To examine these questions for us is Tim Beatley, from the University
of Virginia, who is going to make a presentation for us. He is the
Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of
Virginia School of Architecture, and we look forward to his remarks.
Sustaining the City: Urban Ecology
MR. BEATLEY: Thank you, Bob. It is very nice to be here and
Harriet’s remarks fit nicely into the beginning of what I was going to
talk about, which is really the importance of thinking about the role
of cities in this broader sustainability movement that I think we very
much are in the midst of. I often start with this quote by Herbert
Girardet: Cities of the 21st century will be where human destiny will
be played out where the future of the biosphere will be determined.
There will be no sustainable world without sustainable cities. When
you look at where things are consumed, where carbon is emitted, cities
have to loom large in solving our global environmental problems. When
we imagine the places where we could in fact live a sustainable life,
they are places like this city, as Harriet nicely said.
Actually, I was going to start with this question. I am not going
to tell you a whole lot about what you should do in this city but
really pose a series of questions, things that we ought to be thinking
about and that ought to be part of the discussion today. Harriet had
already mentioned this, but Washington is an exemplar already in many
This is a marvelous graphic of global cities that a colleague of
mine in Australia, Peter Newman, has put together. It basically shows
the relationship between compact urban form, urban density and per
capita fuel consumption. You can’t see very well here, but the densest
global cities, Tokyo, Hongkongâ-this is people per hectare on one axis
and then per capita gasoline consumption on the other. Those compact,
dense cities tend to be the most energy efficient. Well, where are
American cities? They are way, sort of at the top, very low density
and very consumptive on a per capita basis.
Well, Washington is down there. This is the metropolitan region.
If you look at the City of Washington it looks a lot better than this.
In fact, you have the conditions, as Harriet said, of a very
sustainable city. Almost 40 percent of journey to home trips are made
on public transit. That is really quite phenomenal. Harriet mentioned
the walking statistics. In fact, the percentage of journey to work
trips by walking is actually greater than New York City here, in
Washington. So, you are doing some good things here, to be sure.
We have to think about strengthening that though, and the streetcar
and other initiatives that are underway are clearly very positive
directions. Transit has to be part of any concept of what a
sustainable city is about. We know that this is the most sustainable
way to get around. Walking, of course, is best but on a BTU per
passenger mile basis, it certainly beats the car dependence that we
find in most other American cities. You probably can’t see that very
I am a big fan of bicycles. You have some bicycle riding here in
Washington but not terribly much. It is very interesting, Paris was
mentioned earlier. Paris is just about to roll out a public bicycle
system that will put 20,000 bicycles, public bicycles on the streets of
Paris. Interesting. Maybe we ought to have a little friendly
competition with that capital and make our bicycle system 30,000 or
40,000, whatever, and get some tourists to move around on bicycles.
I am incorporating a little video here. I am always sort of taking
videos now wherever I am working and studying. This is Copenhagen and
almost 40 percent of the journey to work trips in Copenhagen are made
on bicycles. So, it is in fact possible to be profoundly more
sustainable in the ways that we get around, and how can we work
bicycles into our discussion?
It is interesting, there are some new ideas coming out of
Copenhagen. This green bicycle route systemâ-you can’t see the map
very well but on the right-hand corner is actually a new initiative.
It is green cycle routes, identifying routes through parks and
alongside green areas that allow people to commute into the city. If
you are not wanting to be in the middle of traffic with your bicycle
there are ways to get there in a greener way. One of the neat things
Copenhagen is doing is they have got intersection lighting for
bicycles. So, all the intersection lighting now has a seven-second
lead time for bicyclists so bicyclists get seven seconds of green light
before motorists get to go.
So, we have to think about mobility, public bicycles, lots of ideas
here, notions of smart bikes which we are beginning to, of course,
apply in American cities, so walkability, transit oriented
development. I love the notion, Harriet, that we are in fact
acclimating visitors. We are training, in fact, people to ride
transit. It is a very interesting concept for thinking about tourism.
Well, the green elements–of course there are any number of green
dimensions that we ought to be talking about. Many of you know about
the long-term studies of forest canopy cover and American Forest, based
here in Washington, has been doing this marvelous work, urban ecosystem
analysis around the country. This is the product of that work for the
Washington metro area, and some of you know about the statistics
comparing tree canopy coverage from 1973 to 1997 that for the City of
Washington went down from almost 40 percent to what it is today, 22 or
something. Harriet, you will know better than I what that number is,
but a pretty substantial reduction in the canopy coverage, a coverage
of trees. Of course, trees do many things for us. They cool the
environment. They retain storm water. They provide habitat. And, in
everything we do we have to think about how we might go back to that
city of trees that Washington was in fact at one time.
There are marvelous examples of cities around the world that have
become profoundly more tree and forest oriented. This is a shot from
Kaunas, Lithuania. This is the main promenade in the center of town
there. There are 500 trees along this promenade. I know because I
counted each one. And tremendous benefit, these are the spaces, the
places where people want to be. They are the coolest on many levels.
