HOTM: Making Cities Greener


Hey first-person listeners. This is Rob Sachs. I'm the director of F. Studios here at foreign policy and I wanNA tell you a little bit about heat of the moment. It's a show. You're most likely already familiar with as we inserted the debut episode into this feed a few weeks back. Well we feel that. Climate change is such an important issue. We wanted to offer you a few more episodes so for the next several weeks. We'll be dropping heat of the moment into this feed in addition to our first person interviews. We'll be labeling. These episodes H. t. m. before the title. Here's heat of the moment host John with the latest episode Efi Studios in the climate investment funds. This is heat of the moment. I'm John Sutter. Here's an inescapable fact. If you WANNA talk about the climate crisis you've got to talk about cities by two thousand fifty. Two thirds of humanity is expected to live in urban areas and importantly for those of us who care about global warming cities consume two-thirds of the world's energy and they're responsible for seventy percent of global co two emissions later on in the program. We're going to take to Oslo. Which is one of the greenest cities on the planet. We're going to see what they've done and how it might be replicated elsewhere in the world but first we turn to Peter Kaldor. He's a pioneer of sustainable. Urban Design way back in nineteen eighty three. He founded his own design consulting firm in San Francisco in over the years. He's worked on projects all around the world from the US to China in Mexico. He's concerned not just with individual buildings but with the very fabric of urban life and how that contributes to our own well-being in to the climate crisis he also is a founding member of the Congress on new which promotes more sustainable urban areas. So I read that the Charter for the Congress of the new urbanism that it hangs on the wall in your office area and I'm wondering for people who aren't familiar with and new urbanism as an idea. What does that charter say? Essence and what does it mean to be an urban EST in the year? Twenty twenty what the Charter says is that since World War Two. We him Headed off on an experiment of brave. New World centered around Automobiles Freeways single use zoning a paradigm of the suburbs I e the American dream that has become increasingly dysfunctional both in terms of environmental impacts and in terms of social and economic opportunity. It's an environment as of two thousand and eight with the financial crisis which was really embedded in the fact that a lot of middle class. America couldn't afford that American dream and didn't want to drive that far to get to it that there's been an increasing mismatch between what we really want what we can really sustain environmentally and economically. And what we've been in the habit of building. So sprawl is the vice. It's the problem and it's a global problem. We have sprawl in China by huge super blocks. That have ten story buildings you'd think the density was urban but there's no walkability there's no excuse. There's no urban vitality none of the synergy that makes a great urban environment. The Truth Matters. You can have great urbanism at any Density Small Town where kids can freely walk from ELM street to Main Street if you WANNA call it. That and parents can get on a old-fashioned streetcar or Light Rail Line instead of getting in a car and ending up in a parking lot. These are all the big differences and they have to do with real choices. We make in terms of infrastructure in terms of the vision of how we WANNA live new. Urbanism tried to articulate it and basically right down some very simple prescriptions for how to get to a better man made environment. What are the ways that cities in this conversation about how we live in metropolitan areas like? How does that contribute to the problem of climate change? In how could also be used to leverage solutions so spreading out is destructive in three big ways one by displacing nature second by increasing the amount of our mobile travel. We ended up with and third by kind of mandating buildings that are inherently less efficient in terms of energy and water consumption. But beyond all that I'm always most interested in what I call co benefits if you saw for one dimension of the equation even something as important as climate change. You are kind of missing the opportunity to solve many problems simultaneously so take for example affordability here in California. We have a housing crisis. We don't have enough housing for our workforce used to be that people would just drive farther and farther into the Central Valley to get cheap single family homes and the penalty of course was time away from family time away from community time away from oneself effectively as well as the environmental impact so a better urban environment. That bills on infill sites and adds more transit solves a social need and an economic need for effectively a better lifestyle and so when you can solve multiple crises at the same time if you can solve affordable housing transportation and climate change with one strategy. That strategy has a lot more potent. I mean it seems like we have these cities in the US. In Asia in parts of Latin America that are sprawling are concrete in are in place. And so how do you? How do you get to make those shifts in who who decides US? Yeah and most developers now know from their surveys. That people would choose a smaller house. That's closer to the important things in their lives than a bigger house. A large lot. That's more distant. So that's the jury's in on that the promise courses we have legacy planning and land use policies that stand in the way I think this one giant opportunity at least in the United States for how to solve switches we as we built suburbs built a grid of arterials the five and six lane roads that nobody wants to live on. That are in many cases lined by strip commercial big old shopping centers with parking lots and single storey buildings. That's the land that we can now rian habit and redevelop into mix use projects. Turn those arterials into transit boulevards because they got plenty of space