The IES identifies “healthy culture” as one of the 15 essential conditions of an ecocity. Specifically, “an ecocity facilitates cultural activities that strengthen eco-literacy, patterns of human knowledge and creative expression, develops symbolic thought and social learning” (www.ecocitystandards.org).
There is an iterative relationship between culture and its expression in the built environment. We build what we believe, and as we build so shall we live (Register 2006). Therefore, whether a society values the ecological systems upon which it depends becomes evident through the treatment of local ecology within the city and the design of the built environment in relationship to it. Examples include i) preservation of urban streams and natural topographical features, ii) buildings that are energy efficient and orient to the sun or create shade as local climatic conditions require, iii) public spaces that provide opportunities for relaxation and “re-creation” and also function as green corridors or buffer zones to support habitat protection and food production.
Of course, a city’s ecological dependence also rests with its surrounding bio- region and other areas scattered all around the world whence it draws energy and resources. The ways that an ecocity facilitates cultural activities that strengthen eco-literacy with regard to these “urban ecosystem relationships” is critically important (Rees 2010). Indeed, a healthy culture is one that can regenerate itself and adapt according to changing circumstances (Diamond 2005). Like the city, the culture that built it is also “a living system of human relationships that expresses itself in language, arts, tool-making and social organization, including politics and economics” (Downton 2012). Downton uses the geometric notion of “fractals” to explore how healthy culture can both develop and scale-up across a city. A fractal contains within it all the essential characteristics of the larger whole of which it is a part. A small community that contains the values and governance structure essential to a healthy culture can create and re-create an ecocity over time.
Register, Richard. 2006. Ecocities: Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature. Gabriola
Island BC: New Society Publishers.
Rees, William E. 2010. Getting Serious About Urban Sustainability: Eco-footprints and the Vulnerability of 21st Century Cities, Chapter 5 in Trudi Bunting, Pierre Filion, and Ryan Walker (eds.), Canadian Cities in Transition: New Directions in the 21st Century. Fourth edition. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.
Diamond, Jared. 2005. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Press.
Downton, Paul. 2012. Neighbourhoods and Urban Fractals – the building blocks of sustainable cities, posted on October 17 in The Nature of Cities. Online resource (http:// www.thenatureofcities.com/2012/10/17/neighborhoods-and-urban-fractals-the-building- blocks-of-sustainable-cities/).