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According the Urban Environment

Hammering out the Accords at World Environment Day
I got to do something pretty cool over the weekend. My friend Julian hooked me up with an opportunity to be a volunteer facilitator during UN World Environment Day, which really is like 5 days. My job was to sit down at a table of mayors and delegates from all around the world and be a notetaker while they hashed out the wording on 3 specific Accords within a category that most interested them. The table I sat down at was Urban Design and was occupied with Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, New York, Mayor J. Ssebaana Kizito of Kampala, Uganda, Sustainabilty Officer Fred Blood of Austin, Texas (pictured above from right to left) and a fourth guy whose name I didn’t catch. He was from the mayor’s staff of some new city outside of Seattle which I also didn’t catch, though it does begin within a ‘B’ an no, it’s not Bellevue. These are the Accords that our table worked on:

Action 7 Adopt a policy that mandates a green building rating system standard that applies to all new municipal buildings.

Action 8 Adopt urban planning principles and practices that advance higher density, mixed use, walkable, bikeable and disabled-accessible neighborhoods which coordinate land use and transportation with open space systems for recreation and ecological reconstruction.

Action 9 Adopt a policy or implement a program that creates environmentally beneficial jobs in slums and/or low-income neighborhoods.

Our table was pretty much satisified with items 8 and 9, but item 7 needed a little work. Jason West wanted to see green building technologies mandated in municipal building design, not just a standard that a builder could easily choose to ignore. The good mayor from Uganda wondered why we had to limit this to only municipal buldings. Why not all new buildings, he asked? West was all for it. The Austin guy was trying to be a bit of diplomat about it, stating that it wouldn’t fly in Texas. He ultimately agreed to go with the stronger wording knowing that these Accords are only has binding as cities want them to be. Item 7 became this:

Create a regionally appropriate green building standard which mandates the use of green building technologies on all new construction.

Everyone in the room regrouped for a final group sharing moment. A mic was passed around and any mayor or delegate could offer a last word or thought. A whirlwind of accents surrounded the room, from India, Sweden, Peru, Brazil, Nigeria, Uganda, Japan, Cambodia and even somewhere in the deep south. Only one mayor used a translator.

The next day, everyone gathered under the rotunda of City Hall with their golden pens and signed the Accords. The idea is for each city to pick 3 Accords a year to implement with the goal of implementing all 21 by the end of 7 years. The cities with the most Accords implemented will receive gold stars and the thanks from humanity for preserving it. Another great first step in the survival of the human species.

UN World Environment Day

World Environment Day is in full effect here in SF. It’s a weird mix of private and corporate dollars funding a United Nations sponsored event with 80+ mayors from cities all around the world. All I know is I spent 5 hours last night in a big ass building that had free food, drinks, music, art, friendly smart people and a panel discussion on green urban renewal and social justice. People were abuzz all night and it was like fighting gravity finally trying to leave. I think we’re onto something here.

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