Transportation: September 2008 Archives

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.



Lucky for me I was able to be in town for Labor Day weekend, and immersed myself in Slow Food Nation as well as San Francisco's Sunday Streets event.

It's so inspiring that wholistic urban sustainability is becoming a reality, and that is making carbon-reduction fun, profitable, innovative and, yes, delicious. 

My family and I took our bikes to the ferry to the sunny city and pedeled around the car-free city streets, with roller skaters, tricyclists, runners, walkers and pogo-stickers.


The Sunday Streets events was the first if its kind for San Francisco. This year Portland, Oregon, and New York City have already done the same, in the mold of Bogota, Columbia's Ciclovia. It was a big hit, stressing physical fitness at different stations along the waterfront with activities for the kids and hula hoops for everyone else. Kudos to Mayor Newsom, the department of parking and traffic that blocked off auto traffic and all the volunteers.  

Our destination was the Victory Garden in front of San Francisco City Hall, the community centerpiece of the Slow Food Nation festival.  Slow Food Nation celebrated local, organic, tasty, fair and humane American food, the largest celebration of its kind, with 60,000 attending the three-day proceedings. 


Besides the gorgeous 1/3-acre victory garden, where children and adults visibily delighted in experiencing a working food plot (200 pounds going to food banks this week alone), we went to a tasting of some of the best food purveyors in the nation Saturday evening.


Some food highlights: a truly white (clear) old vine Fume Blanc from Oregon, Rubicon's 2004 estate red, chocolate from Madgasgar, pickled vegetables, acme bread pizza, wild coffee beans from Eritrea.

I also chatted with many luminaries: Vandana Shiva, who is saving thousands of species of rice from extinction in India; John Knox, co-founder of the Earth Island Institute and Michael Dimock, of the Roots of Change fund, which helped Slow Food organize the event.

Sue Conley co-founder of the Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes, CA, told me that higher energy prices have made her legendary cheese business take off even more recently.  

She opined that we are at a watershed moment, when locally produced food starts to lose its "gourmet" connotations and starts to be known as the healthy, high quality way to put our money where our mouths are, which will help local economies while preserving our valuable farm and pastureland from getting paved over forever.



About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Transportation category from September 2008.

Transportation: August 2008 is the previous archive.

Transportation: October 2008 is the next archive.

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