Friday was a typical feast day in the Bay Area for sustainability events. Something had to give.
The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) held "Sustainable Communities 2008," West Coast Green did its annual show in San Jose and Gov. Schwarzenegger addressed the SF Commonwealth Club on the second anniversary of AB 32.
I spoke at West Coast Green on Sustainability Dashboards with Gil Friend of Natural Logic and Peter Sharer, CEO of Agilewaves. I've known Gil since the early 1990s, in 1997 we devised the Integrated Resource Efficiency Management Plan for Willie Brown and Mission Bay in SF. I had just met Peter at the event. We had a nice full room, good questions and no margin for error in a packed 45 minutes.
CNU's morning program was brilliant, with Peter Schwarz from Global Business Network; Whole Earth Catalog publisher and The WELL founder Stewart Brand; and Smart Growth guru Peter Calthorpe all honoring Sim Van Der Ryn, the legendary green building and community designer.
Schwartz told how a broken Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and an imploding Ferderal Interstate Highway System are leading indicators of the collapse of sprawl as the uberforce of American community design.
Said CNU President and former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist "Sprawl is the number one risk factor in real estate development," he said. "The good news is that you can retrofit sprawl and make it enjoyable."
Schwartz, who co-authored some of the leading scenarios (pre-"Inconvenient Truth") on the security impacts of climate change for the Department of Defense, said that global climate change demands something akin to a world EPA.
Calthorpe, of Peter Calthorpe and Associates, told the oft-repeated truism of how cities are leading the way with sustainability policy and thought over national government with a new twist: cities are sharing best practices by traveling around and kibbitzing with one another in what he called "lateral learning."
"The feds are last to get the message," he said, and he went on to illustrate how Sim Van Der Ryn's systems thinking (and doing) as State Architect under former California Governor Jerry Brown in the 1970s--passive daylighting, active solar, social engineering, geothermal and biomass energy, and bio-retenion systems--set the stage for his firm's projects with barrier islands in Lousiana, transit villages in Los Angeles and Portland's city streets.
Most memorable was Brand's video of a just-in-time market in Mumbai, India, that is unpacked when a train comes to let it through, and then people pop down awnings, produce and wares right on the tracks seconds from when the train has rolled through.
Meanwhile, Sim table hopped, to sit with his many different admirers. Sorry I had to miss his award and hope we are able to get together soon as planned. He has been using slides from my book How Green is Your City? in his presentations, we are on some parallel paths.
And Gov. Arnold? As I said, something had to give.