They are the environments, the habitats that are impressive.
My numbers may be a little wrong, but 25 million visitors is what
has been talked about today. I have the 2005 number of 15 million. I
have been trying to think about what are the engines to harness in
restoring this green infrastructure in Washington. Well, there is a
lot of work now in carbon offsetting. It is very interesting that many
other parts of the world are ahead of us on, of course, global climate
change and addressing global climate change but there is now this, I
think, marvelous positive trend and people who are traveling are
beginning to think about their carbon footprint.
So, the slide on the left is actually a marvelous organization,
based in the U.K. It used to be called Future Forest. They are now
known as the Carbon Neutral Co. They will actually offer you a carbon
neutral mortgage so they are actually planting trees here as a symbolic
gesture. So, with your mortgage you can have a certain number of trees
planted to sequester the carbon associated with the energy consumption,
the heating and cooling needed for that home. The same is being done
for carbon neutral car loans.
Of course, we have American companies like TerraPass that are
offering the benefits of offsetting for travel. But most of that money
ends up going to support tree planting and renewal energy projects in
other parts of the world. So, might we imagine trying to harness all
the travel, all the visitation in Washington, offsetting that,
challenging visitors here to think about what their carbon and energy
footprint is in getting here and getting back to wherever they are
from? It is an amazing potential resource for us to tap.
It is interesting, the Carbon Neutral Co. now is getting into some
new and very creative ideas. If you are about to get married you can
actually organize a carbon neutral wedding so instead of registering at
Macy’s, what you can do is register with the Carbon Neutral Co. And
your guests, instead of giving you conventional gifts can give you
trees, tree planting instead of that. It is a marvelous idea, isn’t
it? We need to be thinking more creatively about that.
So, thinking about this larger system, we need to be thinking about
connected green spaces. This is Hanover, Germany which has just
completed an 87-kilometer long green ring connecting large blocks of
open space around that city, including a 600-hectare forest, a pretty
wild space, in the center of town.
Is there room for wildness in our visions for the future of
Washington? It is not just about street trees. Where can we imagine
some wildness happening?
You can’t see this photograph very well but it is Hundertwasser.
He has passed away but for a number of us he was a leading figure in
green design. He proposed these amazing structures. This is one of
them, the Hundertwasser house in Vienna. And, I am posing the question
what would Hundertwasser’s Washington look like? Again, you can’t see
this very well, but you have trees on the rooftop and every window well
is a place for vegetation, and courtyards and side yards, and the
facade of the buildings themselves. In a city nature can be found in
many places and the wildness actually may be on the side of a building
or in a courtyard as much as it is in a large park. Can we, in moving
forward, think about the creative ways of injecting nature into the
urban fabric? We know about green rooftops, of course, ecological
rooftops, and we have a few of them now in Washington.
This again is a European sort of idea that finally made its way
here, to the U.S. Washington may be second only to Chicago in terms of
the number of green roofs but now in Chicago there are about 200 of
them and they do, of course, marvelous things for us. They are a
marvelous storm water management tool. They sequester carbon. They
reduce energy consumption of buildings. They prolong the life of
rooftops. They are beautiful to look at. They provide habitat in the
center of the city. That, by the way, is Lenz, Austria where they have
300 green rooftops. They mandate them for certain buildings and they
provide a subsidy for retrofitting buildings with green rooftops.
There are so many of them in that city that you can see them in
satellite imagery. It is that important.
Lots of new buildings, of course, in the U.S. now have green
rooftops. This is the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library.
It is one of my favorite examples. It has a beautiful grasslands
rooftop, 14 species of native grasslands. You can actually see this
rooftop from all spaces around it from the streets and sidewalks. It
becomes a very visibly present feature in the urban landscape.
Again, we do have some green rooftops here, in Washington. We have
lots of issues and problems that we need to be addressing with
rooftops. The combined sewer overflow problem is certainly a big one
and storm water management generally. Washington has been taking a
more structural approach with underground retention tunnels, and I
would like to argue that we take a more low impact development, LID
sort of approach where we try to address this issue through lots of
things, lots of green features integrated into the urban fabric of the
city. It makes a lot more sense to me.
This is the green rooftop of the Earth Conservation Corps
headquarters building, along the Anacostia River. It is a beautiful
rooftop and a place where lots of people kind of hang out.