for everything could sidewalks could bike lanes new transit ways mostly bus. Rapid Transit is the most cost effective trees. And of course you can still have the cars even so you get these ribbons of urbanism carving through all of Suburbia providing yet another kind of lifestyle opportunity even in those areas that you'd think of is kind of categorically sprawl and you've worked on projects in the US and China like in various parts of the world. A quarter of the success stories like are there cities that have have. Reinvented themselves in that way. And become more climate-friendly as a result it's interesting. We spent ten years working in China. They're national land. Use Policy Now. Calls for transit development makes us human scale city blocks walkable streets all sorts of things. They didn't have in there. I kind of explosion of urban growth. I'm glad you brought up the size of city blocks because it's sort of surprising to me that this idea of how big your block is would influence. You know your energy footprint. We'll just think about it. The average block in China's was super bloch used to be around four hundred to five hundred meters per side. The hold over five thousand units of housing and because the streets were space so far apart every street had to be huge and was therefore inhospitable to pedestrians and bikes. The death of the bicycle in China's well known now for that period so giant streets and giant blocks led to complete demise of human scale and to certain degree of community. People didn't know each other in these super blocks. They could recognize who is supposed to be. They're not so they started getting them. Making the situation even worse. We had gated subdivisions subdivisions. They had gated blocks. Same end result. Which is that people tended to use cars coming and going? Now there's a mandate for around one hundred meters city block average. That's that's an average hold historic town centre scale in the United States around three hundred and twenty feet square blocks and all of a sudden you get more streets and therefore each street can be smaller and more human scale and more hospitable to all the things that really should happen on the streets such as walking and biking and sitting in cafes as opposed to what can happen on eight lanes at the edge of a gated super block. We now work with standards there to call for green streets remember. They're they're now pushing towards maybe thirty percent of households owning a car. Unlike US where every household owns a car and so there's still a great need for streets that are just there with for without cards period. They're just there for the seventy percent of the population. That doesn't own a car. So they're walking or on a bus or on a bike. Historically in China the old wet and dry markets the places where people met and had local commerce. They're coming back in the form of these green streets so you have a pretty popular Ted talk and right at the top you cite this statistic that we need to build cities that will house billion additional people so this massive expansion of the cities that already exist. How do you think about that future? In which they're going to be many more people in a lot of them living in urban environments you know it's a classic saying which has never let a crisis go unused sustainable cities and regions are the solution to so many of our problems. And so you know the fact that we are going to be building that much means that we can reshape existing suburbs we can revitalize urban centers that we can get it right effectively and in many places that is happening. It's and don't forget running in tandem with all. This is the decline in global poverty. I mean I think it was back in the fifties forty percent of the global population was In extreme poverty and now it's well under ten percent And a lot of that happened in China because they move people to cities when people move to cities they have economic opportunities for rates drop and so our population comes back into balance. Women have opportunities. They don't have in the countryside. Education flourishes public services. All these things start to happen so on a social level the city really can be great medicine for the kind of poverty that that mankind has lived with most of its history. What about some of the some of the most rapidly growing cities in the world are in Africa and other parts of the developing world in place? Where there isn't money being spent on those other programs that you mentioned that could be diverted into two smarter cities like what do you think the plan should be there? You know we did a big regional plan for Mexico City which is kind of at the high end of the developing economies But still has massive poverty. I call it. Low income sprawl In in the United States the higher income population moved to the suburbs away from the city in much of the developing world. The wealthy stay at the city center near the historic cultural assets and and job centers and Poor pushed more and more. To the periphery So I think the same Urban Paradigm or Metropolitan Paradigm works there as it does just about anywhere. Which is you need more transit especially for those low income populations that don't own cars. You need to decentralize jobs in ways that make them accessible to everybody without a huge burden. Some of the average commutes one way in Mexico or three hours. You need to solve the housing crisis for the low income population through things called sites and services let people build their own place but give them land security and give them a rights of ways with utilities so that the sewers not running open in the street and water is accessible and powers accessible. It's not that expensive to do. World Bank has experimented with it many cases it's been quite successful but it does once again take investment. We just have to invest in the right things. There are plenty of solutions out there. Plenty on every level we just have to decide to allocate money and energy to them entrenched and forces that were up against and we just have to be very clear. This is going to be a long battle. Not An easy win. Peter Kaldor is a San Francisco based architect