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Exporting Environmental Innovation

mbita_logoHost of upcoming Green Summit encourages local eco-businesses to get onboard with foreign eco cities
The second annual Green Trade Network Summit will be held at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz on Sept. 25. This year, the summit is to focus on sustainable city and community planning, specifically focusing on how to best export United States-based green technology to countries such as the United Arab Emirates and China, which are currently moving forward on what summit organizer Tony Livoti calls “eco cities.”

Livoti, who is president of the Monterey Bay International Trade Association says that four eco cities planned in China and a $25 billion project in Abu Dhabi are potential financial boons for environmentally conscious producers in Santa Cruz.

“The No. 1 objective is to hook up our green tech companies with opportunities to export their products,” Livoti says of the conference. “The intention of this conference is to provide a forum for ‘green’ small- to- mid-sized enterprises to learn and network about how they can participate as suppliers or consultants for projects that ensure clean air, water and food, healthy housing and workplaces, sound waste management procedures and clean renewable energy systems for these new eco cities as well as traditional city infrastructures.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. is not leading this effort right now,” Livoti adds of the worldwide push to build eco cities. Livoti attributes this to the tendency of U.S. policy makers to try to preserve the status quo and build upon existing city infrastructure and in what he called an “archaic” model of city planning.

In developing nations where there is far less existing infrastructure, Livoti explains, it is easier to adopt cleaner, greener 21st century models. There are other issues, as well, he says: “We don’t have the money for it.” The current state of the nation’s economy discourages projects on the scale of the one planned in the United Arab Emirates.

However, he contends, this is a good thing in many ways. “They’re making some mistakes, I think,” he says of the project in Abu Dhabi. “Their approach is very costly.” Underground rail transportation using magnetic levitation is one example of this.

Livoti foresees a much more cost-effective model eventually emerging in this country, with the focus shifting from an urban setting to mostly self-sustaining rural communities with green transportation running between them.

His ideal city would be fashioned along the lines of villages constructed by pre-Columbian American Indians, but with all of humanity’s modern technological know-how. One speaker at the conference, Bob Gough, works with several American Indian organizations focused on alternative energy, climate change and creating viable local economies on reservation land.

Living on a more local, decentralized model, Livoti argues, is the key to a green future. This means dealing with sewage sanitation at the source, instead of shipping it across town and dumping the remainder into the ocean, as is currently done in Santa Cruz County. He also sees a strong future in the creation of local energy grids that produce most or all of the energy needed for a given community, taking only supplemental energy from outside sources.

If any of these ideas gain substantial traction, it will be a very good thing for our local economy, he adds. “I think Silicon Valley is going to be the center of green tech, like it was for the Internet.”

Livoti is optimistic about the conference and hopes that those who attend will make valuable connections and learn something in the process.

“This clean tech revolution is much bigger than we realize,” he says.


See more at: MBITA.
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