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Washington’s Cherry Blossoms: The Gift that Keeps Giving

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Cherry Trees, Washington, DCOne of the best things about living in Washington DC is riding your bike to work, early in the morning, past the blossoming cherry trees along the tidal basin. Sometimes you have to actually stop for a moment, the trees are so beautiful. Thank you, Governor (Mayor) Ozaki Yukio: He gave the trees to the up and coming Washington DC in 1912.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the City of Tokyo’s original gift of 3020 cherry trees. You would be hard pressed to find a more perfect gift, or a more perfect example of how the cities we live in, and the globally-minded ones overseas, improve our day-to-day quality of life.

Women in the City: Will the world’s female mayors please stand up?

Artessa Saldivar-Sali's picture

After Newsweek’s third annual Women in the World summit two weeks ago, I started to wonder about where women stand in the massive wave of urbanization our world is facing. The UN study, The World’s Women 2010, tells us:

  • Only 14 women in the world were either Head of State or Head of Government in 2010.
  • In only 23 countries do women comprise over 30 percent in the lower house of their national parliament.
  • On average, only 1 in 6 cabinet ministers in the world is a woman.
  • Only 13 of the 500 largest corporations in the world have a female Chief Executive Officer.

But what about female Mayors? As the most visible face of local politics and the closest link to their constituents, do women occupy more positions in the city leadership? The global breakdown is below:

Graphic: Share of women among mayors

But why, one may ask, is the leadership of women particularly relevant to sustainable cities? The National Democratic Institute gives a number of reasons:

Request for Public Comments on New Global Protocol for City-Scale GHG Emissions

Rishi Desai's picture

In response to the global need for consistency when measuring and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a group of organizations have partnered to develop a Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (community protocol). Beginning today and for the next month, the draft edition of the GPC is open for public comment, marking a landmark effort which seeks to harmonize the emissions measurement and reporting process for cities of all sizes and geographies.

“C40 operates under the premise that cities must measure emissions in order to manage them; with this unprecedented and collaborative initiative, we are empowering all cities to do both,” says Jay Carson, CEO of C40.

A Tale of Too Many Cities: Happy Birthday Charles Dickens

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Charles DickensThis year marks the 200th birthday for Charles Dickens who is likely the best-known social commentator who documented the more troublesome aspects of the Industrial Revolution and the start of the world’s headlong rush to urbanize. Dickens’ writings give a ringside seat to the turmoil London, and Paris, faced over two hundred years ago. That Dickens’ vantage point was London only made sense; it had just surpassed Beijing as the world’s largest city, and arguably is the birthplace of capitalism and industrialization.

The big question now is, where in the world would today’s most important social commentator choose to live? We obviously know it would be a big city as cities are the most powerful determinants of our futures. But what city best captures today’s and tomorrow’s social milieu?

From Oklahoma City to Kabul

Rana Amirtahmasebi's picture

It’s not often that the Mayor of Kabul visits Washington DC. So when Mohammad Younis Nawandish was invited to participate in a panel discussion on green growth as part of The World Bank’s Urban Sector Day, you can only imagine the clamor for seats in the auditorium. And Mayor Nawandish did not disappoint; neither did fellow panelist Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City.

“Rome was not built in one day, but Oklahoma City was,” Mayor Cornett had declared in his earlier keynote address. As the result of a Land Run in 1889, Oklahoma City’s population went from zero to 10,000 within 24 hours. “And our City Planning Department is still paying for it,” the Mayor jokingly added.

Urbanization: The Half-Time Score

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Personal affluence up 3000%; people living in extreme poverty down from about 75% to 20%; atmospheric CO2 concentration up from 280 ppm to 393.5 ppm; at least 700 known species lost; 1.3 billion hectares with moderate to severe soil degradation; big fish in the oceans – more than 90% gone.

The starting gun for the first half of industrialization – globalization – urbanization sounded in 1784 when James Watt, William Murdoch and Matthew Boulton’s efforts culminated in a patent award for the “steam locomotive”. That’s when the urbanization race began in earnest. Half of us now live in cities, with 185,000 more streaming in every day.

Spaceship city: drinking wastewater, and going back to the future

Sintana Vergara's picture

Seattle, WA

One of the marvels of the modern city is its ability to make waste disappear. Along with electricity, water, and the internet, sophisticated waste networks allow residents to discard or flush away any signs of urban consumption. But this may be changing. As cities increasingly face the prospect of droughts and uncertainty about future water availability due to climate change, a new source of water is now being explored that might prompt city residents to pay close attention to its origin and fate: their toilets.

Wastewater reuse – known as “reclaimed water” to proponents, and “toilet to tap” to critics – is used to augment supply in two prime water-scarce environments: spaceships and urban areas. Though resistance to wastewater reuse is mostly psychological, citizen’s disgust is balanced by three realities:

UN Panel's Recommendations for Cities as a Vehicle for Sustainable Development

Maggie Comstock's picture

Rickshaws in cityEarlier this month, the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability released a report of recommended outcomes for the Rio+20 conference in June. The report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, outlines both long- and short-term goals for governments, civil society and the private sector. These recommendations address all facets of resiliency, including climatic, economic and social. Below are a few of the UN Panel’s key recommendations that align with the goals of sustainable communities, many of which are already being addressed by the green building industry.

“Cities and local communities have a major role to play in advancing a real sustainable development agenda on the ground.”

Love and the City: Happy Valentine’s Day

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment PlantUrbanists are quick to champion the benefits of cities and how they drive economic growth, education, health improvements, and if built and managed well are the best way to achieve ‘sustainable development.’ But rarely do we talk about how cities nurture and encourage love, not to mention great parties, rock and roll, and all those passionate sporting events.

Cities don’t make love possible, but they sure do make it easier. Cities are all about connections, opportunities and logistical challenges. Take Valentine’s Day and the ‘average guy’ in the US. He will spend about $168 this year to celebrate, and woo, his love (women spend about half that). Over the last six weeks about 700 million fresh cut flowers passed through Miami International to be processed at one of the 23 chilled warehouses within five miles of the airport. Making sure no pests or contraband were brought in with the flowers required several thousand US Customs and Agriculture officers working round the clock.

Why Carbon can be a Game Changer for Wealthy Cities

Chris Kennedy's picture

A recent open letter to the Bank of England raising concerns over the high level of black carbon assets held on London's stock exchange should be noted by urban leaders around the globe. Echoing an earlier commentary by Sir Nicholas Stern in the Financial Times, the letter raises profound questions about the financial risk and exposure of companies, investors and the UK economy stemming from holdings of high carbon assets. Indeed exposure to high carbon investments could be the game changer that determines which global financial centres rise, and which fall, in the immediate future.

London is without doubt a leading financial centre today, likely second only to New York City, but it has not always been that way. French historian Fernand Braudel skilfully traced the history of preeminent western financial centres, from Venice in 1500, via Antwerp, Genoa, Amsterdam, and London, with New York City emerging as the world's financial hegemon around 1930.