Even the facades of buildings, of course. Green walls offer some
great potential. I am a big fan of a French botanist by the name of
Patrick Blanc who has designed these marvelous vertical gardens. Can
we imagine some federal buildings and some monuments perhaps with this
kind of greenery worked into the design? This green facade, this green
wall offers virtually the same benefits as a green rooftop so it
sequesters carbon. It provides habitat for birds. It retains storm
water. It cools the environment. We are worried, of course, about the
urban heat island effect, the fact that cities like Washington are much
hotter than surrounding areas. So, it responds to the ecological needs
of the city in lots of ways. Plus, it is just beautiful to look at,
really kind of profoundly redefining what a building, what a hard
surface, what a structure is to be organic, to be natural, profoundly
Well, we need to be rethinking the notion of streets. I know some
of that is happening here, in Washington, with the Green Streets
initiative and with at least one or two streets being designated green
streets. There is a lot of activity, a lot of interest in this around
the country. Cities like Seattle have designated many streets green
This is one of my favorite examples. It is the Growing Vine Street
initiative in Seattle, in the Denny Regrade neighborhood, essentially
re-conceiving what a street is. It is not just about conveying
traffic; it is about retaining storm water; about growing food; about
You can’t see this very well but the image on the right is being
built over time. It hasn’t been completed but this marvelous
pedestrian space is taken from a part of the roadway, and then the
water from the rooftops is collected, brought down from the rooftops
and collected in a series of cisterns and those cisterns then feed
water into a runnel system, actually a little flowing creek that treats
the water as it makes its way down to Elliott Bay.
That very interesting object in the lower photograph is a bit of
public art as well. There is an artist by the name of Buster Simpson
who has designed this. He calls it the Becknoning Cistern. So, the
thumb is actually collecting the rainwater from that roof and then
sending it eventually into this runnel system. So, it is a profoundly
different way of thinking about streets but we can find these sort of
creative ways to green the urban environment.
Many of you probably know about the street edge alternatives
program in Seattle, this kind of redesigning of suburban streets to be
linear rain gardens and a lot of edible landscaping, a marvelous way of
thinking about storm water, celebrating storm water, integrating storm
water in green features into the city, into neighborhoods instead of
putting it in pipes and sending it away.
We ought to find creative ways to restore much of the natural
hydrology of the communities we live in. I am wondering, as a
question, whether more of this could be done here, in Washington. We
have a number of very positive examples of cities that have stream day
lighting programs. One example is here on the left. The notion of
actually returning to the surface streams that have been put under
ground, put in pipes, which is something we typically do when we
urbanize, when we build cities.
Other green features, there is the green street on the upper
right-hand image and the lower image is actually a green bridge in
London. This is a bridge actually that is a pedestrian and bicycle
only bridge which has mature trees planted and, of course, no cars and
it actually connects to pieces of parkland in that city.
Can we find creative ways to bring water back into cities? I think
it is important for us to, where we can, restore the natural rhythms of
nature, the sights, the sounds, the feeling of water. We know that
water is a key element to our human species. There are marvelous
creative ideas and creative projects, and this is one of my favorites
by designer Herbert Dreiseitl who has done work in this city in this
part of the world. This is a project actually that converted the steps
of the town hall in Hochstadt, Germany into this free-flow, free-form
water system. So, this water starts at the town hall and then it
meanders through the town plaza, the town square, pops under ground for
a little while, pops up in certain spots and eventually it becomes a
very natural stream at the edge of the town. So, it actually connects
the countryside, the surrounding green space, with the interior town
centerâ-a marvelous project and we ought to be looking for those kinds
When we are looking at the historic hydrology of this city, of
course, there are abundant possibilities and, of course, rethinking our
relationship with the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers has got to be part
of our agenda, and also looking at all the first- and second-order sort
of streams and the possibilities, again, of restoring some of that
natural hydrology, celebrating that natural hydrology, celebrating the
uniqueness of the ecology of this place. And, we can do it. There
are, again, lots of examples and lots of very interesting ways of
This is one example from London, a new ecological district called
Greenwich Millenium Village. This is part of fairly dense housing,
green housing. They have restored an area of wetlands. This is what
much of the Thames River actually looked like before it was developed.
So, everything that we build from now on ought to be about healing the
landscape; ought to be about restoring and renewing these ecological
systems and that is the message from these marvelous projects.
Even places like Los Angelesâ-this is the LA River-âoffer some hope
for us. We are better situated here than Los Angeles. The LA River
looks like the image on the left. It is mostly a flood control project
at this point. But they have just issued a river revitalization
plan-âthat is the rendering on the bottomâ-that is really visionary and
it involves actually getting people down to the level of the water. It
involves connecting the neighborhoods along that river to that river
system. At the moment they can’t even see the river, let alone
physically get to it, be on it and touch it.
When we think about creative ways maybe the rivers themselves ought
to be what we celebrate and what we ought to be visiting. This is a
colleague of mine at UVA, Phoebe Crisman, who has come up with this
marvelous idea of the learning barge. She is just about to start
building this thing. The idea is essentially that it is a movable
educational center with renewable energy and doing a number of things,
but getting kids out there on the water. It is an interesting way of
thinking about monuments, isn’t it? Maybe what we ought to be thinking
about is kind of movable monuments actually, and the river itself
becomes the place where we send at least some of the people who come
here to the nation’s capital. A very interesting idea, reconnecting
with the river, rediscovering these marvelous rivers.
