Why Ecocities?

Ecocity design relates to practically all scales of development, and, if applied across those scales, would be a solution of sufficient power to preserve and restore the health of the planet.

Bioregional Ecocity Illustration by Richard Register

We have been hearing for some years now that “more than half the people in the world are now living in cities.” But what is important to notice is that probably 90% or more of us – almost all of us – live in either cities, towns or villages and at all those scales our built community can be either designed upon the foundation of ecological understanding or without it.

What is an ecocity?

Simply put, an ecocity is an ecologically healthy city. Because each city is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all ecocity model or one way to get there from where we are now. At the same time, there are basic characteristics ecocities share that are analogous to healthy ecosystems and living organisms.

An ecocity is…

•An ecologically healthy human settlement modeled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems and living organisms.

•An entity that includes its inhabitants and their ecological impacts.

•A subsystem of the ecosystems of which it is part — of its watershed, bioregion, and ultimately, of the planet.

•A subsystem of the regional, national and world economic system.

Ecocities as ecosystems An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water, and sunlight. Urban entities (cities, towns and villages) are urban ecosystems. They are also part of larger systems that provide essential services that are often undervalued, as many of them are without market value. Broad examples include: regulating (climate, floods, nutrient balance, water filtration), provisioning (food, medicine), cultural (science, spiritual, ceremonial, recreation, aesthetic) and supporting (nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, soil formation).

Ecocities as analogous to living organisms Like living organisms, cities (including their inhabitants) exhibit and require systems for movement (transport), respiration (processes to obtain energy), sensitivity (responding to its environment), growth (evolving/changing over time), reproduction (including education and training, construction, planning and development, etc.), excretion (outputs and wastes), and nutrition (need for air, water, soil, food for inhabitants, materials, etc.).

At its core, Ecocity Builders and associates’ definition of “ecocity” is conditional upon a healthy relationship of the city’s parts and functions, similar to the relationship of organs in living complex organism. We are concerned with city design, planning, building, and operations in an integral way and in relation to the surrounding environment and natural resources of the region, utilizing organic, ecological and whole-systems lessons to actually reverse the negative impacts of climate change, species extinction and the destruction of the biosphere.

The ecocity model seeks to provide a practical vision for a sustainable and restorative human presence on this planet and suggests a path towards its achievement through the rebuilding of cities, towns and villages in balance with living systems.