Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability
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Ecological Safety Strategic Key Points of International Urban Ecological Construction
Presentation at 2010International City Forum of Ecotourism

Respected visiting guests, ladies and gentlemen, and friends,

It has been a great experience for me to be in China over the last 6 years.

I have been able to see the huge transitions taking place in your cities and society, and been able to visit many beautiful places of interest.

I have also witnessed the preparations for and successful completion of the World Olympic Games, and must congratulate you on the impressive results.  I have also witnessed the preparations, great experience and successful conclusion of the EXPO 2010 just these days.

The Outside world has through these events more than ever before come to appreciate the great achievements of the Chinese nation over its last 30 years history. More gradually the world have also come to better knowledge and deeper understanding of the recent history since Chinas current regime was established in 1949, as well as the legacy of Chinese civilization millenniums before that.

For me personally as a public health professional and politician, it has been especially inspiring to have been invited to be part of IESCO: While many global organizations focus on environment, OR health OR economic development OR tourism, IESCO tries to focus on a safe and sustainable inter-relationship of Humankind and Nature, whether in work or leisure. This holistic understanding and systems-based approach is just what we need in the current state of the world, and many of the Chinese philosophical traditions may just represent the kind of Mindset we need to meet our current integrated challenges of global economic crisis, broad ecological and climate degradation and the need for more equity between rich and poor, as we enter into huge increases in global population and regional imbalances in age groups .

It is also interesting to me to consider the issue of ecotourism. To the extent my small country is known to outsiders, it is mainly because of ecotourism. People come to Norway primarily to enjoy our wild nature and virgin mountains, fiords and streams, not particularly our cities.  This is also what most Norwegians enjoy as our main asset!

But here we want to talk about URBAN ecotourism. It is estimated that already 55% of the world population live in urban areas in  2010.  The urban population still consume 85% of the worlds resources and energy and emits 85% of the waste and carbon dioxide. And urbanization is predicted to continue.  Cities in many ways represent the most massive impact of human civilization on our environment. In most cities very little if anything of the natural condition remains, huge environmental problems prevail and the impact of cities on their surroundings are also huge. From this point of view, you could consider any city as a major ecological emergency.

On the other hand, Cities are probably the most effective way to organize human life. Like ants and many other creatures, we find it safer and more productive in our more advanced states to collectively organize our livelihood in large groups like cities. We live our lives in cities, and we also love to visit other cities.  Therefore we should aggressively pursue the goal of healthy, green and sustainable cities that can offer a better life, more exciting ecotourism and a harmonious relationship of the cities to their surroundings.

How can we achieve that? This is what I will talk more about now: I have chosen 6 main issues to consider:

1.The balance between urbanization and developing the countryside,

2.Land use and land abuse

3.Resource consumption or recirculation and conservation

4.Life Cycle Analysis and urban planning 

5.Extractive engineering or green technologies

6.Management of Cities and the citizen¡¯s role in the management.

1.First of all I will like to remind us, that part of solving the city¡¯s future challenges will be to limit urbanization by also focusing on creating better livelihoods in the countryside. Currently, the overall situation in China is that its urbanization has exceeded 40%, but 300 mill more people is still expected to move to cities in the coming decades. I believe China should balance its policies of increased urbanization with a paralell focus on developing more stable and sustainable rural communities with good environments for employment, innovation, production. Improving conditions for more rural people to stay closer to their homes in smaller green, rural townships and communities is one good way of helping to reduce the pressure challenging many rapidly growing cities and that of many migrant workers as well.

2.Land Use or Land Abuse. Cites have tended to uncontrolled sprawl into the neighboring countryside and agricultural areas and claim land based on short term cost benefit considerations. With focus on ecological safety and sustainability, we need to think differently and more long term. Cites need the land that produce food for its citizens, and it needs green areas for recreation. Cites must develop more harmonious relationships to its surroundings. The new green zero emission neighborhoods being planned in Shanghai may be good examples of how future planning should proceed.

3.Cities tend to inefficiently use a lot of upstream resources form the surroundings like energy, water etc, and let out a lot waste and pollution downstream. Instead of these ¡°end-of-pipe-solutions¡± cities must be much more clever to introduce a circular economy within its own boundaries. Then point-of-use technologies become crucial: How can we save and produce more renewable energy, recapture waste water, restore the aquifers and reuse other resources effectively. How can we save and produce more energy and materials from our own waste heat and urban waste, which are hydrocarbons as good as any coal or oil. How can we grow more greens and capture CO2 and other pollutants the organic way? How to grow more food inside the city and use the remains as fertilizers and other raw material. In ecological theory these considerations are called life cycle analysis, and bring me to my next point.

4.City planning and life cycle planning.  Life Cyle Analysis (LCA) is a planning methodology designed to follow use of resources though their whole life cycle. I will like to extend that concept to the life of city people: In our planning we need to follow them through their daily life cycle and their needs connected to all phases of the normal day: Work, leisure, rest, food, exercise, entertainment, socializing, sleep and more.

We also need to follow their whole life cycle: Infancy and growth, childhood and play, youth and learning years, mature working life and retirement and aging. Far too much of City life is focused solely on work life, consumption and commercial entertainment. We must create broader environments with wider opportunities and choices that can create better and more genuine fulfillment of life.

