Networking Seattle’s Urban Villages

Circular Cities 2030
10 min readMay 28, 2023

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Urban Resiliency in the 21st Century

We hear a lot about resiliency these days, as it refers to the ability of individuals, communities, and systems to withstand, adapt to, and recover from a wide range of shocks and stresses — disruptions including those associated with climate change, natural disasters, social and economic disruptions, and technological advancements. It involves building and strengthening our capacity to bounce back, transform, and thrive in the face of adversity.

In the context of cities and urban areas, resiliency is particularly important. Cities are complex systems with interconnected social, economic, and environmental dimensions. As we face increasingly complex and interrelated challenges, such as natural disasters, extreme weather events, population growth, resource scarcity, and social inequality, imbedding resilient systems into urban centers becomes crucial. Let’s explore some of the key aspects of what resiliency means in modern context:

Climate resilience: global warming and climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Building climate resilience involves understanding and addressing the impacts climate change poses to our urban built environments, such as rising temperatures, sea-level rise, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and changing precipitation patterns, and wildfire season. It also includes measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and calls for adaptation to our changing climate, such as developing green infrastructure, improving water management systems, and enhancing urban heat island mitigation strategies, and more.

Social resilience: focuses on building strong and inclusive communities that can withstand and recover from social disruptions. This involves promoting social cohesion, fostering community engagement, addressing social inequities, and enhancing social support networks. It also includes investing in education, healthcare, affordable housing, and social safety nets to ensure that frontline communities are not disproportionately affected by the shocks and stresses of our warming world.

Economic resilience: entails building a robust and diversified economy that can adapt and thrive in the face of economic shocks, fissures, and disruptions. This involves promoting entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic diversification, as well as supporting local businesses and industries to work together creating more localized and regional circular economic ecosystems. It also includes investing in job training and education programs to enhance workforce resilience, flexibility, and readiness — promoting equal access to the creative forces that help shape our world.

Infrastructure resilience: involves designing and maintaining critical infrastructure systems that can withstand and recover from shocks and stresses. This includes resilient transportation networks, reliable energy systems, inner-city food security, robust communication networks, and resilient water and wastewater systems. It also involves incorporating smart technologies and innovative solutions into infrastructure design to enhance efficiency and adaptability.

Urban Resilience: involves reimagining the way we interact, connect, and collaborate within our urban environments to foster greater inclusivity, equity, and well-being. It encompasses leveraging technology, promoting community engagement, and prioritizing social cohesion.

Governance and institutional resilience: requires effective governance structures and institutions that can anticipate, respond to, and manage crises. This involves developing comprehensive disaster management plans, establishing clear roles and responsibilities, and fostering collaboration and coordination among different stakeholders. It also involves integrating resilience principles into policy-making processes and ensuring transparency, accountability, and adaptive governance practices.

We’ve got a lot of work to do — Let’s work together

Seattle’s Urban Villages

The City of Seattle implemented its first Urban Village Strategy in 1994 as part of its comprehensive planning efforts. Advocated for and championed by former Mayor Norm Rice, the goal was to increase housing options for the influx of newcomers moving into the city without accelerating the urban sprawl associated with single family housing.

This strategy focuses on concentrating growth and development within designated urban villages, which are specific neighborhoods characterized by mixed-use development, higher density, and a focus on walkability, bike safety, and quick access to amenities and services. The Urban Village Strategy promotes sustainable and compact development, reduced urban sprawl, and creates vibrant, livable communities. [Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan]

Imbedding resilience into Seattle’s Urban Village Strategy involves a multi-faceted, holistic approach — one that recognizes the urgent need for urban climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the transition towards a more sustainable and low-carbon city. By networking our urban villages, we can collectively work towards achieving these goals. Some of the key technologies include:

Decentralized renewable energy generation: integrates renewable energy generation into the grid of Urban Villages, revolutionizing the way electricity is produced and consumed. Renewable energy installations offer a compelling alternative to centralized power generation, presenting a shift away from extensive long-distance transmission and distribution infrastructure. This shift is crucial as the impacts of our warming world raise concerns about the vulnerability of such centralized systems to disruptions.

