the use of recycled materials and solar panels. Ken Greenberg notes across the U.S. a new "understanding of the cohabitation of nature and society of humans in cities," one which "cuts across class and political divides" because of the "powerful allure of natural features." Hillary Brown observes among urban designers "a new shared language based on ecological metaphors and whole systems thinking." She champions "demystifying sustainable practices, making the benefits of greening comprehensive and transparent to everyone," including those who pave city sidewalks and roads, build sewers and treat water. Robert Campbell admits "green looks better" but warns that "green buildings are largely symbolic," because "they won't solve the world's energy problems by a long shot." People are obsessed "with the Eden of the natural world, which blinds us to reality." The only long-term green solution involves "reorganizing the patterns by which we inhabit earth" -- compact settlement in cities, versus suburban sprawl. Doug Foy says, "Anything we do to put things in cities…and to keep them off of green landscapes… is a win." He concludes that all great cities require useable water front, transit systems for dense habitation, neighborhoods and nonprofit organizations that sustain the economy through ups and downs.

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