I have a great interest in trying to find creative ways of
reconnecting us to our natural heritage and to the natural systems that
ultimately sustain us. We have become profoundly disconnected of
course, and we don’t know much about natural history. We don’t know
much about the native flora and fauna in the places we live. We don’t
know much about geology. There is a geological map of Washington on
the top. We have fascinating geology here. We straddle two
geographical provinces. But most visitors, of course, and most
residents don’t understand that very well.
There are a couple of images of ideas. On the left is Fremantle,
Australia where they have used a pattern of brick to actually delimit
where the original shoreline used to be. I wonder if we ought to be
doing something like that? Perhaps we can delimit where the coastal
plains start and the Piedmont begins. It is an interesting idea, and
some understanding of the vast and deep geologic history of this place.
The lower photograph is from Victoria, British Columbia where they
have a very prominent geological feature which is a result of
glaciation there and there is actually a little plaque that tells you
something about glaciation, integrated into a hotel, an interesting
I have become particularly concerned about the ways in which kids
are not having the exposure to nature and natural systems in the way
that they have in previous generations. So, I want to throw that out
as a challenge. You all know about Rich Louv’s book, "Last Child in
the Woods." He has coined this term nature deficit disorder. He would
be the first to question another set of medical terms but there is a
lot of truth to this, this notion that kids are being raised indoor
most of the time, not having the same levels of freedom that perhaps
many of us had growing up, and not having much interaction with nature.
So, he goes around and interviews a lot of kids and he gets some
pretty telling quotations, like this one, I like to play indoors better
because that is where all the electrical outlets are. This is a
problem. So, many of us are arguing for another paradigm, one that
says get kids outside, leave no child inside. That is the motto. And,
we can do it and we should be doing it in every school. Every D.C.
school should involve outdoor connections and outdoor daily walks and
daily field trips connecting to the natural systems that are around
them. For a couple of years now at UVA I have given my students a
"what is this" survey? It is a series of slides kind of asking them
what they can tell me about what they see. I actually have a little
form that they fill out and I ask them to tell me what they are looking
at, and tell me as much as they can so if you see a bird and you don’t
know anything else but that it is a bird, then tell me it is a bird.
It is remarkable what we don’t know and what we don’t recognize,
common species of birds, trees, native flora and fauna of all sorts. I
don’t have an image of this but one of the images I show them is a
butterfly, a silver-spotted skipper, and I have yet to have a single
student tell me correctly that that was a silver-spotted skipper. It
is a very common species of butterfly. I have had them tell me it was
a moth. I have had them tell me it is a monarch butterfly, which
doesn’t look anything like a silver-spotted skipper. I have had a
couple of students even tell me it was a hummingbird. I am not quite
sure what is going on there but we have lost contact with this amazing
natural world around us.
So, while we are talking about monuments and the celebratory
aspects of this city, let’s think about the celebratory components of
nature and the fact that here, in Washington, this is a profoundly
different way of reframing the city. It is a place where you have 260
species of birds, for example, millions of migratory birds moving
through city and this region each year. We don’t see that and we don’t
I had this idea that I was going to play for you some bird songs
and give you a test to see if you would be able to recognize the
birds. It is not working for some reason so you have gotten off the
hook-âno bird song test. But we don’t know bird songs. We can’t
recognize common species of birds. So, that is part of the problem.
We have some creative ideas for addressing this nature deficit
disorder. It is about reconnecting schools to the places where they
are located and this is a marvelous example from Perth, Australia. I
have just come back from six months in Australia. There are marvelous
things that they are doing. This is a school that has active bush land
behind the school. Part of the agenda here is thinking about every
school and the basic ecological equipment that a school needsâ-maybe it
is a functioning ecosystem, maybe it is a wetland, maybe it is a
forestâ-and incorporating the natural history into the scheme.
We could also begin to think about Washington in terms of the flows
of resources. That is another important perspective, sustainability
perspective. A city of any population requires inputs, food, energy,
materials. At the same time, it generates lots of outputs, waste,
water pollution, air pollution, carbon emissions. We don’t generally
think about these things. Materials come from somewhere. As long as
they keep coming we don’t worry. Pollution goes somewhere. As long as
it goes away we don’t worry. And we often don’t connect these things
together. So, one notion of a sustainable city is a city that
minimizes the throughput, reduces the flow of these resources and then
connects them, makes the metabolism a circular metabolism.
So, what do we know about Washington? This is a marvelous analysis
for London and it is probably the most comprehensive urban analysis of
resource flows anywhere in the world. We need to do something like
this for Washington and begin to find ways to again connect the inputs
and the outputs. A lot of cities are already doing this. The slide on
the right is Upsala, Sweden where they are operating 40 biogas buses on
biogas harvested from household organic waste. So, something that is a
waste problem becomes a positive input to something else. We should be
designing every new complex, every new building, every new neighborhood
to understand these resource flows and to move us in the direction of a
more circular metabolism.
