Dispatches from Rio+20: Bringing sustainable development dialogues to the PNW

Valerie Davis is the CEO of EnviroMedia Social Marketing

Valerie Davis is the CEO of EnviroMedia Social Marketing and is providing a series of posts from Rio+20 in Brazil. EnviroMedia is based in Austin and has its West Coast office in Portland.  

Rio de Janeiro may seem like a world away from the Pacific Northwest, but our global community just got smaller this week at Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in Brazil.

The aftereffects of Japan’s tsunami, a Museum of Modern Art proposal for Keizer, and Vancouver, British Columbia's David Cadman brought it all home at the “Sustainable Cities and Innovation” session of the Sustainable Development Dialogues preceding high-level ministerial talks this week.

With entire shipping docks washing up on the Oregon coast as part of the Japanese tsunami debris threatening our West Coast, it was timely to hear from renowned architect Shigeru Ban. Known for his work quickly and efficiently housing disaster victims in structures built from recycled cardboard tubes, he became famous for using this approach to provide temporary housing for victims of the 1994 Kobe, Japan, earthquake. More recently, his firm has donated relief services with temporary housing to help 2011 tsunami victims in Onagawa. Considering how amazing these “temporary” structures are, it wasn’t surprising to hear Ban ask, “What is permanent and what is temporary? One of the ways of making sustainable cities is to stop building new [structures].”

Also on the sustainable cities panel was the Museum of Modern Art’s Barry Bergdoll, who was responsible for bringing MoMA’s “Art of Advocacy” exhibit to Riocentro Convention Center. Featured is a proposal from WORKac architects to transform the Salem suburb of Keizer into a “Nature City” — one protecting its urban growth boundary and affordable housing in the quickly growing community.

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