Localized renewable energy installations: generate energy from sources from within or nearby the community, providing a more self-sufficient and secure energy supply that empower communities with a degree of energy independence, allowing for the tailored solutions that harmonize with the unique characteristics of each Urban Village.

This decentralized approach not only enhances the resilience of the energy infrastructure itself, but also caters to community ownership and participation. Residents and businesses within Urban Villages can actively engage in the production and consumption of renewable energy, promoting a more sustainable and locally-driven energy future in preparation for the worst-case climate scenarios now present in the 21st century.

Collaboration and partnerships: energy providers, technology companies, and other stakeholders can work together to drive innovation and develop a network of renewable energy solutions. Forming partnerships that leverage expertise, resources, and funding to implement renewable energy projects and advance decentralized renewable energy solutions network Urban Villages as energy independent communities.

Green infrastructure and urban greening: integrates green infrastructure and nature-based elements and practices within Urban Villages. This involves the creation of green spaces, parks, urban food forests, green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavements. Green infrastructure helps mitigate urban heat island effects by providing shade and reducing surface temperatures, improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen, and enhances resilience to climate change impacts, such as heavy rainfall and flooding, by promoting effective stormwater management and reducing runoff.

Inner City Food Security: offers a practical and sustainable approach to food production, integrating natural food cycles into urban environments, fostering community connections, and promoting food security. By embracing and supporting urban agriculture initiatives, Urban Villages can create healthier, more sustainable, and resilient urban spaces. Urban agriculture when combined with the high tech efficiency of controlled environments for the cultivation of specialty crops introduces new and engaging systems that enable the production of fresh, nutritious food close to where it is consumed, reducing the distance food travels from farm to table.

Sustainable transportation: prioritizes sustainable transportation options within and between Urban Villages. This includes promoting walking, cycling, and public transit, as well as supporting the development of electric vehicle infrastructure and car-sharing programs. By reducing an individuals need for and reliance on private cars by offering low-cost, low-carbon modes of transportation in exchange, we can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

Community engagement and empowerment: actively engages residents, businesses, and community organizations within Urban Villages to participate in the transition towards more resilient urban systems. This includes providing educational programs, workshops, and economic incentives that encourage that commercial transformation of main-street towards streamlining the effective nature that more localized, circular economies can provide in shaping sustainable 21st century consumer culture.

Circular systems: can serve as catalysts, promoting collaboration among residents, businesses, and community organizations within Urban Villages. By harnessing collective expertise and experiences, communities can cultivate a sense of community ownership and active engagement where individuals are empowered to make more informed consumer choices that drive meaningful change in shaping the circular city of the future.

Minimizing the need for excessive resource consumption within the urban village can significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with modern consumer culture.

Circular Seattle Design Challenge

Circular Seattle is a interconnected network of Urban Villages that embrace circular economy principles to create more sustainable and resilient communities. Each Urban Village within the network serves as a distinct hub for circular practices, placing emphasis on the integration of renewable energy technologies and the implementation of closed-loop systems.

These communities prioritize resource efficiency and waste reduction, striving to create a harmonious balance between human activities and the natural environment. By embracing circular economy principles, Circular Seattle aims to pave the way towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for its residents and the broader region.

Within a Circular Seattle, Urban Villages focus on localizing economic activities and promoting self-sufficiency. They encourage local production, sharing economies, and the development of circular business models that prioritize the reuse and recycling of materials. They encourage residents to repair and repurpose items, support secondhand markets and swap events, and provide convenient recycling facilities for proper waste management. This helps divert materials from landfills and reduces the consumption of finite resources.

Through the network of Urban Villages, Circular Seattle is a collaborative and interconnected community that strives towards a more sustainable and circular future. By embracing the principles of the circular economy at the local level, Circular Seattle aims to create a positive impact on both the environment and the well-being of its residents, fostering a resilient and thriving city for generations to come.

