• 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

          • +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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    Lejan .

    • +2
    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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        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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    . .

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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.
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    Aja B.

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    Sep 20 2013: Hi George,

    I've lived in three major cities since college: Portland, Dallas, and New York. Each has its own unique past and set of challenges when it comes to equality and sustainability.... and moving from one to the other can result in more than a little culture shock. :) In regards to your question, as a casual observer, I'd say the most important decisions city leaders can make are around land use, transportation, and education.

    Portland, for example, has a much-celebrated "Urban Growth Boundary", set in place in 1979, that largely prevented the suburban sprawl you see in cities like Dallas and New York. Without the massive sprawl, most of the (much smaller) population lives relatively close to work, making sustainable and equitable transportation a lot more reasonable. But while a focus on urban density over endless sprawl brings many positive developments, increased property values can lead to a sort of "resegregation", which throws everything out of balance.... present-day New York being an extreme example.

    As for the solution... I can't say, but then I was never very good at SimCity, either. :) But I am fascinated by these challenges, as a city-dweller, and would love to know more about what we casual observers can do to help build the city of the future.

    Aja
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      Sep 21 2013: Aja, we've been supporting efforts to lock up a significant portion of the housing stock in structures that maintain "permanent affordability" through mechanisms like community land trusts. 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.
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        Sep 21 2013: George,
        Although Vermont is a very small state, with small cities, I believe the same practices can be used elsewhere. We have state, regional and local land use plans, which encourage dense villages. This practice discourages sprawl, and supports sustainability on a local level. The land on the outskirts of the villages is often put into a land trust by the owner, which helps preserve the land and the environment.

        We also encourage and support interconnected transportation initiatives including bike/ped paths. I agree with Aja in that land use, transportation, education and low income housing can be encouraged.

        Our environmental laws encourage environmentally friendly development, and when large companies develop, there are incentives for them to build a clustered, multi use complex including low income housing, as opposed to large buildings helter skelter dotting the landscape.

        In the approx. 15 years that I've been involved with local and regional planning/permitting, we have seen quite a difference in the way we develop. Developers/designers/engineers involved with a project are becoming much more aware of creating and building environmentally friendly and user friendly projects. We are seeing projects come in with permeable sidewalks/parking lots, rain gardens, more awareness of wetlands, solar and/or wind capabilities, etc.

        The incentive has to come from all segments of our society.....people who want more sustainable cities, legislators who are interested in passing laws which support sustainability, state, regional and local plans which consistently support sustainability, and providing incentives for developers is a good idea as well:>)
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          Sep 23 2013: Colleen,
          How can you compare any town in Vermont and the plans and programs there with the cities George has identified? Burlington is the biggest town there and if I remember correctly, it looses half it's citizens when the college is closed for summer recess.

          All of Vermont is not as well populated as south San Antonio...

          You can do so much more with community planning, etc.
          There are no real poor there.... people living in shacks with open sewers and absolute poverty.

          I am not sure that people are not really looking for "sustainable cities"... I think, like me, people want to be sustainable where ever they find themselves.
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        Sep 26 2013: Mike,
        My first comment on this thread, is...
        "Although Vermont is a very small state, with small cities, I believe the same practices can be used elsewhere".

        That statement does not "compare" a town in Vt. to towns elsewhere. It states my belief that some of the plans and programs used in Vt., can work elsewhere just as well. My main point, is that it takes planning and appropriate state laws, zoning by-laws, and a sincere interest on the part of those who are doing the planning and permitting for development.

        I also state...
        "It is also important to consider ALL information...different city managers do things differently, the economic and social conditions vary, etc. Figure out that variation".

        We do have poverty in Vermont Mike, just as there are various levels of poverty around our world.

