Al Gore to headline Institute for Culture and Society EcoCity World Summit

To help make cities resilient in the face of rapid change, a series of international experts including former US Vice-President Al Gore will speak at a special conference co-hosted by Western Sydney University.

Hosted by the Institute of Culture and Society and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute from 12 – 14 July at the Melbourne Convention Centre, the EcoCity World Summit will highlight the need to deploy expert knowledge – academic, professional, civic – to make cities resilient in the face of rapid change.

Humanity has entered its urban age, with a rapidly growing majority of the population now living in cities. The ‘urban globe’ faces unprecedented social and environmental challenges. The chief danger is climate change, which threatens epic disruption and hardship. But there are related challenges to human health, biodiversity and the bedrocks of life – food, water, and energy. At the same time, new ‘smart’ technologies are proposing solutions to planetary problems.

One principal solution is apparent: our cities must become ecological cities if we want a sustainable world. Creating ecocities must now be a human priority. Australia, a nation of cities, is well-placed to contribute to this urgent global project.

'Almost everybody accepts the importance of cities as the crucibles for responding to the ecological crisis that we face globally. However, we are still arguing over what needs to be done. The EcoCity Summit is a key global event this year for resolving practical responses to wicked problems. We will be working through basic "Principles for Better Cities", and attempting to prioritise outcomes,' says ICS Director Professor Paul James.

Institute of Culture and Society researchers speaking at the conference include:

  • Professor Katherine Gibson, ‘Ecocities in the Making’. In her keynote presentation, Professor Gibson will reference ecologically and socially sustainable Australian businesses which reduce, recycle and reuse, in the process becoming renewable energy producers in the face of political inaction.
  • Professor Donald McNeill, 'The Façade and the City: Skyscrapers, Thermal Comfort and Urban Context'. Professor McNeill will discuss façade design and engineering as a key urban practice in the composition of contemporary cities, especially in areas where tall buildings define form.
  • Dr Stephen Healy, ‘The Promise of Anchor and Municipal Led Cooperative Development in the US’. Dr Healy will discuss how there are currently more than ten cities in the United States directly supporting the development of worker-owned cooperatives as part of a more inclusive and sustainable approach to economic development.
  • Jo McNeill, ‘Practices of Social Procurement as A Basis for Social Enterprise Formation’. ICS PhD candidate Jo McNeill's presentation will demonstrate ways in which public sector social procurement policies and programs can enable the establishment of robust and innovative social enterprises.
  • Dan Musil, ‘Cooperatives Enterprises and Municipal Development in Australia’. ICS PhD candidate Dan Musil will outline the experiences of the Earthworker Cooperative project, which has helped establish worker-owned renewable energy manufacturing and sustainability-focused cooperatives in Victoria’s urban and electricity-generating areas.
  • Dr Liam Magee and Dr Teresa Swist, ‘Open Source Software, Community Mapping and Social Learning in Dhaka’. This presentation will investigate the Kolorob project, an app which coordinated the mapping of more than 2,000 businesses and services in Dhaka.
  • Dr Abby Mellick Lopes, ‘Transitioning to Cool Future Cities’. Dr Lopes will discuss research investigating how three groups identified as 'vulnerable' to heat stress in Western Sydney adapted to keep cool in summer.

For more information about the EcoCity, please visit the EcoCity Summit website.

Posted: 7 July 2017.