Three reasons I’m excited for the 2019 EcoDistricts Summit
The national organization, EcoDistricts™ from Portland, Oregon is hosting their 10th annual EcoDistricts Summit in Pittsburgh in November and there are many reasons you should be excited to attend. As I’m gearing up to attend my fifth EcoDistricts Summit, I reflected on the top three reasons to participate in this year’s event.
The EcoDistricts Summit is the only district-scale sustainability conference that puts equity at the center of the conversation.
If we are not leveraging sustainability improvements to fight environmental injustice, historic and structural inequities, and create communities where everyone has full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential, then we are not truly improving our neighborhoods for all. The EcoDistricts Summit is a great place to learn how to reduce your community’s environmental impact, and every presentation, panel, or conversation you engage in will be rooted in equity.
Attendees of the EcoDistricts Summit not only agree with this, but are actively working to create more equitable communities in their own work. At the Summit you will learn how to engage in an equitable community process, how to ensure that the benefits (and burdens) of community development can be distributed equitably, and how to design processes and strategies to fight historic inequalities that have caused the widening gaps that we see today. Environmental sustainability is extremely important but if we aren’t leveraging it to create more equitable communities then we’re missing the point.
Pittsburgh is an ecodistrict pioneer, and while we have a lot to brag about, we also have a lot to learn from our peers.
If you are a Pittsburgher, then you know that we take every opportunity to root for our city. We should – we have a lot to brag about! Pittsburgh-area communities and practitioners were some of the first to develop and adopt ecodistrict planning and implementation practices, and this work influenced the development of the EcoDistricts ™ Protocol. Larimer, Millvale, and Uptown were all ahead of the curve and you will have the opportunity to visit these communities during the Summit and learn from local leaders about what sparked the ecodistricts movement and how it has helped residents shape the future of their communities.
Ecodistrict planning is beginning to scale up and the work of these pioneering communities is making an impact on other communities in our region and across the country. This can be seen in the establishment of the Triboro Ecodistrict and the 13 communities that came together for a three-day intensiveEcoDistricts Incubator in Pittsburgh in April. Pittsburgh has a story to tell that begins with a rust belt city that many other communities can relate to, but evolves into a narrative of redevelopment and growth. At the EcoDistricts Summit you will not only have a chance to hear this story, but also contribute your own story and perspective, and hear many other stories from which we can all learn and grow. Pittsburgh and the world stand at a critical turning point and we need to engage in conversations about creating a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future that benefits everyone now more than ever.
Summit speakers are always inspiring and will re-invigorate your passion for this work.
When introducing myself at most conferences, the first couple of minutes is often consumed by an explanation of the work that I do, what ecodistricts are, and the case for why this work is important. One of the reasons why I love this Summit is because I get to skip this part and dive right into issues that matter. You do not need to make the case for why equitable sustainable development is necessary – that is the uniting factor and reason why we’re all here. At the EcoDistricts Summit you are guaranteed to hear a variety of perspectives and stories that will strengthen the work that you do and inspire you.
This year I am particularly excited to hear Kofi Boone speak, who will discuss how the impact of racism has long influenced the design of cities and cultural landscapes. I know that I will learn a lot from his research about strategies to reconcile environmental best practices with authentic community engagement in pursuit of a green and just society. After hearing from speakers such as Kofi, you are guaranteed to leave energized and even more passionate about creating communities for all.
In some ways I think of the Summit as an ecodistricts pot-luck. In our home cities we come to the table with our community members to make stone soup – everyone brings an ingredient to throw into the pot. At the EcoDistricts Summit, we each bring a sample of our home community stone soups to share with other communities and practitioners from around the world. The soups come from near and far and each is flavored with local flair. At the ecodistrict pot-luck, it’s great to join together in a meal where everyone can share their soup and then bring ideas and inspiration back home.
I hope to see you at this year’s Summit and can’t wait to hear your thoughts about what makes the EcoDistricts Summit unique. Don’t forget to bring your soup – I can’t wait to hear the story behind it!