Last week saw the hugely successful staging of the Ecocity World Summit at the Melbourne Convention Centre. This brought to fruition two years of planning and coordinating following Melbourne’s successful bid to host the Ecocity World Summit, the 12th Summit by Ecocity Builders, the custodians of the series. The Summit was a collaboration of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Societies, and brought to fruition more than two years of planning. Nearly 1000 delegates from over 30 countries delivered and engaged with over 300 presentations on many conceptual and practical aspects of sustainable urbanism. The State of Victoria and the City of Melbourne were generous hosts and supporters, and many urban networks and commercial sponsors contributed to the Summit’s planning and staging.
When Ecocity wrapped up on 14 July, what became clear was the sheer number of ideas, debates and collaborations that were generated at the Summit both in and out of sessions. Conversations between academics, business leaders and government representatives reverberated around the conference walls, transcending the traditional barriers that often restrict them.
For many, the highlight of the three days was the key note presentation by the Hon. Al Gore. Delegates were enthralled by his 1.5 hour presentation, and left with a clear understanding of the seriousness of today’s situation, but filled with a sense of hope: that change is happening rapidly regardless of who is in the White House.
There were many take home messages from the Summit where the emphasis was certainly on people power. We heard that a coal museum in Kentucky had switched to solar; Dr Deb Roberts broke it gently to us that the answer to life, the universe and everything is not as simple as the number 42, (as suggested in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe), while Dr Kate Auty reminded us to be inconvenient – to not wait.
Media interest in the Summit was high with a strong focus on the key challenges affecting cities around the world. Whether it were articles on urban greening, food waste or the urban heat island effect, to social media, radio interviews on the sustainable development goals or TV appearances, the Summit was nationally and internationally in the spotlight.
Finally, the Summit created long lasting friendships between local and international delegates. Many, such as the French delegates from Climate Chance have used their visit as preparation for their own conference in Agidir, Morocco. And while the delegates have dispersed, the 1000 trees, shrubs and ground covers that were planted in each delegates honour will remain side by side. We hope that the next Ecocity World Summit in Vancouver in 2019 will bring together an equally passionate and diverse contingent of delegates to continue the legacy of Melbourne 2017.