        I agree with you that people generally would like to live sustainably wherever they live. That is why a village/town/city needs to PLAN for sustainability by being aware of the variations and PLAN accordingly.
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    Sep 20 2013: Using GPS for mapping your problem areas can give you a visual idea of the spatial reality. You can map anything but that will only show you geographical distribution. Trough mapping you could find potential areas to, for example move the displaced population from a slum if you intend to build low cost housing close to areas that potentially could offer employment to these people, or close to schools if you determine that as a need for the people displaced....or in neighborhoods dominated by a certain ethnic group...every thing can be mapped and then queried in relation to something else. Geographic information system and global positioning systems are technical tools that can help but the real problem is to find the social solution and to create the intent to fix it (and of course find the financial means to do it).
    Here where I live in Central Florida the dominant course is urban sprawling; long distances, sparse public transportation and in spite of it they are about to build a rail system about 60 Miles long that is not connected to good public transportation at either end. The idea is to release pressure from the interstate. Were the people that approved it visionaries? I don't know. Maybe is good to put that in place while you have the means/power to do it and hopefully someone down the road will benefit. At least if more people would ride bikes they could park a bike at each end and commute by train like I've seen in Holland.
  • Sep 20 2013: You simply can't because we refuse to stop consuming, the whole idea of pursuit of profit (aka power) as an end in itself is Sisyphean. We need alternate system of values beyond money, right now we live in a world which doesn't reward being a good responsible citizen with resources. Until we enrich responsible forms of life and give them power over the irresponsible half of humanity, we're screwed.
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      Sep 20 2013: Bob, I agree with your sentiments, but I have to interrogate the Sisyphus reference. Why do we always assume that Sisyphus is a tragic figure? Because we orient ourselves solely toward goal achievement. This is also the problem with the economic logic that promotes "grow or die." I would like to revisit Sisyphus and suggest another conclusion: Sisyphus was a guy with a goal. He drew meaning from the process of his struggle. He found meaning in the effort of rolling a boulder up a hill, and he was rewarded each day with the opportunity to do it. Most people in the world would love to have clarity of purpose and the opportunity to pursue purpose and meaning. So long as we remember that the meaning is in the journey and not the destination, we could tap into the unlimited potential of cities by offering everyone the opportunity to manifest their potential and find meaning in the hard work of making cities better. Just a thought...
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        Sep 20 2013: This is such a vital piece of an inclusive and healthy city: "offering everyone the opportunity to manifest their potential and find meaning in the hard work of making cities better."

        Still, opportunities for such participation will not, I think, compensate for a lack of employment opportunity. The majority of people want to be able to take care of their families through their own work.
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          Sep 21 2013: That is the key, Fritzie. Let's hear from others about successful ways to provide people and families the opportunity to contribute through their own work. One idea that I like: micro-work through organizations like SamaSource that build pathways to formal employment for slum dwellers through low-skill tech-based jobs. Check out Leila Janah's Tedx talk.
        • Sep 21 2013: These low-tech jobs like micro-finance might help some, no denying that. But, you need to look at the ways to link marginalized populations to high wage, high quality jobs as well. There is a form of ethnic entrepreneurship linked to such high quality jobs that shows one piece of the puzzle: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001490/149086E.pdf#page=86
          Technology has to be put into a larger context, e.g. the role MIT played in expanding an African American middle class, i.e., http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/technology-and-dream These are two studies that show how the marginalized gain access to education and entrepreneurial platforms for high wage, high quality jobs. They show that the policy architecture has to encompass: a) higher education, b) entrepreneurial platforms, c) inclusive structures that increase the numbers of marginalized actually employed. The low tech, low wage social intervention is very popular these days as a first bridge, but you have to complement that bridge to others in higher waged, more developed sectors/skills/platforms via job ladders: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=books
      • Sep 21 2013: Then I'll say it differently, you can't have people 'pursuing meaning' because a large segment of societies meaning IS consumption itself. Good lucky convincing millions of materialistic people to live for 'meaning'. That option has always been available if you're willing to think critically about the world and simply live for enough money and spend it only on food and shelter. Plenty of people already have that opportunity today but they've been raised incorrectly by bad parents, or are just too stupid and unintelligent to live in that way.

        I have a large family, and at least half of them would never understand what you just said. They'd take up arms against your thinking because they don't want to be told what to do.

        You need to look into the sordid history of the ford foundation, TED is a front organization to white wash corporate bs mostly.

        http://truth-out.org/news/item/17096-global-power-project-identifying-the-institutions-of-control
    • Sep 21 2013: Politicize consumption by all means, but some consumption of public goods is a good thing, e.g. mass transit, alternative energy and the like. The real challenge is to figure out how to increase the procurement and consumption of these public goods. One way, emphasized by the Global Teach-In, is to support alternative banks, alternative procurement streams, alternative energy utilities that are cooperative or controlled by the public.
      • Sep 21 2013: It won't be enough, because we had those things in the past and private institutions confiscated national banks. You have to understand the M.O. of american empire, the purpose of all governments is to maintain capitalist power. What you suggest is highly socialistic and has been tried by people like allende in south america. If you think the coporations of the world and the GOp and people like obama are just going to sit there while the people take back power and make the world a more socially just place, you're a deluded fellow who's never opened a history book.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende

        http://www.ohcanadamovie.com/

        The real problem is the whole institutional organization of the market, you basically need everyone to be permanently employed by government as a whole. Before you can even begin to think about it. Technology has already displaced too many people to go back to simple private sector models of existing. This is why millions are on disability/welfare/food stamps. There are not enough jobs and money is misallocated.