This is Hammarby Sjostad, Hammarby Sea City in Stockholm. You
can’t see the arrows very well, but it is a profoundly different way of
thinking about that neighborhood. What are the outputs? What are the
inputs? Are there opportunities to connect them? There are a thousand
units in this development that have stoves that, again, burn biogas
generated from household organic waste. So, something that is a waste
becomes a productive input.
Thinking about the sources of materials, another important issue
for us, is a project called BedZED in London where a high percentage of
building materials are coming from a short distance away, beginning to
localize that flow of material so it is not traveling as far. All of
the wood needed for this housing project is actually coming from a
nearby borough and that borough is actually using harvesting of street
trees and urban forest as a sustainable source of lumber. In fact,
Croydon Borough in London has now been designated a sustainably managed
forest so the city has become a sustainably managed forest. It is an
interesting sort of idea. Should Washington become a sustainably
managed forest, certified as such?
We can’t ignore climate change so everything that we do has to
address this problem. Could Washington re-envision itself, reframe
itself as a carbon neutral city? That is, we produce as much power as
we can here, in Washington, and then we move further to reduce whatever
carbon emissions, greenhouse emissions, are left. It can be done and
is being done in other parts of the world.
These are some images from Vastra, a new project in Malmo, where
they aspire to produce a hundred percent of the energy from the
renewable sources produced locally. And they did it, they achieved it,
partly through things like this solar hot water heating system, a
marvelous vacuum system that is feeding hot water into a district
heating grid. This would work in Washington.
We could look to other capital cities for inspiration. Washington
has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Agreement. That takes us part of
the way. London has just released its climate change action plan which
is really quite amazing. They have set the goal of reducing carbon
emissions by 60 percent by the year 2025. This is twice as fast as the
U.K. national plan. They have laid out in great detail how they are
going to get to that point. We need to do a similar thing here, I
would propose, in fact in every American city.
They are doing some controversial things; they are proposing to do
some controversial things. Ken Livingston, the mayor there, who is
sometimes very provocative and says provocative things, is the guy who
has been largely behind the central line congestion charge. One of the
proposals in the new London plan is to dramatically increase that
charge and make it a graduated system so that the vehicles there
emitting the most carbon emissions have to pay the highest charge.
Right now I think it is at eight pounds to cross to central London.
Livingston is proposing the upper charge of 25 pounds for an SUV. That
is about 50 dollars to come into the center of the city. Could you
imagine something like that here? It is generating money to improve
the public transit system. It is making a more pedestrian-friendly
city in London and it is discouraging people from driving their cars.
So, we need to be bold in thinking about this in Washington as a carbon
Could Washington be a city powered by the sun? Everything that we
build, everything we design, every monument, every federal building,
every city building ought to be maximizing solar energy. The report
from Travis Bradford, another book I am plugging here, is "The Solar
Revolution." The world currently stands at the beginning of the second
silicon revolution. Solar energy will become the most economic
solution for most energy applications. I think that is true, and the
technology is here if we apply it. Could the City of Washington
produce at least as much power as it needs?
We, again, have lots of cities moving in this direction. From my
work in Australia, this is one of the cities I have been writing about,
Adelaide in south Australia. They are aspiring to be a solar city.
They have done many things that actually declared a solar precinct in
their downtown and they are putting photovoltaics on the rooftops.
They are putting photovoltaics on the parliament building, on museums
Again you can’t see this very well, but the lower photograph is an
interesting example. Of course, Australia has lots of eucalyptus
trees. There is a particular kind of eucalyptus called Mallee. So,
they are installing these solar Mallees. They are essentially
streetlights with PVs on the top. They are very distinctive looking
and they produce about six times the energy needed to power the
streetlight so it is sending power into the grid. What a marvelous
idea! So, thinking about our lighting system in a way that makes it
regenerative, that produces more power than we need or sends power back
into the grid and helps us to become carbon neutral. Everything that
we build ought to, of course, incorporate natural daylight and passive
This is Eco-Sainsbury, a grocery store in London which uses about
50 percent of the energy needs of a conventional grocery store.
This is perhaps the first carbon neutral energy balanced street in
the world in the Netherlands. Each of these housing units produces
more power than it needs.
Thinking about schools and every institutional rooftop as an
opportunity to generate power is a marvelous idea, and this notion of
distributed energy systems, much more resilient, decentralized
neighborhood energy systems needs to be incorporated into our
thinking. Just simply understanding what Washington’s solar budget is,
do we know? How much solar gain do we get? What is the resource out
there? It is not something we typically incorporate in our
comprehensive plans or in our mapping process.
