TED Conversations

  • Oct 1 2013: Burlington Vermont is a small city that had a big idea. Thirty years ago we set out to keep the city accessible to all citizens even as we improved our neighborhoods, our waterfront and our local economy by creating and preserving permanently affordable housing on community controlled land through the creation of a community land trust. Called Champlain Housing Trust, today we have over 2,600 affordable homes of all kinds in Burlington's metro region.
    Through this government/citizen endeavor Burlington itself has made exceptional strides towards the goal of inclusion. Twenty percent of the city's rental housing is price restricted by income. In addition, we have the nation's largest stock of shared equity homes, assuring that homeownership will remain affordable even as property values increase all around us. Burlingtonians created a housing trust fund and passed a host of ordinances funding and favoring affordable housing like inclusionary zoning, condo-conversion protections and renter protections. CHT's large and active membership has provided leadership to sustain these gains over the years and continues to develop new, permanently affordable homes and preserve the quality as well as the affordability of our portfolio. Inclusion builds political power for people of modest incomes which leads to further gains. At one point residents of CHT homes held four of the 14 city council seats.

    Key to achieving our goal has been the commitment to permanent affordability protected through the collective ownership (through CHT) of the land. This is a democratic and durable way to keep your city open and inclusive and it is being implemented in over two hundred communities in the US and several large cities abroad.

    At tedcity2.0 in NY I was inspired by Enrique Penalosa's achievements in Bogota and his conclusion about the need for collective land ownership to achieve environmentally sustainable as well as just cities. View it now, and think, respond, act!
    • Oct 2 2013: So what? Burlington has a population of less than 50,000 people. The ten largest cities of the USA have a population of about 1,000,000 or more. The density of Burlington is less than 4000 people/square mile. NYC has a density of over 25,000 per square mile. Likewise, using the "Entropy index" of the USA2010 project, Burlington has a diversity score of 34.6, putting it above the 25 least diverse metropolitan areas but well below the 25th most diverse, which had a score of 72.9. Ethnoracial homogeneity is very well known to facilitate social stability and the ability of communities to work together. The more diverse and larger a community, the harder it is to implement policies like those of Burlington. How do you intend to impose Burlington on NYC or LA? Hooray for Burlington, but the rest of the world's cities aren't Burlington.
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        Oct 2 2013: Bryan,
        You ask..."so what"?
        So, it's an idea worth spreading:>)

        George brought Burlington, Vermont into this conversation....

        "George McCarthy
        Sep 21 2013: "...Check out the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont which has succeeded in protecting around 20% of the housing stock as permanently affordable. Not to mention--management of the property is governed by local community."

        My reply to George's comment begins...

        "Colleen Steen
        Sep 21 2013: George,
        Although Vermont is a very small state, with small cities, I believe the same practices can be used elsewhere".

        You are right Bryan....Vermont is different than NY. Do you disregard ideas because at first glance they do not fit....in your perception? Or....could it be beneficial to consider some of these ideas?
        • Oct 2 2013: Well, isn't that special--homogenous, low-population density Burlington has the solution to everything! Just disband the big cities and disperse the people until they are all in small, low-density, racial enclaves. How do you plan to implement these policies in cities with multiple powerful, entrenched interest groups that are larger than the entire Burlington metropolitan area? The huge cities are so dense and heavily populated that there is not enough land to even think of a Burlington model. Where will the trillions of dollars necessary come from? In this day and age, there is nothing at all that forces any megacorporation or gigantic brokerage/finance business to stay in a specific city, so they can't be extorted for the funds. Individual rich people can legally up and move, too. So, where do the trillions of dollars necessary come from?

          To get anywhere, you have to start from where you are, and all the "solutions" I've seen first begin with an unmentioned "Step zero: Don't be a major metropolitan city in the first place."
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          Tao P 50+

          • +1
          Oct 4 2013: @Bryan Maloney, Colleen gives firsthand examples from the community in which she lives in. A big thing I took from her posts is that people in their own neighborhoods need to be a part of the plan, as they are the ones on 'ground zero'. You seem to think races don't get along with one another. One of the reasons for this is a lack of common ground. Speaking from my city, Vancouver Canada, there is a suburb in which there was a large influx of middle eastern people into a predominantly white neighborhood. There was a lack of integration and the mayor wanted to improve this. Her solution was to give away tickets to the local hockey game. This approached worked marvelously well and the common support of the local team was enough for many to take the first step in learning about their 'different' neighbors.
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        Oct 2 2013: Burlington does not have the solution to everything Bryan, and that is not the point in offering ideas.

        I do not plan to "implement these policies" in cities, because I do not live in a big city. I live in a small town, in a small region, and this is where I can implement some ideas, and have been doing so for years.

        I have stressed, in several comments on this thread, my belief that PLANNING is important. People in every size village, town, and city can consider what is needed, and PLAN for the needs of the people in that area.

        The question is..."How can we build cities that are sustainable, inclusive and truly just?"

        My answer is AWARENESS OF THE NEEDS AND GOOD PLANNING.

        It looks like your answer is... IT IS NOT POSSIBLE.

        We are all entitled to our own thoughts, feelings, preferences, beliefs and answers:>)

        P.S."The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it"
        (Chinese Proverb)
        • Oct 3 2013: Then what is your point of spouting all this, unless it's to rub everyone's faces in it. If Burlington's example can't be used for the majority of people, for the places that need to change what they're doing the most, what's the point of advertising it except to say "Sucks to be you."?

          What do you do with cities that ALREADY EXIST and are ALREADY VERY LARGE AND DENSE? Or do they just deserve to suffer and die?

          I live in this place called "reality", where a-priori "planning" is usually an unaffordable luxury and you have to deal with things as the currently exist. I don't do this "let them eat cake" crap. What is your solution for the cities that already exist? Is it just to sit back and continue to play "let them eat cake", like you currently do?

          Your "solution" is nothing better than "do not have already become a major city 100 years ago". How does that help the cities that exist right now? Sounds like nothing but self-satisfied, self-centered smugness.
        • Oct 3 2013: PS: "People who quote proverbs just can't come up with their own ideas."
  • Oct 1 2013: Louisville has been called the Possibility City, and on November 11, 2011, Mayor Greg Fischer, adopted a resolution naming Louisville a Compassionate City. For the past two years an ever growing group of volunteers has asked and reflected upon the question "What does Compassion Want for You?" And, as answers have bubbled to the surface, we have developed constellations to address both the answers to the question and the question itself. Groups are working with compassion and healthcare, compassion in the workplace, compassion and race, compassion and practice, and one is tracking compassionate action in Louisville.

