Ecocity 1: Berkeley, California, 1990

Host organization: Urban Ecology

Convener: Richard Register

Enthusiasm born of fresh innovation

Banners along Shattuck Avenue for the First International Ecocity Conference, Berkeley, 1990

Hands-on talent permeated the First International Ecocity Conference. Several testimonials came back from the participants in following years:

“Your conference changed my life.”

The basic ideas of ecological city design and planning and the very particular means of building, living in and operating such cities were expressed in dozens of ways accessible at many levels.

Having great local talent provided a solid foundation and leading speakers from the US and 12 foreign countries made the event representative of the some of the best of what has since become known as “green” and “sustainable” design, technology, lifestyle and even philosophy.

Among the “stars”…

One came from as far away as the moon: astronaut Edgar Mitchell relating the profound vulnerability of his home planet Earth, small enough to disappear behind his raised thumb while standing on the surface of the moon. Architect Paolo Soleri spoke about his ideas for three-dimensional cities as compared to sprawling two-dimensional, car dependent cities. Then there was Huey Johnson, State of California Secretary of Resources in Jerry Brown’s administration that was two decades ahead of its time in relation to “appropriate technology” as we called it in those days, Loni Hancock, Mayor of Berkeley, Sylvia McLaughlin who co-founded Save the San Francisco Bay Association — and proceeded to save the bay from filling, 1960 to today.

Other luminaries that graced the conference included:

  • Environmentalist David Brower, once called the Archdruid of the movement
  • Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia
  • Fritjof Capra, philosopher and author speaking on paradigm shifts
  • Vernon Masayesva, Hopi Tribal Chairman and American Indian city building
  • Paul Downton, Australian architect and co-founder of Urban Ecology Australia
  • Chappell Hayes, early social justice and environmental design leader
  • Melanie Taylor, architect speaking on “new traditional towns” which at the time were morphing into the New Urbanism, also represented by architect Peter Calthorpe
  • Isabel Wade, Executive Director of San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council on urban gardens around the world
  • Patricia Gonzalez of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico speaking of community environmental protection and development working with the NGO Tierra Madre,
  • Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett of the CoHousing Company on their international work on that particular type of cooperative housing
  • Floyd Stein of Copenhagen and Peter Beck of Berlin on their efforts for ecological community and city planning pioneering and many more.

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