Barcelona has done that and discovered, lo and behold, an awful lot
of energy, a lot more energy than they need. They just adopted a
mandatory solar ordinance that requires that for every new building at
least 60 percent of the hot water needs have to be provided from solar
hot water heating systems. So, we are moving in the direction of
mandatory renewable energy requirements.
I am going to go a little faster because I have about five or ten
minutes left and we want to provide some time to talk about some of
these ideas. Every city, of course, has its own special mix of
renewable energy opportunities and we need to think about what
Washington’s is. Lots of cities have found their niche. This is
Middelgrund offshore energy in Copenhagen. It is different in
different places but, of course, solar is part of it. Biomass has to
be part of it as well. This is Vaxjo, Sweden, which is aspiring to be
100 percent fossil-fuel free and is heating and cooling itself through
My last theme I think has to do with food. As part of this
metabolic flow, can we imagine Washington as a food secure city? That
is, a city that nurtures food production and is more conscious about
where food is coming from. We have become profoundly disconnected, of
course, from where food comes from. It travels a great distance. You
often hear the figure 1,500 miles from where it is grown to where it is
consumed. We need to work on that. Part of this is about reconnecting
with the surrounding farms and farming systems that support us.
This is Joel Salatin, a local farmer. I don’t have time to talk
about these slides in much detail, but there are lots of mechanisms,
community supported agriculture; kind of subscription farming; farmers
markets; lots of creative ways in which we could do this. Finding ways
within the city, places within the city to actually grow food, where
residents can grow food and where there might be commercial
agriculture, is that possible? Well, it is and we are finding this in
This is a marvelous store with Ken Dunn where he operates what he
calls the Chicago City Farm. On one acre in downtown Chicago he
produces 40 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes and they are
highly coveted by the restaurants in that city.
I have become a big fan of this notion of the 100-mile diet. Can
we localize as much of that food production as possible? This is
Alicia Smith who started the 100-mile diet campaign. A very
interesting idea. And, some restaurants, of course, and some
management companies actually are supporting this idea of 100
miles-ânothing magical about 100 miles, but beginning to localize a lot
more what we are consuming.
Some of you know about Bon Appetit management firm, a food
management company that actually operates the cafÃ© at the Georgetown
Law School, for example. They try to source as much food as possible
from within 150 miles. That is an agenda. When you think about the
restaurants, the institutional cafes and restaurants and things, here
in Washington, there is a tremendous opportunity to move that flow in a
more sustainable direction, Working food production into the design of
This is Vikki in Helsinki. Edible landscaping, do we have
opportunities to imagine Washington as an orchard? We could be
producing a lot of food from edible landscaping. Every school– like
the Green Charter School in New Orleans which has an edible schoolyard
program where the kids are learning about food; they are growing food;
they are sitting down with their teachers and eating that food,
learning about the cycle, learning about growing things.
My last couple of slides, I promise, have to do with, again, this
need I believe for us to profoundly reconnect to the nature around us.
Partly this is about paying attention. So, a quick story from our time
in Australia, we lived about two months in Sidney and in Sidney there
are several large colonies of bats. Does anybody know what this
species is here? It is obviously a bat. It is a fruit bat. I guess I
kind of gave that away, didn’t I, by calling it a bat? It is a
grey-headed flying fox, which is a large fruit bat. In Sidney, every
evening these bats fly off and they go off and hunt; they go off and
feed. As the light fades the skies fill up with grey-headed flying
foxes. We thought it was so peculiar that nobody seemed to be paying
attention to this amazing phenomenon. We would be in a cab somewhere
and, you know, the sky is full of these grey-headed flying foxes and
the cab driver is just blase.
For us it became very personal because we lived in an apartment
building. You can’t see it but that palm tree was right outside our
window and every evening we had our own personal grey-headed flying fox
arrive. So, every evening you would hear this noise. We weren’t sure
about her flying skills but I grew to love the sound. It was the most
important thing about where we lived and yet, again, it was the thing
that most everyone around us just was not paying attention to or just
had forgotten about it perhaps.
So, in some ways it has become a metaphor for those things in
cities that are wondrous and awe-inspiring and are about the nature
around us that we are not paying attention to. So, where are the
grey-headed flying foxes in Washington? I guess that is my question.
I could tell you about my effort at learning about mushrooms and
going on fungi forays and trying to reconnect to landscapes. I said
that was my last slide. I guess I wasn’t truthful. I do actually have
a couple more slides. My last slide is about reconnecting to the night
sky. That is part of what we have lost as well. I skipped over this
lost heritage. This is all about the lost connections and
connectedness to place. Isn’t it a tragedy, as Arthur Clarke says,
that our children and grandchildren can’t enjoy the night sky the way
our forefathers have looked at it with awe and interest for thousands
So, when you look actually at Washington, what you are seeing are a
couple of maps produced from a star-counting project, essentially
people looking at the night sky and seeing how much they can see. As
you can sort of tell, in Washington it is very hard because of the
lighting here to see that night sky. So, the agenda here is about
lighting. It is about education. It is about finding opportunities to
reconnect celestially, if that makes sense.