    As we focus on the intent of individuals, businesses, and other organizations to be compassionate and to engage in compassionate action, our hope is to shift the community's culture to a more collaborative, cohesive one.

    In Louisville, we don't have the answer to building a city that is sustainable, just, and inclusive. But, we believe that we are asking the question and have the daring curiosity to discover what compassion wants for us as individuals and community. And, maybe, just maybe those answers will help us to develop a sustainable, just, and inclusive community.
  • Oct 3 2013: Brian raises a valid point. The fact is our model is being applied in much larger cities with all the sizeable challenges they face and I will invite these leaders to talk to you on themselves. They are in London (ELCLT), Brussels and other across the US. In London, all three political parties endorsed the creation of a CLT and they call it the Burlington model. The UN World habitat Program recognized the transferability of our initiative and spread it through a variety of programs included a site study visit here with leaders from every continent and 14 nations.

    We didn't succeed because we were small. We succeeded because we had the political will and have sustained the effort each and every year since we started. These gains are not won once and then gifted to you in perpetuity. We have to continually organize, advocate, demonstrate our effectiveness and tell our stories. We have defeated efforts to dismantle this from unfriendly administrations, private sector reaction and funding cuts. The fact is that owning the land collectively makes this hard to undo. You are also right about our economy . Vermont has one of the highest housing-wage gaps and were it not for our permanently affordable housing and related city and state policies, our entire state would be heading the way of other beautiful resort areas where all the poor people are driven away.

    But I'm leaving this space now to make room for others...
    • Oct 4 2013: Brussels isn’t exactly Burlington, but we have learned a lot from them. In the context of increasing pressure in the property market and increasing gentrification, Brussels organizations were looking for new ways to produce permanent affordable housing and to stabilize neighbourhoods. The example of Burlington inspired us to start a community land trust. Four years ago, we visited the CHT in Burlington. Today, with the future residents, we are preparing the first 40 homes for the Brussels Community Land Trust. The Brussels government supports us. This month, we were officially recognized as a housing organisation. Every year from now on, we will be able to produce at least thirty new homes. The CLT model is now recognized throughout Belgium as an interesting innovative model to produce affordable housing and vibrant neighbourhoods, both in rural and in urban contexts.
      www.community-land-trust.be
  • Oct 3 2013: The financialization of people and place is creating geospatial politics from private capital investment that undermines the right to the city for most of its inhabitants. This includes, but is not limited to, the patterns of neoliberalizing small or mid-sized U.S. cities and the ebbs and flow of "global" capital that impacts cities across the world. During the peek of investment and in the aftermath of disinvestment, these patterns tend to produce adverse "externalities" and shape cities without accountability to people in place.

    One vital component of high-promise and innovative solutions keeps resurfacing: In order for cities to become sustainable, inclusive, and just, capital must get rooted locally. This component can be seen in the movements of slow food, locavesting, housing and business cooperatives, global-local social enterprises, and community land trusts.

    The community land trust (CLT) is a tool to create and retain control of community assets and land by those most frequently marginalized by the ebbs and flows of private market capital. CLTs create permanently affordable rental and owner-occupied housing, commercial spaces, urban agriculture projects, green spaces, and conserve land. Community control ensures that people in place determine how land and assets will be created and used by the CLT. Therefore, the growth of CLTs holds significant transformative potential to root capital locally and buffer the adverse impacts of private (dis)investment.

    Community Land Trusts (CLT)--like Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, VT-- exist across the U.S. and England. Over 200 CLTs have been established in in liberal and conservative U.S. cities like Portland, OR; Durham, N.C.; Chicago, IL; Athens, GA; Seattle, WA; Nashville, TN; San Francisco, Lawrence, KS; Delray Beach, FL; Duluth, MN. CLTs or CLT organizing efforts are also emerging in Puerto Rico, Belgium, France, Australia, Kenya, and South Korea.
  • Oct 3 2013: Interesting stuff... I'm afraid I just can't agree with Bryan when he says that "The huge cities are so dense and heavily populated that there is not enough land to even think of a Burlington model...", or that it would require massive government intervention, nor work in "cities that already exist". Here in east London - well, we've existed for quite a while. And we'd go pound for pound with NYC on their matrix of poverty and ethnic diversity. And yet the Burlington model was the inspiration for the East London Community Land Trust in the UK - two very different worlds, learning from each other but of course adapting to their own circumstances, whilst both working towards the very similar goals of permanent affordability and community-led development without displacement. And as for this nonsense about them not bringing people together and "report for reprogramming" etc, come and have a look and see how nothing could be further from the truth. I'll save you the airfare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhJkXyzo_eI
    • Oct 3 2013: Good video. I liked the comment,"do what the people want, not... the politicians". Public space is important. the problem in my community is they put so many limitations , that it is practically not usable.
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      Oct 3 2013: I think all Bryan meant to convey in his 'report for reprogramming" is his impression that many people strongly favor centralized planning over grass-roots initiatives.

      In terms of the video, I wonder how many big city neighborhoods have similar kinds of events. I would have guessed many, many do have street festivals, block parties and such, including many cities that are in many respects dysfunctional.
      • Oct 5 2013: Grass roots initiatives are innately evil, ask any politician, particularly leftist politicians. Anything not under the command and control of centralizing government might lead to individual thought, which must be extinguished for the sake of communal unity.
  • Oct 3 2013: As an early critic of this topic, I feel there are some things we can do to improve urbanism. Not just in mega cities, but in 20k to 50k population centers.

    1) Improve your schools--people go where they can get the best education for their children
    2)be a proactive startup area--a lot of large, same industry employers can really destroy your local economy --Elkhart, Ind (RVs) or the community in Ohio that had DHL. They have problems or close, your community is devastated. 100 small business employing 40 people each is better than 1 employing 4000 (healthier tax base too).
    3) Put small business people on your chamber board and leadership-no government agency people or PR guys from the local Fortune 500 companies.
    4)create a great local recreation-so you don't have to leave town on the weekends to do something
    5)If there is a local college or university make it part of the community. Use the professors in your local schools; view the students as members of the community not just buying units; make your community where the faculty & staff want to live and thrive
    6)create community involvement in everything from recreation, policing, town governance, zoning & development.
    7)create a feeling of inclusiveness.
    8) encourage local tourism
    9) make it easy for artists to thrive in your area--artists make great small businesses in which to develop an area.
  • Sep 25 2013: Let me paint a picture for you:

    The first key to sustainability is purpose, resources, access, infrastructure and development. A city which has outlived its purpose can either find a new one or die out. In order to survive, it needs to attract a population via its capacity for productivity, wage levels and equality.

