DALLAS, April 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- EarthxCities presented at Earthx2020 explored the role of cities at the forefront of climate resiliency, as urban residents collectively face the brunt of environmental hazards. Streamed virtually for the first time ever, the two-day conference convened both local and global government leaders and innovators in environmental advocacy to discuss solutions for cities to adapt and recover from the strain of such hazards, most notably - the current global pandemic.
"Talk about chronic stress and shock, to not just one area of the world," said Councilman Oscar Narvaez, the chairman of Dallas' first-ever Environment and Sustainability Committee, "but the entire planet, at the same time." Narvaez recited a definition of resiliency as the city's capacity from all parties — individuals, governments, systems — to "survive, adapt, and grow" from any stress or shock. "Right now this is even more meaningful and powerful."
But for climate advocates, the virus has also been a blaring call to arms. It is lending, they said, the most tangible evidence in decades that the current system isn't working for the planet.
"Right now in my hometown, I can look out the window and see the cleanest skies of my lifetime — a product of everything we're doing to stay safer at home," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "As we eventually emerge from this darkness and from this moment, we must act to preserve that sky, and build a greener, fairer, more sustainable future in Los Angeles and cities around the globe."
This temporary glimpse at a cleaner world, EarthxCities participants argued, reaffirms that the climate must be at the center of our recovery. "We cannot do the same thing that we did in the 1980s after the oil crisis, which was all about building roads and highways and focusing on fossil energy," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante. "Now we need to put the ecological transition and ecological resilience on top of our priorities."
Plante and other advocates said that cities must lead that fight, through measures like boosting public transit, building "green," and smarter city planning. Examples streamed in from all over the map. Marina Robles García, the Secretary of the Environment of Mexico City, detailed the city's push to revive its famed waterways. Philip K. Stoddard, the former mayor of South Miami, gave a tour of his carbon-neutral house, and sustainability experts discussed potential funding mechanisms to make urban climate action a reality in the virus's predictably strenuous economic aftermath.
"I think you'll see some real partnerships with the private sector, with all of its resources. I want to underscore that — compared to a city or municipality, the private sector has many, many more resources and a lot more flexibility," said Anne L. Kelly, the head of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy at the Ceres Policy Network. "I think those public-private partnerships can be valuable."
But a defining theme of EarthxCities was ultimately people power. Facing a global crisis, urban communities are not waiting to fight back on their own terms. Neighbors are checking in on neighbors, and strangers are helping out strangers, society has come together in support of vulnerable 'frontline' workers.
"It starts with people," said Ben Schechter, the 23-year-old founder of the nonprofit organization Feed the Front Line. "All the systems we have, all the infrastructure we have, it's all a product of individuals coming together, having their voices heard, being able to make an impact, and contribute."
In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Earthx2020 convened virtually as EarthX and The National Geographic Society partnered to shine a light on the critical issues facing our planet. The world's largest environmental event streamed live conferences, its film festival and youth programming online from April 22-26, exploring sustainable solutions to today's most pressing environmental challenges, through inspiring conversation, creative storytelling and interactive experiences.
EarthX convenes the world's largest environmental expo, conference and film festival, and is a member of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature. Founded in 2011 by environmentalist and businessman Trammell S. Crow, the Texas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization promotes environmental awareness and impact through conscious business, nonpartisan collaboration and community-driven sustainable solutions. In 2019, the event drew over 177,000 attendees, 2,000 environmental leaders, 700 exhibitors, 450 speakers, 63 films and 49 Eco-virtual reality experiences. Earthx2020 was held virtually on April 16-26, 2020. Visit www.EarthX.org or follow us @earthxorg on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
ABOUT The National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.