in a leading global voice on designing climate smart cities a changing climate presents humanity. Really with only one option adapt join host. Doug Parsons for America. Adapts A PODCAST. In which Doug Interview. Scientists activists posting makers journalists including myself to discuss how society is going to adapt to the perils of a warmer future from rising seas to droughts and storms. You can find America adopts on your favorite PODCAST APP or visit America Adopts Dot Org. So what is the best case scenario for what a Green City might look like? Well you could do worse than to look towards Oslo the capital of Norway in Autumn. Two thousand nine thousand nine. The European Commission launched an ambitious target of zero emissions by twenty fifty. Well this Scandinavian capital is ahead of the curve already. Oslo is only ten years from that goal. Our reporter preteen. Alu Traveled to Europe's twenty nineteen green capital to see firsthand. What Oslo is getting right in what it can teach the rest of us these sounds of digging tailing and fourteen. Come from an unlikely. Venue this herb garden where we have some herbs. Some some flowers also have a bigger rooftop garden on the fourteenth. I'm on the rooftop of the Clarion Hotel in the heart of Oslo. The capital of Norway Watching Ana Carlsson Rake in soil despite the persistent drizzle of rain behind the main train station is buzzing with commuters. Anna has been a full-time urban farmer. Over the past year a far cry from an old office job is an environmental lobbyist. Soudan office in front of their computer for many years. Yeah so Gordon. More physical flung by the looming Nordic clouds and dressed in a windbreak in gumboots. She looks ready for a force type work. But it's just another workday for on as she tends to the micro. Greens that supply three sizable restaurants. Spas of the hotel that is wedged between corporate offices and commercial streets down below in the hotel. Lobby Theresa lugging suitcases through the revolving doors. This call Lead Andrea. Scapin sits down for a conversation. A comfortable misfit in the flashy reception area hanging over worn jeans. His sweatshirt proudly displays the word farmer in Norwegian indeed Andrei's inherited farming as an ancestral depiction. But over the past years it's transformed into education genuinely believe that our wasting food is connected with our distance from the soil era because when my grandmother her generation ninety five percent of the Norwegian population had their own personal experiences in growing food. How it's two percent two generations later and during the same period of time. We've started throwing away food that is connected and started small with a city garden the produces vegetables and host community. Dinners with the help of its members. It became cradle of urban farming in the slow food movement in Osler as an urban farmer employed in which farmers union that was my job to inspire as many as possible to to grow our city screen and Annabella depending this culture embedded in a larger green economy has itself been a slow moving process like the garden. The hotel project has been success in terms of production. What we have done here at the hotel is to see whether we on a very small plot of land two hundred and fifty square meters can grow enough and sell it to market prices and live from it and the answer to that question is yes we can. We can pay our gardener this so that's an area of just under twenty seven hundred square feet about three or four times. The size of basketball court and raise an Anna have been growing micro Greens in the small space stacking them until each other and harvesting four to six times a year and when standing on the fourteenth floor of the hotel reface one point five billion square feet of unused rooftops for Andrey is helping transform the densest parts of the city rooftops backyards and even basements are empty plots of land. That ought to be used and wouldn't that be beautiful. Such Franz Nation. He points out requires a shift of attitude in fact shift. Of course I work with city-dwellers throughout many years. Yeah and you can see a change in them. I mean just that realize sation of how long it takes from your put your tomato seed in March inside. What you need to do is bringing in and out. Planning watering during summer also experienced a change of the people who are interested in this case. The success is as much. The result of social political movement as individual efforts here in Oslo people like nine hundred as a spearheading. The lodger fight abate climate change through a combination of lobbying and literally getting their hands dirty as the innovate for the future. Their experiments provide important insights. Eight hundred million people around the world engaged in urban agriculture to meet daily needs architecture and design play a crucial role. In the city's efforts to together the lived in natural environments according to Marina Satra. A senior architect is also based on so a lot of the projects is working with dealing with architecture in relation to Cape and they -ture and we find landscapes everywhere even the density. It's one example is the opera exiting. The central station is students threw away the Opera House and on the Banks Osma fueled amid some of the most diverse florin four-man the country. The building itself is a leading example of architecture. Sublime music drifts. Out and travels to the communal Bart's along the waterfront with the winter the sloping sides of the building. Pile-up with snow subbing as rants for snowboarders. It's a special emotional experience that makes you feel that you belong somewhere and we think that's sustainable in itself. But then of course you have all other kinds of aspects like reducing carbon footprint using Solid durable materials and then of course we have positive energy positive. Projects Akin Trondheim. We just opened up One of our first buildings. That are on the producing. It's just one step on your way to be carbon negative given this holistic approach. It's not surprising to mean Mariana. At a gathering of anthropologists and urban planners come to the world central politics sustaining