    Knowledge is one key towards sustainability... the invention of water powered systems and transport; the advancement of 3D printing such as Virginia Tech's Makerbot, Moller's flying automobile (we'll need better air traffic control) and the pace of advancing technologies could increase our productivity and streamline resource use in a fast growing global population. Robots may be leveraged to do certain forms of work. If the technologies could be leveraged upon to build better infrastructure, society will be restructured again into a new dynamic framework. There will still thus be a challenge to find jobs for the populace.

    Self sufficient housing units or massive ecological housing blocks and towering food farms (within which vegetables and seafood/small meat yielding animals are grown) are some examples. I've also heard the US military has a machine that can make drinking water out of thin air. These examples alone cover issues relevant to power, water, pollution, transport and food.

    Equality and justice should be ideal with many years of embracing diversity and making efforts towards fairness within the justice and societal systems. It will take longer a city's political and cultural history. Hopefully, globalisation will help diffuse that as markets fragment. Good educational faculties, good yet affordable healthcare systems, good transport infrastructure, avalilable jobs, good socio cultural and recreational amenties will be challenges with a growing population that wants to feel included.

    That's just a personal vision. How do you feel about this?
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    Sep 23 2013: Can we take this discussion in a different direction? There are infinite problem statements (or impossibility threorems) and an equal number of things we "must" do to make cities (and human habitation on Earth) successful. But in the spirit of promoting improvement rather than perfection, I'd like to focus on the myriad ways that cities are already delivering on their potential. I'm not trying to be pollyannish. I believe that powerful forces align to make our work harder and to increase chances that we will fail. But humans have confronted unassailable challenges before and found ways to overcome them.

    Epidemics of cholera were quite daunting for those trying to make it work in dense urban areas that used surface water for septic systems. One answer might have been to limit the denisty of human settlement to conform to the waste absorptive capacity of the local environment. Another was to detect, diagnose, and invest in ways to overcome cholera. A key component to winning against cholera was collective action--organizing multiple stakeholders to combine resources (through government as an intermediary) to build infrastructure to treat waste differently and to deliver clean water to residents. In the developed world, we pretty much solved the cholera problem by the end of the 19th century. We're still fighting it in many places in the developing world--most prominently, Haiti. But as proven in the Orangi Pilot in Karachi in the 1990s, it is still possible to organize collective action to tackle pressing problems. And, sometimes, the response can provide direct, tangible, benefits for those on the bottom. In the case of the Orangi project, the slum dwellers who suffered the most from open sewers benefitted from improved living conditions and through jobs that were created for them to enclose the sewers. In Buenos Aires, a similar public-private partnership brought natural gas infrastructure to poor residents in the outskirts of the city.
    • Sep 25 2013: Yes! As valuable as it is to chronicle the problems facing our cities--which we do all the time at City Limits--I think the real driver of this conversation is that cities are singularly well equipped to solve not only urban problems but risks facing the larger society.

      This might seem a simple point to many participating in this discussion, but it's important to remind ourselves of that, because the great flaw in earlier efforts to improve cities was the failure to recognize what was healthy and good about them (see "slum clearance" and "urban renewal"), and in so doing to neutralize the very forces that cities needed to improve, or just survive. Cities aren't the problem; they have problems and they have unique tools to help them solve them.

      I don't think it's too naive to say that New York City is a miracle of problem-solving every day. Subways, skyscrapers, the water system--these all address what would otherwise be existential threats. In fact, that's what makes the urban conversation we're having more urgent: Much of the capacity to address issues like sustainability and equity is already on hand in cities (which is not to say a little federal aid wouldn't help now and then!), and because these society-wide issues are felt most acutely by cities, cities are who has to solve them.

      None of this is to say cities will solve these problems automatically or easily. Income inequality, for instance, is uniquely pronounced in cities because cities concentrate stuff that's desirable up and down the income ladder. There is a school of thought that the mere presence of very wealthy residents has spin-off effects that benefit lower-income people, and that this should mollify our concerns about the income gap. It'd be nice if that were all we needed. But I don't know that we're going to have a sustainable urban economy, at least in New York, unless we deal with the fundamentals behind income polarization. That's a lot less comfortable to contemplate.
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    Sep 21 2013: The financial accounting for cities continues to need improvement. Cities must actively partner with the marketplace and recognize they are a major player to economic development which is simply a fancy word for jobs. Without jobs, communities are dead. Using finite resources to the best advantage must the foremost goal of citizens and government officials. Local and state government is not the job of other people, for our democracy to continue to succeed, we must contribute as individual citizens and let our voices be hear. Most importantly, citizens need to be educated on governmental finance.Corporations need to reach out to government and offer their time and expertise. We need a return to volunteerism and while we have instituted triple bottom line, there remains a void of major corporations coming to the table to help government.
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      Sep 21 2013: All true, Kelly. Make sure to watch Eric Liu's talk from TED Cities2.0 on 21st century citizenship.
    • Sep 22 2013: Financial accounting is absolutely a critical profession. My firms over the years have prospered and struggled substantially from financial management. When equity and profits are available; things always seem to work better :)
      Lately, our family finances and spousal negotiations are the focus. When over half the homes in our nation became "underwater" / worthless; I suspect family level bookeeping has been heavily impacted all over the country.
      General Obligation bonds and the basic taxing power of public agencies is a powerful force needing active oversight and professional "checks and balances". When publically employed "Staff" professionals are campaigning for tax increases however; it makes me cringe !!
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    Sep 21 2013: That cities grew and flourished as the result of commerce—most being established on a body of water—is well known, but their having become centers of creativity and learning were not merely due to the patronage of wealth, but were also the product of displacements, diasporas and immigration—caused by conquest as well as trade—leading to a cosmopolitan culture. In short, cities have a unique vibe that, while not the basis for their establishment, is nonetheless worth preserving.

    Too often, cities are poorly planned or worse, neglected. Suburban sprawl and the flight to gated communities and tract developments created many negative externalities, including increased pollution and work loss caused by increased car use and long commutes, the decimation of arable lands, and vastly increasing energy demands. Instead of going vertical, we went horizontal.

