The Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium is an organization which attempts to build a bridge between sustainable innovators and practitioners in different Midwestern US cities. It uses a grassroots network of individuals to share information and raise awareness and interest in sustainable projects around the Midwest, and hosts events in different cities throughout the year. This year’s symposium will take place in Cleveland, Ohio on September 14th and 15th. The inaugural event was May 28, 2011 at the Egan Urban Center at DePaul University, in Chicago, Illinois.
The mission of the symposium is to join practitioners and academics from all over the Midwest in order to share their ideas and best practices in such fields as sustainable development, urban agriculture, cooperativism, and localism. By doing this, we hope to boost Midwestern cities’ attempts to reshape their urban landscapes. Many of the cities represented in the symposium have been wracked by processes of corporate consolidation, de-industrialization and urban decay. In response to these processes, countless individuals throughout the Midwest have undertaken projects that seek to renew the spaces and functions of their cities, and part of their enduring and widespread success will depend on sharing ideas among a consortium of organizations, thinkers, and businesses. The Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium aims to offer a venue for inspiring and spreading good ideas and exploring possibilities among the people who are already active. It also serves as a starting point for students and citizens to engage the real possibilities and potential for sustainable development that exist in Midwestern cities.
Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and countless other Rust Belt cities, in the wake of outsourcing and deindustrialization, have struggled to compensate for their losses in talent and population and by many counts have failed to find new ways to attract the kind of talent and development that will renew them for the 21st century. A Detroit CEO wrote in an email to Rust Wire, the rust belt news blog, that his firm had no choice but to relocate away from Detroit because of its inability to attract talent to Michigan, despite “one of the best hiring environments for IP firms in 40 years.”
Instead of trying unsuccessfully to compete with Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, New York, etc. for “creative class” clout, Rust Belt cities might stand a better chance for revitalization if they adopt initiatives in the realms of urban agriculture, localism, cooperation and sustainability. This way they will offer longer-term answers to the social and economic questions that remain ignored in prospering post-industrial cities. Many people and organizations in Rust Belt cities have been attempting to work on these problems (like what to do with abandoned warehouses and how to solve the problem of food deserts, to name a couple) within urban communities. Providing solutions to these persistent problems will carve a new niche for the former loci of manufacturing, and truly propel them into the 21st century with a different, but still very important, set of assets. It is our goal with this Symposium to unite some of the people already sharing this vision.
This is at once a learning experience, a solidarity action, a planning group and a conference on positive findings.
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The Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium is organized by Peter Murphy, Dan Brown and Brad Nosan.