There are lots of places, of course, that have done this and that
have adopted dark sky ordinances and star parties. I am wondering,
just listening to the other panelists talk today, if maybe we need some
portion of our Monumental Core as a bright sky zone or some place where
we try to address the lighting in a way that let’s us connect and talk
about celebratory, and talk about reconnecting ultimately to those
bigger questions of who we are and where we are. It is about
reconnecting to the sky also.
So, that is it and I am going to leave you with this marvelous
Donella Meadows quote about envisioning green futures. The problem in
the 21st century is how to look good with just lives within limits in
harmony with the earth and each other. Livable cities like Washington
can only be sustained out of humility, compassion and acceptance of the
concept that enough is enough. Thank you.
MR. IVY: Well, I sat here taking notes and sort of dreaming while
you were talking. I thought we would have five minutes of conversation
before we open it to the floor. There is not much time here but many
of the ideas that you proposed are things that just in my own personal,
professional life I am in harmony with, but I would like to drill down
a little bit about them with you. For instance, you talked about
MR. BEATLEY: Right.
MR. IVY: This is one of the most humid places on earth. How do you
reconcileâ-I mean, I don’t know if I want to get on a bicycle when it
is 96 degrees and 94 percent humidity.
MR. BEATLEY: Right.
MR. IVY: You can do it in Copenhagen but what do you do here?
MR. BEATLEY: Well, the first thing I would say is that the
experience around the world is that you have people consistently biking
in very harsh climates, much harsher than Washington. You have people
in Scandinavia in cities, you know, riding in the dead of winter in
snow. It just depends on what becomes normal. We lived a year in the
Netherlands where I essentially lived on a bike and not snow, but you
have fierce North Sea winds and you wonder, you know, wow, people are
just getting on their bikes and going. Partly it is that, partly it is
about preparing yourself. If more of our places of employment have
places to shower and maybe relax the dress code during the summer, you
know, there are many things that we could do. But I think partly it is
Is anybody here from the Washington bicyclists? There actually is
a Washington bicycle organization and one of the great things that I
think they do is they will offer to actually help you learn to ride a
bicycle in the city. You know, part of the issue is just feeling
unsafe and not feeling comfortable with cars next to you, and how do I
get through that intersection, and how do I negotiate that turn, and I
can’t imagine myself commuting in that environment. They will actually
hook you up with a mentor who rides with you and will help you, give
you tips about where you should be, and it becomes a lot easier I
think. You know, the comfort level is quite important but I am not
sure that this climate is particularly difficult and it can be done. (COOL! LOOK UP)
MR. IVY: Okay.
MR. BEATLEY: I guess that is my answer. Others might have other things.
MR. IVY: Fine. Here is a question about the nature of the city.
Last night David Childs described the L’Enfant Plan, the 17th and 18th
century rational, Baroque, mathematical, monumental city that has
resulted and how that had evolved, and how Downing and others had, in
the 19th century, romanticized the landscape, created naturalistic
environments that were, on the Mall, totally out of character with
preconceptions. However, vestiges of that remain here. We have the
entire waterfront left. We have Rock Creek. The city is filled with
these more naturalistic opportunities. In a place like this which has
a variety of, let’s say, urban topologies and microclimates, how would
you deal with this monumental city and the future that you envision? I
can see how it works with Rock Creek but what about with these more
MR. BEATLEY: Well, I think it is about being creative. It is about
imagining nature in a slightly different way. I showed Patrick Blanc’s
images of the green wall. We don’t tend to think of that hard-scape
wall as an opportunity to insert nature. There are places with
permeable paving where low impact development techniques–rain
gardens–can be integrated into the streets in ways that, gee, that is
not really the usual Rock Creek, the usual kind of park setting that we
would imagine but we have an increasingly rich set of tools and
practices and experiences that would let us do that.
Again, to go back to my grey-headed flying fox, if you don’t
remember anything else from this talk, the grey-headed flying fox will
stay with you. Where are they? You know, it is all of this ordinary
nature, let me say, that is all around us to be observed and to be
celebrated and appreciated. It is not even so much trying to recreate
it, a lot of it is there whether it is an owl or whatever it is, the
migratory birds or the river systems. It is a different way of
thinking about the nature within a city.
MR. IVY: So, even in a place this prescribed, even in a place this
ordered, this hard-edged in some places or monumental, it is possible
to even rethink the elements that are there.
MR. BEATLEY: It is. It is and I would even be provocative and
suggest that perhaps we need a sustainable force on the Mall. Could we
grow some food on the Mall? That is crazy, isn’t it? A functioning
CSA on the Mall.