5.New Green technologies are a crucial necessity for creating better cities. Many current technologies work against their own best assets when applied in mass scale. We all love to have our own car to move easily and independently around, but when we all do it that way at the same time, nobody get to move and we all get polluted. Energy use creates light and acclimatization but also darkens the skies and pester our air quality! New green technology paradigms and new sustainable ways of organizing our lives can change that. But we then also may have to radically change our priorities and mindsets and the way we organize our cities and our lives! We may need to share more and do more collectively, and develop radical new technologies for recirculation of resources in the cities. For water, energy and other resources, we need to develop more completely new point of use technologies to conserve and recirculate and less end of pipe solutions to produce and pollute more.

The common claim is that demands for ecological sustainability will harm and hamper economic growth. I will rather claim the opposite is the reality. New innovations and new technologies that effectively meet old and new needs create massive new demands in the market, just like when the electricity, cars, personal computers, laptops and mobiles were introduced. Also then representatives of the traditional technologies and economy with a petrified mindset were defying and obstructing progress. But Greentech and sustainable energy is already becoming the new technology paradigm driving the new economy!

6.City management and the citizens:

The focus of any city and community in the modern world should  to become as self reliant and efficient on resourse use as possible given the local conditions, and to mobilize all technological and human  capabilities to reach that goal. That implies we all may need to change our mindset substantially and swiftly, as well as that of many of our leaders. The French philosopher Foucault have analyzed how one of the most destructive and repressive power factors of rising societies are ¡°the power of the ruling ideas¡±. To be able to shape sustainable environments and eco-cities attractive for their inhabitants as well as tourists, we not only need to change our environment, but more important than anything we need to change our mindset!  

In my country the civil society have contributed greatly to the development of new mindsets, to supporting the political ambitions for a more ecological growth and to create support for necessary change. I would therefore like to support what LI Junru who is vice president of Chinas society for Human Rights studies say in this quote from China Daily just last Friday, two days ago:

¡°¡­We should further be aware that since the issue of Peoples livelihood is related to peoples existence and livelihood, we cannot solve problems related to peoples livelihood without the development of democracy.

We should not simply focus on people¡¯s livelihood, but solve the problems related to people¡¯s livelihood by closely linking them to the development of democratic politics.¡±

Four vital relationships for urban ecological reconstruction.

Currently, we are in a revolutionary era of globalization. In March 2007, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon pointed out in one of his articles published in Washington Post;

¡°¡­In the past century we have witnessed three economic transformations which were actually the industrial revolution, technological revolution and the current globalization.¡±

Globalization as the current stage of history has in its recent phase been characterized by 4 great challenges:

1.Irresponsible and unregulated financial speculation and exuberance leading to a grave global economic crisis.

2.The climate crisis as the peak of numerous ecological challenges due to immature technologies.

3.The equity crisis; Global growth has been very unevenly distributed due to inadequate economical policies.

4.The ongoing population crisis, which will increase population by an unprecedented 40% in only 40 years, or one generation, due to lack of education and balanced modernization in huge regions of the world.

We have to understand and cope with all these challenges in concert. They are all part of our ¡°Global Ecological System¡±, the backdrop and conditions that will be the context for our own efforts to shape our future.

That implies first of all we need to see economy and environment as two sides of the same problem. The global industrial economy is driven by energy and resource exploitation, and energy production and resource extraction is our main driver for the growing ecological challenges.

Secondly; we cannot limit our attention to the environment and economic sphere in isolation. It is the relationship of these issues with human livelihood and human well being in general that should be our main focus, as it is that of IESCO. We need cities, but we need them to better take  care of our diverse human needs, and we need them to take better care of our overall environment.

Thirdly; developing towards better ecological safety will not harm economic development. People used to believe that economic development would inevitably damage eco-environment and that environmental protection would have to affect economic development. However, everything indicates that green technology will be the new technological paradigm driving the economy, and that green innovation and new solutions will be the basis of wealth, prosperity and wellbeing for people in all parts of the worlds.

The fourth is the relationship between the law, the environment and the civil society. To protect our common and long term interests, we need strict regulation to avoid that special interests exploit our common environment for the interest their own profit. The supreme pursuit of urban ecological construction is the harmonious development of the individual, the community and our urban environment. Therefore, urban design and management should fully consider both the relationship between man and the city, and the relationship between people. The laws of planning, construction, operation and management of the city must be enforced and followed. But we also need the contribution, engagement and enthusiasm of the civil society lead by organizations like IESCO, DEVNET, the media, and enterprises with a strong sense of Corporate Social Responsibility to create the momentum needed to meet the future in time. We have less than 40 years to radically reinvent our global civilization!

When we have reached a level of science based civilization and a common wisdom and mindset where we manage our future rural and urban economy, ecology and human livelihood as one whole integrated system, we will be prepared for a bright future with eco safety for all, and unlimited opportunities for ecotourism in cities over the whole planet.

By Dr. Werner Christie,
Chairman PA Asia, Beijing,
Member of IESCO Presidium,
IEEPA  Advisor
October 24, 2010   Shanghai, China

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