420ppm: CO2 Levels for a Warming World

When the initial IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, report was published in 1990, it brought to the attention of the global community that a significant uptick of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels was accelerating global warming. It revealed that for the first time in human history, carbon dioxide concentrations had reached 354 parts per million, deviating from the stable levels of around 280 parts per million over the previous 10,000 years.

This pivotal report established the groundwork for our comprehension of the causes, impacts, and potential solutions concerning global warming. It unequivocally concluded that human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, were playing a substantial role in elevating greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, thus driving global warming.

According to the latest release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023, we are presented with one of our greatest challenges in the history of human advancement: we have just seven more years to halve global greenhouse emissions in an attempt to stabilize Earth ecosystems against the ravages of industrial pollution. Or, else.

Geological evidence indicates that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was during the mid-Pliocene epoch, approximately 3 to 5 million years ago. During this period, global temperatures were about 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels, and sea levels were believed to be around 10 to 25 meters higher than they are today.

If we don’t take action now to embrace the findings of climate science, take corrective action to rewire our global economy to meet the challenges now present in the 21st century, we could see CO2 levels reach 490ppm by 2030. This will have devastating consequences for the current life-forms inhabiting our planet, including more extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and mass extinction.

Much of the science suggests that we may have already surpassed critical tipping points that will trigger irreversible climate change — ice caps and glaciers are melting, and sea levels are on the rise. In order to ensure our long-term survival, adaptation is key.

Forecasting worst-case climate change scenarios can indeed be daunting and may evoke a sense of doom-and-gloom. However, it is crucial not to ignore or turn a blind eye to the potential impacts global warming presents. By acknowledging and embracing projected impacts based on realistic analysis, we can foster a collective sense of urgency and take proactive steps towards addressing climate change.

Through collaboration and concerted efforts, we can work together towards adaption and mitigation, invest in building a resilient future for ourselves and future generations. It is by facing the challenges head-on that we can create meaningful change and pave the way for a more sustainable and harmonious coexistence with our planet.

Jeffrey Linn, Speculative Cartographer at Conspiracy of Cartographers

A global circular economy calls for the redesign of just about every-thing our modern economy has to offer, this is a daunting challenge, one which will require all of our attention. Circular Cities are the applied logistics of a global circular economy at scale, an ecological industrial system built upon three core principles: eliminate waste and pollution through circular design processes, keep material flows circulating indefinitely, and prioritize the regeneration of Earth’s ecosystems. By adhering to these principles, Circular Cities strive to create sustainable and resilient urban environments that contribute to a healthier planet and a more prosperous future for all.

[Circular Economy Principles — Ellen MacArthur Foundation]

Circular Seattle is an art and industry initiative designed to promote resiliency in the 21st century. This initiative aims to foster collaboration between the art and industrial sectors to drive innovation, sustainability, and circularity in the greater Seattle community.

Through Circular Seattle, artists, designers, and industrial professionals come together to explore creative solutions for building a more resilient and sustainable city for future generations. The initiative encourages the integration of circular economy principles, such as resource efficiency, waste reduction, and material reuse, into artistic and industrial practices.

By bridging the gap between art and industry, Circular Seattle seeks to inspire new ways of thinking and working that prioritize environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic prosperity. Through exhibitions, workshops, and collaborations, the initiative aims to raise awareness about the importance of circularity and engage the community in meaningful dialogue and action.

Circular Seattle recognizes that achieving resiliency in the 21st century requires a collective effort and cross-sector partnerships. By bringing together the creative vision of artists and the technical expertise of the industrial sector, the initiative strives to catalyze positive change and create a more sustainable and resilient future for the City of Seattle and the greater Cascadia Bioregion.

Sea-Level Rise/Seattle: Jeffrey Linn, Speculative Cartographer at Conspiracy of Cartographers

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