cities by the European Association of Social Anthropologists and the University of false low. The conference is among the hundreds of local and e you wide efforts initiated by the Municipality. The different specialist spend they days exploring new approaches to designing cities. It's an honor to be here and I'm really amazed by this big crowds following the conference. I meet Marianna in her element at her office. That is a refurbish warehouse in the city's main harbour. We like to have this big open space where we collaborate with each other with. Dole's large enough for trucks to pass. The office is vast yet intimate with a vibrant color scheme an open floor plan wall size windows line-up to face the port with large ferries arriving and departing you. I'm looking at the most environmentally friendly votes way in Europe. While clear consistent policies have steered such developments gathering. The political will is much more complicated. Says Marina so right now. There are a lot of interest trying to understand the existing regulations to force sustainable solutions. Maybe this is a place where entrepreneurs could help out to see. How can we create great environment for collaboration because this really maybe sometimes the challenge that you have? Developers policymakers politicians and engineers architects coming together up. Front Oslo is an optimal laboratory for experimentation. Because of its small population wealth and ample space but Norway's hardly representative of the wide world. The big question is whether these initiatives can be scaled to size applied in major cities elsewhere especially in the global south to find out how I visited. Thomas Hilland Ericsson an anthropologist at the University of four slow in Norway there are few of us It's a fairly cohesive society with very little by way of social conflict people to pay the taxes very high level of trust in you know the educational system in the health services so it's not directly comparable at all to sit say in global south or even in the UK indeed the city of Oslo has especial climate budgeted with forty two separate measures across different sectors. This would be difficult crisis. Ridden European capitals like Athens. An unfathomable for huge stratified cities like Mumbai or Cairo. Given these disparities thinking globally and acting locally seems to be the only practical approach. It's important to cut this down to scale which is manageable which is human. I probably can't save the world but maybe I can save you now. This clump of tree or this little river and if everybody does it in the same way communities worldwide will make collective contribution to making the world a better place for others unders with such you global contribution in mind no way invested public bonds in distant parts of the world through information sharing between researchers and new way and those from countries in the Global South One area where there is a direct kind of a transfer of knowledge between Oslo and many parts of the world would be in public transportation in fossil free mobility. Dan Dainik originally from India who works at the center of Development and environment of the University of four. Slow has been a bridge between these worlds speaking from Malawi where he works. Part of the Dan has noticed. Increased curiosity in exchanges between the so-called developed parts of the world and those that are still developing particularly in the area of sustainability. I see a fantastic new development particularly in Africa. Certain cities like Nairobi. Likely US like He. Golly they are adopting some of these solutions. Coming from the global north like Electric bike like introducing cough. Frey motorcycle free zones. Dan Points out that while remedies such as alternative means of transport can catch on quickly. A larger behavioral change is much more challenging in countries with economic disparities. The trouble so far has been that. There really isn't a proper well-functioning public transportation system. You can't talk about electric cars because only ten percent of the population is connected to the grid and even that ten percent gets electricity for three or four hours. A day On the other hand there are many citizens actually wanting much more of an emphasis and investment in solar and more renewable energy sources but shifting to these sources is the main means will again required that shift in attitude towards the environment especially in urban centers. Where consumption is the highest. What has been particularly interesting in Norway and Oslo is that this green culture has been extremely participatory so citizens have been actively involved. There is greater ownership in promoting the idea that this is good you. The green lifestyle is the way to go. Also success stems from essential prerequisite conditions continuing to create jobs that feed into green growth investing in sustainable development and e culturally ingrained love for the outdoors. But the city's reign as the European Green capital is coming to a close in now falls to its successor. Portugal's capital Lisbon to set an example. The world can begin to follow this. Pretty Fox now lou in Oslo next week on heat of the moment we traveled to Morocco and get an up close look at a solar energy project. That's a game changer. For North Africa and beyond because there was no precedence to nor was is that was difficult to get investors to get projects financed easily at now with this demonstration. It makes it possible for everyone that they see that solar power can be part of the future of energy production. That's next week on heat of the moment. That's it for this episode of heat of the moment. Which is a CO production of F. Studios in the climate investment funds? The opinions expressed in this series. Do not necessarily represent the stance of foreign policy the climate investment funds or their partners. Our podcast is produced by myself. An Emily Johnson with help from Scott. Andrew and Dan Haggerty special thanks to Ku Yar in kcrw in Salt Lake City and WABC in Atlanta for their assistance. The Director of studios is Rob Sachs. I'm John Sutter. 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