Ecopolis is the design for a regenerative city, rethinking the ways we live and get around, our sense of place, nature and the changing realities of climate, social inequities and our imported sources of food, energy and waste in a growing age of uncertainty.  "Ecopolis Iowa City" is a timely challenge to creative cities like Iowa City to take the lead in restoration, biodiversity, local food, inclusionary and just urban designs, renewable energy and transportation initiatives that positively enhance rather than undermine our environment. 

After working for years on various projects in Iowa City and across the country, meeting informally as a group of concerned residents--farmers, gardeners, lawyers, urban planners and biologists, writers and artists, educators and students, New Pi coop and businesspeople, health workers, among others--Ecopolis Iowa City emerged to launch a broader conversation that draws on our town's diverse and creative communities.

Through a series of storytelling and multimedia musical shows, an Ecopolis framework for the future of Iowa City unfolded.   From the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2016, the Ecopolis Forum sponsored a series of conversations, working to identify leading sustainability initiatives in Iowa City, and take more active steps toward becoming a regenerative cityscape of the arts, food, health, and commerce.

On May 3, 2016, Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton issued a "Regenerative City" proclamation in the city hall chambers, declaring the city “must take decisive action” to “significantly reduce community-based greenhouse gas emissions,” and recognized the goals of a “regenerative city“ to “replant native prairies and trees to store carbon in the soils; expand urban agriculture; to power our city and neighborhoods efficiently through green building designs and renewable energy; to expand city-wide recycling and composting through a zero waste ordinance; to make low-carbon transportation choices; to grow green jobs and support companies actively greening their operations.”  In the summer of 2016, based on contributions to the forums and a forthcoming Ecopolis Iowa City anthology, a framework for an Iowa City Climate Action Plan was proposed.

We believe it's time to take unabashed steps toward a new urban agenda as a regenerative city.  In this sense, it is not enough to provide information; we must come together as a forum and promote and initiate the best solutions and practices.

Key words: Lively discussions that lead to action.  We believe urban planning is no longer the exclusive domain of a handful of stakeholders, but a process for public participation that must bring together policy makers, entrepreneurs and the civil society.


The "Ecopolis" chart, as devised by the World Future Council based in Europe, draws from the ancient system of the "agropolis," to get beyond our current dependence on the "petropolis" and fossil-fueled society, and "address the relationship between cities and their hinterland, and beyond that with the more distant territories that supply them with water, food, timber and other vital resources."  According to World Future Council founder and author Herbert Girardet, "We need to re-enrich the landscapes on which cities depend, and this includes measures to increase their capacity to absorb carbon emissions. Creating a restorative relationship between cities, their local hinterland and the world beyond, means harnessing new opportunities in financial, technology, policy and business practice." 

Iowa City and its bevy of creative and dedicated folks inspire us.  Initiatives abound, from local food and gardening efforts, to cycling and walkable neighborhoods proponents, to recycling and waste reduction, university sustainability efforts, and a revival of conservation along the Iowa River.  

Our city made history in 2008, coming together to fill 6 million sandbags to hold back the tide of the historic flood.  What if we applied that same sense of urgency and investment to build on our current city sustainability plans and create “ecopolis” districts, especially along the Riverfront District, today? In truth, thanks to several initiatives by the city and University of Iowa campus, nonprofit groups like Backyard Abundance, the New Pioneer coop, and so many creative residents, we're already moving in that direction.

We handled a major crisis as a city, but to date we’ve failed to tackle a much larger one facing us.  By acting now, before nature’s next revolt, we can not only avoid discomfort but enhance a wonderful city in the process.

A regenerative Iowa City is not just feasible, it's imperative. It can also be a lot of fun and high-yielding.