    But this can change, and it has in some areas. First, the rich need to remain and invest in the cities. Second, the city must have plenty of affordable housing, well served by public transportation, preferably in the same general area or neighborhoods as the rich. Third, better planning is required, with city governments making data driven decisions that reflect the city’s values and support its long-term viability. It seems to me the open source, DITY and “maker’s” communities offer some tools and technologies that will help the underserved, but until a concerted effort is made to incentivize those few who hold the overwhelmingly vast majority of resources to participate in this effort, progress will be limited.
    • Sep 21 2013: First, while the rich can contribute to cities, they can also divert resources out of them, particularly when real estate and financial sector workers support zoning that hurts manufacturing and middle class jobs. So, while you don't want to alienate upper income persons who contribute taxes, you don't want to cater to excessive gentrification, land development outside land banks, extractive rents that hurt small businesses, deindustrialization, etc.

      Second, you have to conceive of "community wealth" as the Democracy Collaborative has used that term. You need to broaden the Middle Class as writers Jon Rynn and Brian D'Agostino have written in recent books. You need more persons with more resources, not just trickle down from a few rich persons.

      Third, think about the meta level, e.g. Wall Street makes lots of money, caters to all kinds of services, but is part of a system that leaves about 20% in poverty in New York City. That shows that retention of rich is not sufficient. Having a system that just caters to the poor is not sufficient. You need to expand quality jobs, job tenure, productivity, cooperatives, etc.
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    Sep 20 2013: Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times, and this for the following reason:

    Architecture, urban planning, transportation and such alike are tools out of 'Bob the Builder's' toolbox and aren't applicable to make this 'economic and social opportunity a reality for the greatest number of people', because they don't change 'the system' itself, which doesn't allow this desirable changes to happen.

    A family, dominated by a drinking and violent father, won't get a better life if you changed the front-stairs of their house from wood to stone. Not even if you've hired the best stonemasons and used the best quarry. This father would just continue to suppress the family...

    The same goes for São Paulo, Cali, Nairobi and Chennai and all the other cities out there.

    Its not the city, causing the inequality and suffering of their inhabitants, its the socio-economic system these cities are just reflecting.

    The most comprehensive concept I know of, in which social change, city planning, architecture and technology were merged together to tackle the current problems you describe here was done by Jacque Fresco and is called:

    The Venus Project
    http://www.thevenusproject.com/

    The magnitude of this concept goes way beyond some local dwelling, even though it covers it as well, as it includes and spans the whole planet.

    I think we should rather change the reason, why slum people can't afford a decent home than to do some GPS mapping of the whole mess. We need surgery here, no makeup. Because some mirror paintings here and there doesn't change the real object which it reflects and will therefore be only of short living and especially NOT sustainable.

    The obstacles have just risen. And is the Ford Foundation willing to be a part to tackle those? Or shall we better give some input on sophisticated, vertical window farming instead? Its up to you.
    • Sep 23 2013: "Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times." This statement is wrong. Cities have been shaped by political campaigns, social movements, immigration waves, radio stations and alternative media, and the like. A theory of hegemonic financial and real estate control that blocks reform is a pattern you could test in the present mayor's race where the most liberal candidate won the Democratic primary. If you read Lefebvre, Sartre or C. Wright Mills, e.g. The "Sociological Imagination," you will find an argument against economic determinism.

      You are correct, however, that cities in an of themselves are not independent variables (although you don't say this directly). First, as you imply the socio-economic system is a contributing factor, e.g. capital mobility. Second, some cities can challenge the mobility of capital via cooperatives or local procurement initiatives (although there are complex legal questions here). Third, different social movements have different effects, read Pierre Clavel's books: http://aap.cornell.edu/crp/people/faculty-profile.cfm?customel_datapageid_7102=16899 I have recently studied how change in Portland was made possible, an historical analysis, which addresses the structural barriers and the EXTENT to which some of these were overcome.
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        Sep 23 2013: Welcome, Jonathan, to TED Conversations!

        'Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times.'

        I don't think that this my statement is wrong and given your explanations what makes you think it is, to me is no contradiction.

        'Reflections' aren't static and of course they reflect dynamically when 'Cities have been shaped by political campaigns, social movements, immigration waves, radio stations and alternative media, and the like.', as you said. Yet cities never caused this changes to happen, they got only altered by them.

        Let me give you another example what I mean:

        'The French revolution didn't start because of the urban layout of the city of Paris, yet Paris as a city changed by the French revolution.

        Does my point becomes clear to you now of what causes a socio-economic system to change?

        Its the people who are dissatisfied with their living conditions an who start to change the cause of it. Its not their cities layout which made this movement happen.

        Lets take the early years of industrialization in England, of which we know, that the formation of the 'working class' put those people into almost inhuman living and dwelling conditions, which, as a socio-economic system wasn't caused by the urban planning of that time, but by employers who didn't take care of their workers. The workers didn't just earn enough to be able to build decent homes for them, which is the same reason in todays slum districts worldwide.

        Or take Detroit city today. Once the proud 'motor city' of the USA, today down the hill into decay.
        And what is the reason for this? Was it city planning, choosing the wrong layout for local traffic? Or lays the reason beyond its city map? To me Detroit is falling due to its socio-economic circumstances, and not because of its geographic design.

        Any city administration is is part of the socio-economic system it happen to be in, by which its very 'degree of freedom' is determined in the first place.
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    Sep 20 2013: If everyone strives for personal virtue and the common good, you'd be doing pretty well in starting to lay good foundations!

    (** personal virtue does not mean individualised self-fulfillment but relational virtue. Basically the cardinal virtues: fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice)
    • Sep 20 2013: You are correct in my view to move beyond the postmodern abdication of a stance regarding ethics. Yet, being good does not in itself reward one with power. As a result, we need a bridge between morality and power via social movements or social innovations. The very idea of urban innovations can itself fail to appreciate problems of (a) agency, (b) scale, (c) replicability, and (d) causation. The issue is partially to design good innovations, but a necessary condition is to change the calculus of social movements and the media to increase the probability of having such good innovations and their power. A neutral, "non-ideological" approach will often be less comprehensive, with atomized approaches replicating mediocrity in the face of global crises.
  • Sep 20 2013: Well, I will resist the temptation to suggest SimCity...:)

    I think your comment about technological challenges is spot on for sustainability. Improving infrastructure an services to reduce the impact of delivering the basics and improving the overall quality of life with improved public services and cultural opportunities. I think of things like the underground roads at Disneyworld for delivering goods; potentially using water service delivery for cities by large bodies of water, even floating gardens such as were done at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by Urban outfitters are good ideas.

