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From Grey To Green: How Mega-Cities Can Lead The Urban Renewal

Portland, Oregon is one of the greenest cities in the USA and the world. Portland, Oregon is one of the greenest cities in the USA and the world.


The hypnotic illusion of the mega-city is over. Services that were once heralded for their convenience have been revealed to be a short-sited hindrances, such as highways and landfills. Cities are responsible for something like 75 percent of the world's CO2 emissions. While still a murky subject, several leaders of these urban cosmopolises have come forward with radical plans to green their cities. Whether any of these plans will work is yet to be determined.

The “green cities” movement is a loose organization of cities that have made a commitment to focus on urban renewal through sustainable practices. While there is not just one way to measure a city's eco-friendly standing due to the hundreds of variables, the best approach may be to assess the usefulness of green improvements and long-term sustainability efforts.

The difficulties beyond an inability to precisely measure a city's direction are also numerous. Each part of the world has specific needs dictated by the natural climate, particular environmental problems, cultural norms and financial stability. These plans come with their share of baggage.

Here's a brief overview of how places are tackling their goals and some of problems they're encountered along the way:

Masdar City, Abu Dhabi

This costly enviro-enclave aims to rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. Through desalination and grey-water filtration systems, the desert city will also attempt to reduce water usage.

The project has seen its share of issues on the way to completion. For example, construction was slowed down due to financial reasons. The city was originally intended to be completed by 2016 but that date has now been pushed back to 2025.

Critics of the project have also come forward to denounce its seclusion from the masses. Nicolai Ouroussoff, famed architecture critic, called it an eclusive gated community. He said, "The crystallization of another global phenomenon: the growing division of the world into refined, high-end enclaves and vast formless ghettos where issues like sustainability have little immediate relevance."

Reykjavik, Iceland

Another green leader is Rekyjavik, Iceland. For years, Rekyjavik has been using hydrogen-powered buses to take pedestrians to and from their destinations. Renewable energy sources—geothermal and hydropower—provide the city’s heat and electricity.

Portland, Oregon

In 2005, Portland, Oregon became the first U.S. city to meet carbon dioxide reduction goals set forth in the landmark Kyoto Protocol

Lyon, France

Residents of Lyon might soon be able to rent electric cars in the old industrial waterfront area and use smart grids to optimize their power consumption based on the time of day, week, or year.

However, not all residents are comfortable with the smart grid technology as it has the ability to access personal consumption data.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

The mayor of Vancouver has put a plan forth that aims to make Vancouver the greenest city by 2020. Some of the goals include creating 20,000 new green jobs and become a center for green business; reducing the demand for energy (over 90 percent of the city’s energy already uses hydroelectricity); and achieving 50 percent of all commutes as walking, bike riding or public transport-based.

This plan is not without its share of criticism too.

For an opposing perspective, the Vancouver Courier writes, “For example. The plan includes a myriad of recommendations—from 'a Green Enterprise Zone' in the Downtown Eastside and False Creek to a 'technology centre' with a 'food processing enterprise incubator'—yet provides no cost analysis.”

In Summation:

Each location presents a set of unique challenges. While there is no one way to measure a city's eco-friendly standing due to the variables in locale and the time needed to objectively asses benefit, a good look at the localized work put in for green improvements and long-term sustainability can showcase well-planned and functioning models. This way, even the critics can't deny that these efforts are worth a try.

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A tribute to Vancouver, soon to be one of the greenest cities in the world.
Last modified on Friday, 28 September 2012 13:06

Laura Vladimirova is a freelance journalist currently based out of New York City. Years of long-term travel abroad have made her a passionate lifestyles writer. Her favorite subjects include art, people, archaeology, travel, cultural events, health, and green living. When she's not typing away at her keyboard or getting her passport stamped, she's probably enjoying the great outdoors.

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/LauraV

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