Prof. Ken Yocom (PhD)
University of Washington
The global population is now on the threshold of transitioning into a primarily urban society. While urban areas cover only 2% of the earth’s land surface, approximately half of the world’s population now lives in these areas. By 2030 the United Nations estimates more than 60% of the world’s population will live in cities (United Nations. 2004. World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision.www.esa.un.org / unpp (accessed in October 2008). This redistribution of the global population will transform towns into cities, cities into mega-cities, and mega-cities into mega-regions. Such unprecedented rates of growth and development will strain the capacity of ecosystems and current political and economic structures to support these increased urban densities.
In response to both the ecological and social challenges resulting from these urban transitions, we must take time to reexamine our urban values, redefine current methods in urban design and planning, and search for innovative approaches to enhancing social equity and ecological health. This requires integrating many knowledge bases and professional practices in order to understand the problems that cities face and create in their full complexity.
The EcoCity concept is one such approach. It is a holistic concept that works to understand and develop urban areas into sustainable places by re-conceptualizing the planning and structures that support urban life. The foundational tenets of this concept actively engage practitioners and academics from a wide range of development focused disciplines to work together to manage urban environments as dynamic spatial, socio-political, and ecological places. This idea has recently generated and gained support in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Translated into implementation strategies the EcoCity concept is comprehensively applied to a wide range of urban concerns from development patterns to energy consumption, from water treatment to transportation planning, to the very socio-structural components that establish the foundations of urban life.
Although limited, the issues listed above reflect the complexity of the problems at hand. We as professional planners, engineers, urban designers and global citizens should strive to work with organizations such as the International Urban Training Center to develop and refine urban places based on inclusive models that integrate ecologies, economics, and social equity.