    Inclusive is a bit of a challenge, for you need to change attitudes and behaviors to achieve an inclusive environment. One way to do this is to bring people together with some common goal or catastrophe such that they are more focused on group survival than lifestyle. Our generation has not faced such a hardship and can not agree on such a goal. Long ago, nature was more of a threat and people had to work for the common good just to survive. I think we still do, but in an urban environment, it is very easy to be detached from this motivator. It seems too often that greed, suspicion, hopelessness, and entitlement have replaced opportunity, commitment, selflessness and self-sufficiency. If we can refocus public concern on the need for the family, community, and nation to survive and thrive, rather than the desire for luxuries, then we may have a more inclusive society.

    Truly just is a more difficult target than inclusiveness. To achieve this goal, we need to convince the city occupants that good character, responsible behavior, hard work, and good citizenship will lead to success. This involves removing corruption in government, organized crime, and poor moral conduct from society. This fight needs to occur in all facets of life. We need to learn, practice, and demand just behavior of ourselves and our leaders. That is a major attitude and action shift from where we are today.
    • Sep 20 2013: Unfortunately, while you are right about many things, you need to consider market failure. Being well behaved is not enough when companies under-invest in R&D or ship off their production capacity to China and abandon the United States. Corruption exists also in the private sector on an extensive scale. Good character is important and it is useful to revive such ideas which postmodernism merely considers platitudes. But, one also has to consider the extensive academic literature on the political economy and geography of cities which points to structural constraints beyond the individuals. This literature does not adequately address the potential of new models. But to fetish new models without discussing the meta-systems that generate new models begs the question.
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    Sep 19 2013: Are you asking primarily about areas undergoing rapid urbanization? My area has been urban for a very long time, but some of the initiatives that have long been underway here include 1)improving public transportation and bicycle-friendliness to reduce reliance on cars and parking, 2)land-use decisions to provide for a diverse array of housing options (from pod-type units to single family homes), 3)strategies for connecting neighbors and neighborhoods through frequent use of common spaces (from festivals to garden plots), 4)a tradition of public forums spread around town to visit major decisions being considered by jurisdictions of local government or to give communities a voice in local design,5) a focus on equity in public school programming, ancillary services, and school assignment... Those are the first things that occur to me. These efforts tend to involve public and private actors.

    I am sure there are health-focused initiatives as well- in fact, there is a design week underway, sponsored by at least thirty local organizations, with a focus on design in health, but I am familiar only with the project in which an organization where I volunteer is participating- tomorrow's PARK(ing) day, an international event in which people are appropriating parking spots to make temporary micro-parks.
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      Sep 19 2013: You must live in Portland or Vancouver. No argument here about the benefits of aligned goals and activities across public and private spheres.

      These all sound like great projects and they seem, on paper, to be beneficial for everyone. My main concern would be: are the benefits of these progressive programs distributed equitably? Also, in your analysis of the programs, are there losers? It would be useful to think about whether all of the changes that occur as a result of your efforts are only welfare-improving?
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        Sep 19 2013: Benefits may not always be distributed equitably or be measurable. The benefits of gardening plots, what in Europe are called allotments, accrue more to users and to those who enjoy looking at them than to those who do not use them or who might have benefited more from a different use of the space.

        Public school programs targeted at indigent or potentially marginalized groups are intended to benefit those kids primarily and do divert resources from alternative uses of funds. Festivals benefit more those who attend as performers or participants than those who do not.

        Those who reside in the neighborhoods in which pod housing is introduced often worry about transient populations that may not be as invested in the neighborhood.

        Drivers are inconvenienced by cyclists and many people are temporarily inconvenienced by the construction involved in capital improvements.

        I don't think anyone believes that policy actions, whether they arise from public action or private action have no opportunity cost. Having an opportunity cost means that by doing one thing, one inevitably displaces some alternative use of resources that might have had a different distribution of benefits.
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        Sep 19 2013: I should have mentioned too in my initial response the efforts of public and not-for-profit organizations, often also with private funding, to provide free arts opportunities for kids who might otherwise not have such advantages. These are promoted at schools and neighborhood centers. There are arts and craft offerings for all age groups provided by art museums and art colleges, writing workshops and opportunities provided by writing centers, free music lessons, and video opportunities. Similar offerings are made available to homeless young people through their twenties.

        Public libraries in every neighborhood provide free access to books, magazines, videos, and access to internet and often provide free homework help for kids or tutoring for recent immigrants.

        I am sure many urban areas have very similar offerings.
      • Sep 20 2013: Even Portland generated some losers, but this has been exaggerated given the totality. The key question here seems to be the relative role of social movements in influencing the governance system, i.e. the coalitions and their internal and external limits.
  • Oct 11 2013: At the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) in Chicago we've been exploring the need for cities to constantly reinvent themselves, particularly in a slow economic climate. Even when a city has assets, such as Chicago's transit system, there is a need to reinvent in order to open up more opportunity for residents. One example being pursued in Chicago is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Some of the research we have done at MPC shows how innovation in transit is opening access for thousands of workers to jobs in key industrial corridors along the BRT route. More info here: http://www.metroplanning.org/work/project/3
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    Oct 11 2013: For those who live in New York or will be visiting New York, the Guggenheim Museum is opening its exhibit today called Participatory City. It is the culmination of a year long mobile laboratory experiment that addressed some of the essential urban questions of our time by bringing together experts and residents in three big cities in sequence- first New York, the Berlin, then Mumbai. In each case there were twelve weeks curated by three or four experts at each location on urban design or urban life in which participants listened to lectures, participated in forums, joined DIY events, and engaged in other ways. The overall theme was What is comfort? But a sub-theme in NY was what makes a city liveable. In Berlin it was about affordable housing, DIY, and public participation in decisions about space. In Mumbai central issues were privacy and justice, the latter again through decisions about spaces..
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    Oct 8 2013: Those following this conversation should be sure not to miss today's inspirational talk! http://www.ted.com/talks/janette_sadik_khan_new_york_s_streets_not_so_mean_any_more.html
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      Oct 8 2013: Thanks for the heads up Fritzie....good talk, and very relevant to this conversation:>)

      I'm proud to say that our local and regional plans encourage some of the same ideas...traffic management...improved, clearly marked ped/bike lanes and crossings....streetscapes...green spaces....seating...etc.

