From Agropolis to Ecopolis – heading towards regenerative cities – Stefan Schurig, World Future Council
The concept of regenerative urban development aims to ensure comprehensive strategies for an enhancing, restorative relationship between an urbanising humanity and the ecosystems which we draw resources from for our sustenance.
Currently, most of our cities are designed along the services related to the combustion of fossil fuels. For example, city life and public space are hugely impacted by the space needed for cars. In fact, modern industrialisation is utterly dependent on the combustion of fossil resources such as coal, gas and oil. However, across the world, a wide range of technical, management and policy solutions to wean cities off of fossil fuels are already available, with vast ecological, social and economic benefits.
This lecture proposes what is necessary to transform cities into ‘regenerative’ systems. The case studies presented on urban production, consumption and management of energy, waste, food and water are extracted from World Future Council research and the analysis stems from the most recent WFC report on regenerative cities.
The promotion of sustainable, competitive and secure sources of energy is prominently outlined to demonstrate the scope of the challenge. Germany’s Energiewende is presented as an excellent example of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the energy sector.
Stefan outlines two main challenges:
Cities need to take active steps towards making efficient use of resources;
In addition, looking beyond urban boundaries, cities also need to find ways to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with their surrounding regions.
Most modern cities have a linear metabolism: Resources flow through the urban system without concern about their origin or the destination of waste by-products. Inputs and outputs are treated as largely unrelated. Fossil fuels are extracted from rock strata, refined and burned, and the waste gases are discharged into the atmosphere. Raw materials are harvested and processed into consumer goods that ultimately end up as rubbish which cannot be easily or beneficially reabsorbed into living natural systems.
For Ecopolis to become reality there must be a focus on and understanding of urban metabolism as well as form and land use.
Dipl. Ing. Stefan Schurig is an architect by training, but has devoted most of his career to energy and climate change issues. Before he started working for the World Future Council (WFC) in 2007 he was the spokesperson for Greenpeace in Germany and headed the Greenpeace Climate and Energy department for nine years. During this time he also co-founded Germany’s second largest green electricity supplier. In 2004 Schurig was appointed as member of the REALISE Forum, an international platform on renewable energy policies led by the European Commission.