Document Type

Conference Presentations

Publication Date



Climate change, Regenerativity, Distributed generation, Sustainability


Energy and Utilities Law | Environmental Law | Land Use Law | Urban, Community and Regional Planning


Climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental degradation demand a paradigm shift in urban development. Currently, too many of our cities exacerbate these problems: they pollute, consume, and process resources in ways that negatively impact our natural world. Cities of the future must make nature their model, instituting circular metabolic processes that mimic, embrace, and enhance nature. In other words, a city must be a regenerative city or, as some say, an “ecopolis.” So, how to get there—to ecopolis—from here? In this Comment, I propose a partial answer by focusing on certain legal frameworks that must be reenvisioned to enable the ecopolis. Part II defines the ecopolis, drawing on accounts from leading thinkers. It then differentiates between regenerativity and the better-known concept of sustainability. That part also identifies the many facets of regenerativity, including food production, brownfield revitalization, integration with nature, waste management, water use, transportation, building considerations, and energy. Part III then focuses on one of those facets: energy. The ecopolis must not only use less energy than our cities do today, it also must produce energy in a way that positively contributes to its surroundings. This means taking advantage of new generating technologies that harness renewable resources, such as biomass, sun, and wind, and that cleanly convert trash to energy. In addition, it means embracing distributed generation, located near the end-user it is intended to serve. Distributed generation, whether for individual end-users or for community energy projects, is an essential element of energy in the ecopolis.


This content predates the author's affiliation with Cornell Law School.