      Janette says..."people flocked to these places"
      Build it and they will come?

      She also says..."have fun with paint".
      The ideas she presents are relatively low cost, and produce amazing results!
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        Oct 8 2013: My city does this also, but what is particularly important in NY is that this demonstrates what can be done in a giant city.
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          Oct 8 2013: YES.....I wholeheartedly agree Fritzie! A couple folks in this conversation keep saying these ideas cannot be used in big cities.....not possible. Well....it IS possible, very doable, it IS being done, and the ideas presented by Janette are all inexpensive!
  • Oct 6 2013: I live in New York and I feel that Manhattan is one of the best example of how cities should be. Despite Being highly dense city, It has well organized systems. The things that I like about Manhattan is 1. It's efficient public transportation system. 2. well managed parks. 3. easy access to all important things of daily life. 4. well developed infrastructure.
    Manhattan has about 1.6 million residents and on weekdays about 2 Million people enter Manhattan and leave in the evening. without great system in place this could not have possible.
    I think if we have 1000 Manhattan like cities we can put quarter of the world population in just the area of New York state.
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    Oct 3 2013: At the risk of redundancy, as I have not read every post here, let me mention adopt-a-street, adopt-a-park, and similar initiatives that both maintain and activate public spaces with untapped potential. In these initiatives, organizations of neighbors, schools, and other entities commit to various regular projects to supplement what public resources do for these spaces. This might include planting flower beds, collecting trash, raking, perhaps painting, perhaps hosting events occasionally to celebrate the space or a holiday in the space. The activities depend on the space.
    • Oct 3 2013: Volunteerism BAD! Only centralized, top-down, government-imposed methods are good. Please report for reprogramming.
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        Oct 3 2013: I do not read in George's question any preference for top-down initiatives.
  • Oct 1 2013: I like this conversation because something has changed in the world of city planning. Before, when you were a mayor or an architect the idea was to think "à la place" of the people, now the idea is to think with them.

    Because the world is changing very quickly, it is obvious that the urban field professionals need a continuous conversation with the civil society to adapt cities to new way of living, learning and working everywhere on earth.

    What was few years ago an utopia, is now possible, if we, as architects and urbanists, try to imagine, think, and build transformations with citizens, companies, universities, artists. It is not so easy because we need to open our mind to open innovation and to understand how collective intelligence give more freedom to everybody from mayors to citizens to designers to find innovative solutions about urban quality of life, sustainability and inclusion.

    The beauty of the thing is that the collective intelligence give acces to learning by doing, so debates are more and more interesting and improve empowering that integrate the community needs.

    It is indeed true that collective intelligence for urbanism need some tools to works. Now it is possible to build and share these tools, as we do with "unlimited cities" in Europe and will perhaps do soon in Rochina, one of the biggest favela of south america in Rio. As you can see on this video, it is https://vimeo.com/68911412, everybody is smiling, young people are sharing ideas with elderly.

    For us, Citizens participation is not a icing on the cake, it is the only way to build sustainable cities because they are not only buildings and green technologies, they are place where people are agree to change the way they live. So they need to be a part of the decision, don't they ? This our philosophy at www.urbanfab.org

    It is why we think that inventing new way of explaining the urban complexity to everybody is not only a democratic goal, but a very pragmatic one.
  • Sep 27 2013: I have to agree with what Bryan was saying that the "true just" cities or any large urban environment is not quite possible.
    However, I do have an example what a great city leader can do to make the city residents enjoy a good life AND WITHOUT EVEN SUFFER A HIGHER BURDEN of CITY TAXES (including the sales tax and property tax) He is MAYOR BOB LANIER of the city of Houston for 12 years (or 8 years?, whichever is the longest permissible tenure for a city mayor in Houston). During his tenure, he fixed the street surface of all the city to almost spotless, and synchronized the red-green street lights of most of the thoroughfare to speed up the flow of the traffic. He also improved the garbage collection and recycling program substantially. He even threaten to sue several cities or towns to the east of us to reduce their emission of air pollutants to our city during the summer month. He also helped to revive the downtown and midtown of Houston. During his tenure, he worked harmoniously with the city council of Republican majority, even though he is a Democrat). He even did a great deed furnishing all kind of relief facilities to the refuges from the City of New Orleans during the Ravage of Hurricane Katrina. I raised this example because I believe that a truly benevolent city administrator should be a practical administrator, instead of claim of honor by the like of the mayor of Detroit, which was run down to bankruptcy regardless of what propaganda use of the high tech stunts such as the public transportation. A counter-example of this kind of stunts, is the fact that during the Lanier years, he shifted part of the unspent fund for the metro-transportation tax to be used to fix the potholes on the streets, and still maintained the metro services in very good shape!.
    In summary, a good city administrator can benefit ALL the common citizens without using a lot of flashy, but wasteful, tax money just for the sake of nice propaganda.
    • Sep 29 2013: The funny thing is that these great mayors cut across political lines. What they all share is putting their city first, above pressure groups, left or right-wing. They all also seem to understand that, love it or hate it, everybody in the city is in it together. White, Hudnut, and other great mayors are able to have a long view and see that the city is no one group within the city.
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    Sep 25 2013: Hi George,

    I think rapid Urbanisation is a similar to an economic bubble.

    Humans like community - but they don't cope well with overcrowding - for a very good reason:

    You will observe that gatherings of humans begin to factionalise as the populations pass a certain limit.

    That limit is set by the number of other humans a person can fully comprehend. This is a brain-size function.
    It is likely that a human cannot fully track a group with more than about 200 individuals.

    When that limit is passed, the group will start resolving into permanent factions - the tribe splits.

    If we are to continue with increasing urbanisation, I think that the urban structure needs to accommodate the tribal cellular model.

    A city based on urban neighbourhood modules of 200 adults would be stable. Each module would have to be largely self-sufficient for basic needs.

    That leaves the question of specialisation. It might be possible to sustain specialist tribes - but this would be built on each neighbourhood having basic needs-skills covered before specialisation is considered.

    Codes and laws would be needed to govern inter-neighbourhood commerce and dispute resolution plus common infrastructural requirements. Nomadic interests would need to be integrated with sedentary interests. Tribal cross-migration would also be considered.

    Then you need to address hinterland carrying-capacity.

    I think high-density is a disaster waiting to happen - but with the internet there might be some soft-landing so long as the default tribal capacities are fully respected by planners.

    A key reform would be to eliminate money within each tribal cell - money would be used only for inter-cellular trade.

