As of today, 138 cities have formally announced 100% renewable energy goals or targets, while others are actively considering similar goals. Cities have a wide variety of renewable energy procurement options to help them achieve their goals. One such option available to cities is leveraging an electric franchise agreement to partner with their local utility on new renewable energy projects or programs. New National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) research provides the first available analysis of franchise agreements nationwide. The analysis evaluates the extent to which municipalities have the authority to enter franchise agreements, how many have pursued additional energy objectives in or alongside their agreements, and to what effect. From a dataset of over 3,500 franchise agreements, the authors conclude that cities in 30 states have the opportunity to pursue franchise agreements, while municipalities in 20 states may be prohibited or otherwise precluded from pursuing this option. Follow this link to learn more.
Roland Ebel of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Montana State University conducted a research project to determine the extent to which an ancient Aztec agricultural technique could benefit 21st century horticultural needs. Ebel examined the use of “chinampas” with the hope of discovering their modern utility. A chinampa is a raised field on a small artificial island on a freshwater lake (usually surrounded by canals and ditches), where vegetables can be produced year round. The irrigation needs of chinampas is low and the productivity extremely high. Chinampas provide fresh produce for a megacity such as Mexico City and are conceivable around many of today’s exploding urban areas. Ebel’s findings are illustrated in the article Chinampas: An Urban Farming Model of the Aztecs and a Potential Solution for Modern Megalopolis “Today, many cities face very similar challenges as Mexico City did 700 years ag – a rapidly growing population, and less and less arable land available for food production. Highly intensive production systems with low resource demand are, therefore, a strategic goal of urban agriculture developers. Thus, while most strategists emphasize high-tech solutions such as complex vertical farms, I think it is worthwhile to learn from the achievements of our ancestors,” states Ebel. Follow this link to read more.
Coordinated by graduate student Hannah Whitley in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, the Female Farmer Photovoice Project explores how socially constructed identities complicate barriers and opportunities for urban growers and connect to broader institutional inequities that perpetuate these problems. This past spring, 18 female urban agriculturalists were given disposable cameras and asked to take pictures that “tell their story” of urban agriculture. After three weeks of picture taking, participants met for a reflection meeting to share their photos, select which ones they wanted to share with the public, create titles, and write narratives for their photographs. These images and stories now are displayed on the project website’s digital gallery, www.thefemalefarmerphotovoiceproject.org, and in an exhibition that will travel across Pennsylvania and the Northeast this year. Whitley said she hopes the project will raise awareness of the importance of this kind of research. Follow this link to learn more.
At the top of a three-story building in Hong Kong, with car horns blasting on the streets below, Jim Fung teaches a dozen students how to thin out choi sum vegetables. “Always use the resources you have,” the instructor said as he placed shredded office paper into soil-filled plastic crates and wound string around bamboo sticks to make support frames. Fung was coaching the first cohort of students in an academy run by social enterprise Rooftop Republic to teach a new generation of urban farmers as demand for their skills soars. The organization is spearheading a movement to turn Hong Kong’s idle rooftops and urban spaces into farms to help residents reconnect with nature and make the finance hub more livable. Follow this link to learn more.
Across the country, local leaders are recognizing the benefits of reaching across jurisdictions to address climate issues. While regional collaborations of any kind can be challenging, elected officials and their staff know that social, economic, infrastructural, and ecological systems transcend city and county lines. Local leaders are partnering with academic institutions, nonprofits, regional planning councils, and other metro-regional stakeholders. Currently, there are at least 17 regional climate coalitions in the U.S. In early 2019, Council Member Lindsey Constance of Shawnee, Kansas, and Mayor Mike Kelly of Roeland Park, Kansas, took up this challenge, initiating The Metro Kansas City Climate Action Coalition with the goal of assembling elected leaders from the bi-state region to “draw down greenhouse gases, improve climate resilience, and generate corresponding economic, social, health, and quality of life benefits.” Follow this link to learn more.
The fingerprints of the digital revolution are becoming increasingly evident in the work of urban planning. Big data, the internet of things, and sensor networks offer new ways for urban managers to make informed decisions. Autonomous vehicles and drones will change mobility infrastructure in cities. The availability of satellite imagery and digital urban maps are revolutionizing the way that city extensions are planned to ensure job proximity for new urban residents and improved transportation. The sharing economy is creating new job opportunities and ways to make business as cities become increasingly dynamic. In recognizing the potential of digital technologies to contribute to urban sustainability, the UN’s New Urban Agenda asks member states to commit to “adopting a smart-city approach that makes use of opportunities from digitization, clean energy, and technologies.” Follow this link to learn more.
What is the future of street design? How do we define “the street” in the future? As new mobility options and smart city deployments arrive on our streets and sidewalks, street design is top of mind. Cities are faced with a growing list of urban services and smart city street deployments to balance on the street: bikeshare and scooters to bathrooms, digital kiosks, neighborhood news feeds, pedestrian safety, and street furniture. As a result, cities and their partners have to think carefully about how to better design their streets and who we are designing our streets for. You will hear from three of the leading thinkers – Anna Muessig from Gehl, Geeti Silwal from Perkins & Will, and Ed Krafcik from Soofa, on how we redesign our streets for public life and what our streets might look like in the near-term and distant future. The webinar is being held Tuesday, October 22, 1-2 p.m. ET. Follow this link to learn more.
The children of the Rey Poeta orchestra filed onto the stage at Mexico City’s Anthropology Museum Monday morning clutching recycled instruments made from buckets, bits of piping, and plastic bottles. This was an innovative way to illustrate the 2019 World Habitat Day theme of Frontier technologies as an innovative tool to transform waste to wealth. The Museum’s auditorium was packed with over 300 dignitaries, politicians, experts, academics, NGOs, and young people and from round the world eager to share innovative ideas. The Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, told a packed audience “We are facing a global waste management challenge on a global scale that requires urgent action. Our cities produce 7 to 10 billion tonnes of waste a year and current rubbish collection services don’t even reach half of the urban population in low-income countries.” Full video linked here. Outside the auditorium, participants signed a large board pledging to rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle their waste. This pledge echoes the UN-Habitat Waste Wise Cities campaign which encourages cities to sign up to promote sustainable waste management and has so far attracted over 80 cities. This year World Habitat Day celebrations were held across the world including Cameroon, Kenya, Canada, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Last year over 80 cities, towns and communities celebrated the day. Follow this link to learn more about World Habitat Day.