MR. IVY: you would have some arguments over that. Does someone
have a question for Tim? Yes, please, come forward. Well, you have
had one, Ben. Let’s get this gentleman, if you don’t mind.
QUESTION: What have you done in Charlottesville?
MR. BEATLEY: Say again?
QUESTION: What have you done in Charlottesville along these lines?
MR. BEATLEY: Along these lines? Gosh, Maurice Cox, former mayor of
Charlottesville, is actually speaking later in the day so he is much
better able to talk about this. But, to a certain degree, all these
ideas are finding some expression in Charlottesville. We are slowly
appreciating and protecting and restoring the green infrastructure of
the city so, for example, we have a couple of places where there are
rain gardens, where we have been retrofitting parks. I took out this
slide of our downtown Mall but we have an urban forest in two long rows
of trees, large mature trees, that create this marvelous green
condition in the center of Charlottesville. For a couple of years I
have been taking temperature and humidity readings under the trees and
comparing them with places around town, and our tree-lined downtown
Mall is about ten degrees cooler on a hot summer day. So, we are
actually demonstrating some of these ideas.
Maurice may talk about our proposed streetcar. Charlottesville is
becoming more bicycle friendly. We are moving in the direction of
green building. The city actually has appointed a sustainability task
force, which I sit on, where we are looking at all of these ideas that
I have mentioned. So, there is a long story there and, especially
because of people like Maurice, we are ahead of most other cities of
that size, I would say, in some of the things we are doing.
MR. IVY: Another question?
QUESTION: I just had a couple of comments to make on what you
said. We do have bats here. I saw them. They flew out in a flock of
batsâ-do they call them a flock?-ânear Dupont Circle one night and they
went all the way up with, you know, the noise they make–
MR. BEATLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And there were so many of them, they filled the whole sky
and they pooped all over our car. We were literally diving for cover,
jumping into the car, and they flew off into the night. I couldn’t
find anyone to ask about that. I was so interested in that.
MR. BEATLEY: yes.
QUESTION: Who would you call? They are very interesting.
MR. BEATLEY: They are, aren’t they?
QUESTION: But I wasn’t sure why they were here. I thought they
were lost, or something. Anyway, we do have bats, as they do in Austin
and they are a big event in Austin.
MR. BEATLEY: Well, you know the story about Austin is a marvelous
story. Austin has these Mexican free-tailed bats that arrive every
summer. They are migratory and they suddenly started residing
underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, which is a major bridge in
Austin, and it is now the largest urban bat colony in the world. It
has now gone from being sort of amusing to the colony being beloved,
and they have a batfest every year. You can go on dinner bat cruises
when night arrives and these bats fly. They named–is it their hockey
team?â-the Bats. They have gone a little batty for bats in Austin, but
it is a marvelous story.
QUESTION: We have also a green facade building which is the Finnish
Embassy, and also we have a night sky zone, surprisingly enough, which
is the old Naval Observatory.
MR. BEATLEY: The Naval Observatory, I wondered about that.
QUESTION: Nobody can benefit from that because it coexists with the
vice president’s residence. So, we have it but it is not accessible
MR. BEATLEY: Does Washington have dark sky ordinances?
QUESTION: There are some lighting restrictions in that vicinity so
that they can still use the observatory, but I don’t know if they are
still really using it for readings. But I want to thank you for
bringing up the part about not recognizing anything in nature, and I am
reminded that Olmsted complained about that when he went out to
Mariposa. He said people don’t know any of the plants that are
growing, and he took that as a lack of civilization. I mean, he said
that this was really a serious deficit in the community.
MR. BEATLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: So, it is really a bigger thing than just not knowing what we are looking at.
MR. BEATLEY: It is. It is a tragedy on several levels. It is a
lost enjoyment and deepening of what it means to live a meaningful life
I think. But it also doesn’t bode well for action to protect and
preserve the things that we need to protect and preserve. If we don’t
recognize the bats or the birds, or whatever, we are not likely to care
much about them. That is my premise anyway.
What is interesting about bats, by the way, I have been thinking a
lot lately about what is the basic equipment that a green neighborhood
should have and I have been making a list. I would love anybody’s
ideas but one of the things on the list is a bat detector. Do you know
about bat detectors? It actually picks up the frequency and alerts you
to the presence of bats in your neighborhood. Anyway!
MR. IVY: We have one question over here.
QUESTION: I don’t know about flying foxes but we do have a family
of foxes on a local golf course that keeps down the Canadian geese
theoretically. I also don’t know about growing food on the Mall but
there is a grass crop on the Mall and a great opportunity for the turf
industry to do a demonstration project on the Mall for grass that the
Park Service won’t have to keep replacing every time we have a big
event there. I think it is a vastly under-utilized possibility. The
Mall has other kinds of sustainability problems. It is in the flood
zone so there is a lot that can be done on the Mall and should be done.
MR. BEATLEY: Good comments.
To examine these questions for us is Tim Beatley, from the University