    If done correctly, there is no need for a total collapse .. a lot of technology might be saved - the internet would be the critical part of that.
    • Sep 30 2013: Rapid urbanization has been going on for about three centuries, now. That's a pretty darn resilient "bubble".
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        Oct 1 2013: Well, since it relies on a draw-down of a finite resource, it behaves just exactly as a market bubble.
        A market bubble forms when resource(money/wealth) is shifted from the economy into a concentration .. e.g. housing. When the market outside of the bubble can no longer function (starved of resource) the bubble pops.

        This works exactly the same in any energy continuum. In the case of cities, the Earth resource is concentrated until the point of expiry of the hinterland.
        There is an entropic flow that is required in the hinterland for that hinterland to reproduce (and keep the system rolling along) - when the entropic flow is exceeded, the city dies along with the hinterland.
        In the case of modern cities, the entropic deficit is drawn-down from entropic surplus stored in fossils. When they are depleted, the city and hinterland both expire.

        Our global entropic budget is set by continuous solar radiation and a bit of geo-thermal.
        This is the entropic flow rate that we evolved to fit.
        I argue that this fit includes a limited tribal population threshold - beyond which you will see unstable chaotic behaviours.

        It remains to be seen how a world will work when the entire ecosphere becomes entrained to human consumption .. for instance, using solar collectors will displace that energy from the non-human ecology.

        That leaves nuclear as the only source of draw-down to sustain cities - even if the city can sustain the chaotic behavioural side-effects of over-crowding.

        300 years is nothing in adaptive timeframes .. the genome usually takes millennia to deliver significant speciation. What we see in population density over the last 300 years looks more like a burn-out collapse - the thing that happens in the last phase of an economic bubble .. the panic-phase.

        And even if humans do mutate to tolerate high density hive life, then they won't be humans any more.
        • Oct 1 2013: By this definition, the universe is a market bubble, given the inevitable takeover of entropy. A definition that broad is too broad to be useful.
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        Oct 2 2013: No that's not what I said.

        I'm talking about entropic drawdown - not just background entropic budget.

        The background entropic budget is the baseline - if you draw beyond it, it will re-assert itself. This is a clear illustration of bubble dynamics - the background entropic gradient always re-establishes and will correct all deviations to the baseline.

        When you do the math, it is often a chaos process, but the re-assertion of the entropic budget will be seen over-all.

        It is an interesting line of thought .. one then has to ask what governs deviation limits before a snap-back is precipitated?
        The answer will have some useful observations to make on savings - both monetary and ecologically.

        Many thanks! I'll have a think on that.
  • Sep 25 2013: We can't. It's really that simple. Cities are inherently unsustainable. The concentration of population is too high. The best that can be had is minimizing footprint. Inclusiveness is also impossible at the size of a city. We are hard-wired to simply not be able to handle a "personal network" that would include millions of people. We can't really viscerally feel for a "tribe" of more than a thousand or so--and that's stretching it. This is why cities, particularly the best cities always develop strong neighborhoods--much smaller than the city, able to fit within the limits of our nervous systems, but still not "inclusive" in any city-wide sense. Indeed, it is their exclusive nature that gives living neighborhoods their vitality. Finally, there is no such thing as "truly just" for any community larger than 1 person. Nobody shares the same concept of "just". When thousands or millions of people are involved, "true justice" then becomes an excuse to commit tyranny or a corrupt farce.

    In other words, the only way to build such a city is to prohibit any people from living in it.
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      Sep 25 2013: Do you see potential for and in regular interface of strong neighborhoods with other strong neighborhoods?
      • Sep 29 2013: Potential? It is necessary for survival.
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          Sep 29 2013: I was responding to the claim that cities are inherently unsustainable. As you mention strong neighborhoods, I was asking whether a city could not be sustainable precisely as a network of positively interacting strong neighborhoods.

          Some think the answer is yes, and others think not.
      • Sep 30 2013: Networking strong neighborhoods will help a city last longer, but it will not permanently stave off inevitable decline. Cities "survive" by a cycle of self-destruction and rebuilding. However, it is not "sustainable" in the sense used today.
  • Sep 23 2013: 'Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times.' "Noting but" to me means "limited to." So, we don't agree with the premise of your grammar. Let's leave that aside for the moment. I never said that "urban planning" was the sufficient cause of anything. That is a straw man argument. What I suggested was that it was potentially a sufficient cause. Of course, sometimes planners initiate and make changes, sometimes social movements, sometimes both. Also, your definition of planning is severely constrained to "city planning." I never suggested that a better geographic design was sufficient for a solution.

    The socio-economic system of capitalism (if that is what you are referring to) enables a company like GM or Ford to engage in capital disinvestment, but that in an of itself is not a sufficient explanation for many reasons.

    First, to a certain extent capitalism allows other regions to flourish, e.g. Portland and Oregon. Therefore, while capitalism may be associated with under-development of Detroit it also explains success in Portland, Silicon Valley, and elsewhere (albeit subject to uneven development).

    Second, not all capitalists are alike. Ford and GM made many mistakes, the critique of these firms goes back to at least 1983 in terms of their industrial competence, but in terms of technological choice far earlier. Two books on this score are: "Profits without Production" by Seymour Melman and "Internal Combusion" by Edwin Black. Some capitalist firms made better choices regarding technological and innovation models. For example, Bombardier did better than St. Louis Car Company, both being capitalist.

    Third, capitalism is associated with capital mobility and capital flight out of cities--not by all capitalists, but many larger ones. A serious problem, but this relates to the politics & governance of certain firms as well as a systemic issue. Yet, freedom also lies in movements against capital flight.
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    Sep 23 2013: A couple of years ago, OpenIDEO hosted a challenge in their community of design-interested people on the subject of increasing the vibrancy of declining cities. The community put forward loads of inspirations and suggestions, and from those crowd-sourced proposals, developed in collaborative teams, a panel of professionals identified the most promising eleven ideas.

    While the challenge specified "declining cities," I think these solutions have potential to improve the quality and inclusiveness of urban life even in a city that is not in decline: http://www.openideo.com/open/vibrant-cities/winners-announced/

    Though some of these may not have been implemented anywhere as yet or in a scaled up form, the ideas may be worth a look.

