Evergreen: Advancing Urban Sustainability
The world is undergoing a rapid and unprecedented process of urbanization. Today, about 85 percent of us live in cities, a jump of nearly 50 percent in a mere 30 years.
As urban populations grow, greater pressures are placed on natural green spaces both within existing built-up areas and beyond. Underlying this challenge is the fact that traditional city building has shown little regard for the ecological features and functions that support the natural systems upon which we all depend.
To make way for streets, buildings and bridges, forests have been cleared, wetlands drained and waterways polluted or buried altogether. It’s no surprise that city dwellers often feel a sense of disconnect from nature, which they assume can only be experienced in the wilderness areas beyond city limits.
Evergreen, a Canadian charity, has been responding to this challenge for over 20 years, advancing urban sustainability through a range of hands-in the-dirt projects.
To foster an ethos of environmental stewardship and appreciation of the natural world, Evergreen’s approach has been to give communities the tools to transform their own neighbourhoods through collective action. Our work traditionally focused on parks, school grounds and other shared public spaces, supporting projects that include habitat restoration, food gardens, public art and more.
Evergreen Brick Works
As Evergreen has grown, so has the lens through which we are address pressing urban challenges. Most notably, Evergreen led the transformation of an abandoned brick factory into Evergreen Brick Works—an international showcase for green design and urban innovation. Located in the heart of Toronto’s extensive urban ravine system, the site is a dynamic venue that engages both the public, through our farmers’ market and children’s programs, and urban planners and innovators, by showcasing emerging ideas and solutions in urban sustainability.
At every step, the development and design of the Brick Works was guided by natural systems, which one will see embedded in the technologies and innovations (both new and old) featured on-site—from solar chimneys and rainwater cisterns to pervious parking lots and naturalized greenways. On track to receive Platinum LEED certification, the site is a model for adaptive reuse of heritage buildings and the redevelopment of a brownfield into a dynamic public asset. The principles and values it embodies makes it the perfect venue for hosting Meeting of the Minds this September.
Evergreen Brick Works is also home base for Evergreen’s national programs as well as our newest initiative, Evergreen CityWorks. Building on over 20 years of experience as a leader in the green city movement, CityWorks advances urban resilience by focusing on systems-level change. By convening leading urban thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs, Evergreen is exploring innovative and sustainable approaches to how we design, build and optimize urban infrastructure systems—from rooftop gardens and solar panels to smart grids and efficient transit networks.
Since its launch, CityWorks has fostered new thinking through workshops, leadership forums and public Innovation Talks. We are also driving collaborative action through key projects, such as the Transportation Lab and the Lower Don Greenway initiative. In 2012, we hosted MOVE: The Transportation Expo, our first in a series of public expositions that celebrate and advance cutting-edge ideas from across our region and around the globe.
One of CityWorks’ priorities is to promote new models that make urban infrastructure more efficient and sustainable worldwide. As part of this effort, Evergreen is leading Our Urban Future, a collaborative research project with the World Bank, World Economic Forum and UNEP, which will forecast municipal infrastructure spending over the coming decades and use tools such as scenario planning to better prepare for future uncertainties.
Evergreen is very excited to be collaborating with Urban Age Institute on Meeting of the Minds 2013, the first time this high-level event will be held outside the US. We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto this fall!
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
I see the outcomes of Duke Pond as a representation of the importance of the profession of landscape architecture in today’s world. Once obscured by the glaring light and booming voice long-generated by building architects, landscape architects are steadily emerging as the designers needed to tackle complex 21st century problems. As both leaders and collaborators, their work is addressing the effects of rising sea level on coastal cities, creating multi-modal pedestrian and vehicular transportation systems to reduce carbon emissions, reimagining outdated infrastructure as great urban places, and as with the case of Duke Pond, mitigating the impacts of worsening drought.
AI has enormous potential to improve the lives of billions of people living in cities and facing a multitude of challenges. However, a blind focus on the technological issues is not sufficient. We are already starting to see a moderation of the technocentric view of algorithmic salvation in New York City, which is the first city in the world to appoint a chief algorithm officer.
There are 7 primary forces determining the success of AI, of which technology is just one. Cities must realize that AI is not the quick technological fix that vendors sell. Not everything will be improved by creating more algorithms and technical prowess. We need to develop a more holistic approach to implementing AI in cities in order to harness the immense potential. We need to create a way to consider each of the seven forces when cities plan for the use of AI.
In New Zealand, persistent, concentrated advocacy and legal cases advanced by Māori people are inspiring biocentric policies; that is, those which recognize that people and nature, including living and non-living elements, are part of an interconnected whole. Along the way, tribal leaders and advocates are successfully making the case that nature; whole systems of rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, and more, deserves legal standing to ensure its protection. An early legislative “win” granted personhood status to the Te Urewera forest in 2014, which codified into law these moving lines:
“Te Urewera is ancient and enduring, a fortress of nature, alive with history; its scenery is abundant with mystery, adventure, and remote beauty … Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care.”
The Te Urewera Act of 2014 did more than redefine how a forest would be managed, it pushed forward the practical expression of a new policy paradigm.