    Edit: Adding an additional idea, and I have no case of gleaming success to point to for this, I believe it is an advantage for public education to aim to serve ALL students well. If schools serve only the highest students well, which the research of Banarjee and Duflo suggests may be the case in many parts of India, or serves only the most behind students, as many have alleged was a result of NCLB in the US, one ends up with a divided educational system and very likely increased social stratification as those kids move into adulthood. In the latter case, parents who can afford to do so will withdraw their children to private schools, suburban public schools, or private services (I think in Asia it is called "private tuition"). Schooling together may produce a sustainable social connectedness which is lost if kids are schooled separately.
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    Sep 23 2013: George,
    As stated you can't. You have not well defined what cities that are existing that can be brought into the euphoric state you envision. given the nature of man, which I'll leave to the social scientists, wealth distribution which I leave to the economists, let's discuss the physical plant of your vision. I have already stated that cities are best limited to 100K population with a couple thousand square miles of green surrounding it.
    I can't speak of cities in Brazil or Indonesia, but I have been in Detroit and LA and Chicago and New York.
    Let's do LA. 0ver 20 million people in a few hundred square miles, wall to wall structures with paving in between,
    polluted air, over crowded public highways, strangled transportation systems... food, water, sewage, trash, and power resources all stressed to the maximum, then there are the perceived (at least by me) social and wealth issues...
    So, just what are you proposing for this city? And hurry with a plan, people are leaving this city at an ever increasing rate.
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      Sep 23 2013: Mike, are you saying that there is no way to improve any urban center in the world, unless it fits the stipulations you're proposing? I encourage you to think more broadly and embrace the possibility of incremental changes that can make big differences. Take a look at all the TED Talks on cities here (almost 80 of them!), and you can see many examples of how people are leveraging ideas to improve their urban centers: http://www.ted.com/topics/cities/page/1

      Maybe some of these will inspire you to think of solutions and ideas you've seen around you that you can bring to the table?
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        . . 100+

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        Sep 23 2013: This change is in LA:

        http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LNSTobeytw

        I hope this movement will convert every concrete "food desert" into a lush "food forest".....making neighborhoods WELL, one street at a time.
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          Sep 24 2013: I like neighborhood gardens. When my sons were young, we were very involved in a local
          garden and grew so much lettuce we couldn't even give it away. It was good showing the youngsters about growing things. I appreciate efforts such as addressed by Ron and maybe LA can be saved one street a time.
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        Sep 24 2013: Shanna,
        Of course not. And I wasn't speaking of any Urban center. I was addressing the great megalopolises addressed in the basic conversation. Ms. Steen, in earlier comments, addressed some successful efforts in her home state of Vermont. The largest city there is about 50K pop and although there are suburbs surrounding this city, there is a great area of green space near by.
        However, where the number of poor, uneducated, etc. can number in the millions... think Mumbai,
        Consider, providing adequate housing, utilities, education, industry, transportation, all the necessities addressed by a number of comments in this conversation and how easy it would seem... at least the discussion is easy.
        There are a number of these problem areas in the world and at my best guess, it could take all the available wealth in the world to relieve even a few of them.
        So, what to do.
        I have no idea. I am by nature a pragmatist. I like to address real issues that are solvable.
        I see no solution here.
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    Sep 23 2013: George and Jonathan,

    At the risk of being misinterpreted once again, I will give it one more shot. Frankly I find this kind of discourse a waste of time as your two previous posts attest.

    George, I wasn't attacking you, but attempting to bring to light the 'privilege' and perhaps the limitations of that privileged perspective. Obviously you can't separate the two... So be it.

    Jonathan, your arguments are similarly self-serving as you big words (ie epistemology and posteriori content) yet seemingly lack a basic understanding of the trends.

    Boys, there is nothing sustainable about our trends. Not our consumption, our waste patterns, our energy use and abuse, our focus on domination and control, nor the trends the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This isn't rocket science boys, it's whether we are smart enough to realize we live on a finite planet, what we do effects others and future generations. If we use up the planets resources in 3 generations our children and grandchildren will curse us. When we leave toxic dumps and nuclear waste that will need to be kept 'safe' for 11,250 generations while we get one generation of benefit, they will get our incredible greed and stupidity.

    I'm just looking from a bigger perspective.... I invite you both to do the same.....
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    Sep 22 2013: Hi George,
    I love your questions and reading your words does fill me with hope. (it brought back memories and awesome feelings...from nine million years ago of when my detailed city (drawn by hand) for a "city planning project" in a regional competition, got awarded best city:-) . Aim at one mark and not only the other two, but all else will fall into right alignment. That one mark is true justice to all human beings.
  • Sep 21 2013: Public transportation and affordable housing are key but far more important is the sense of neighborhood which builds a sense of community. Portland, San Francisco, New York (in some parts) all started with that and lead to better education of the children and each neighbor helping each other. How you build that in a mixed environment ? need a common something.
  • Sep 21 2013: Here are some building blocks for any discussion about creating green, sustainable cities:

    1) Video of Barry Commoner: http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/10/01/us/1194834005471/last-word-barry-commoner.html#1194834005471

    2) Lewis Mumford:
    http://ww2.odu.edu/ao/instadv/quest/CityAsCommunity.html

    3) Paul and Percival Goodman, Communitas:
    http://archive.org/details/communitasmeanso010751mbp

    4) Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems:
    http://law.gsu.edu/jjuergensmeyer/spring2013/Cities%20as%20Sustainable%20Ecosystems.Newman-Jennings.pdf
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      Sep 21 2013: RE: "There can be higher crime rates in certain . . . ". I agree. How does that bear on the validity of the two assesrtions I am challenging? I don't agree with your insinuation that it is reductionism to say that urban crime rates are higher than rural crime rates, or that some of the population growth between now and 2050 will be in rural areas.
      • Sep 21 2013: It is important to not essentialize density. Cities can be re-invented. Also, cities are not the same. You can come up with all the data you would like, the key issue is variation among different kinds of cities. That provides a solution, e.g. an independent variable driven by an anomalous case, for example. If different cities have different crime rates, the city managers do things differently, the economic and social conditions vary, etc. Figure out that variation. I don't like Chinese de-population, de-urbanization drive. It sounds like a consumerist fetishism. What about sustainable agriculture, so I don't disagree with any argument that also points to rural population growth.
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          Sep 21 2013: Thank you. Sustainable agriculture will certainly play an important role in restoring my nation (the USA) to its prior levels of sustainability. That seems to indicate a commensuate growth in rural population. As for the alleged exceptions to the rule of Big City=Big Crime Rate, I think it is wise to examine those exceptions, but unwise to deny the reality of the rule itself.