        The whole theory of needing a job to get resources in a high tech society is a farce.
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          Sep 21 2013: With all due respect Bob, I think the "real problem" is people who do not believe in change, and therefor, do not want to explore further than their own established beliefs.

          "The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it"
          (Chinese Proverb)
        • Sep 23 2013: Dear Bob, I thank you for your comments. I know all about Allende. John Gerassi suggested that he arm the people directly to mitigate a coup attempt, but he was told by Allende not to do that because he would lose a key constituency he needed. Read: John Gerassi, Talking with Sartre. Gerassi suggested even here there might have been alternatives. I don't deny that there is a U.S. empire, even Niall Ferguson (who likes them more or less) at Harvard talks about Empire. It is true that that political elites might try to constrain economic democracy. Yet, in the Cleveland model discussed by Gar Alperovitz we see local elites, even Republicans, backing cooperatives.

          Therefore, given what Gerassi discussed and what the Cleveland model represents we see counter-factual arguments to the idea that the "good guys always finish last," or structuralist arguments that evolutionary change is impossible.

          The point of encroachment by elites on such alternatives is partially related to a larger argument that revolutions are necessary because reform is too weak. There are several problems with applying that argument in this context. First, Ralph Miliband argues that reformism is not gradualism and discusses revolutionary reforms. Second, any revolution that did not create alternative institutions of the kind advocated above would fail (see "The Battle of Chile" for examples), i.e. political revolution without economic revolution. Third, you need economic capital to challenge political capital, without developing alternative economic capital you will loose. There are peaceful revolutions and there is a need for a new kind of urban social movement, but that's a different question beyond the scope of this debate. The idea that it is just the market has been challenged by David Ellerman who argues that firm governance changes can be more important than market changes. No more space to pursue that hre but to point to the book, "Making Mondragon."
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    Sep 20 2013: I think great cities are somewhat like great research universities - they take centuries to develop and are pretty robust at the end of this long and challenging process of establishment. If you run through the great cities of the world - New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Beijing, Hong Kong - they have hundreds of years of history. Interestingly, several of them have been physically devastated one or more times, so this doesn't seem to be about physical infrastructure, etc., but about cultural institutions (both formal and informal). And, cities seem to follow a power distribution, so the most important cities are going to be wildly more influential and impactful than cities even 0.5x or 0.25x (perhaps I'm just hopelessly biased as a New York).

    Why is all this important? Because it's unclear to me whether the right question is "how do you develop new cities?" or "how do you make the cities we have more inclusive, more sustainable, more just?" As you said in one of your other comments, there's no fixed limit on how large a city can be, so it's unclear that growing the cities we already have is better or worse from a population affected perspective than propping up new ones. But, this kind of orientation would lead you to a very different set of action steps.
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    Sep 20 2013: The vision to build cities that are sustainable, inclusive and just; is worthy vision. It is an idea worth spreading. Individual good is a building block of collective good and hence societal good. The foundation that is best for this vision is its understanding by members of the community, so that each stakeholder knows how and what to contribute to its success. Governments alone can not do it; businesses alone cant either. It would require sacrifices from everyone and there has to be a system that makes each stakeholder accountable.
    This has much more to do with willing hearts than with lots of money.
    • Sep 20 2013: You can't divorce the role of concentrated economic power in influencing the direction of governments and businesses. Some are more "socially responsible" than others. The very heterogeneity of businesses and governments begs the question of their design. Some businesses flee the cities and create mass unemployment. Some governments vote against food stamps. These are "heartless" as you say, but a moral vision without power behind it, is not going to sustain the moral vision.
  • Sep 19 2013: We have not had much success at what you propose so why not try something that has worked for at least a hundred thousand years or so: grow your own food!
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    Sep 19 2013: I think we gotta think first in the very definition of "sustainable" to answer that question. Do you mean a sustained growth of the cities or an intelligent management of the local resources to create a balanced system with a steady-state economy? As you know there is a huge contradiction between how economy works (infinite exponential growth) and how our planet can regrow its finite resources (pretty slow if you compare).

    Once we understand that you will see the big need of distributed-efficient high-quality durable and modular technologies (like those created by Open Source Ecology or Open Tech Forever), we also should create a new for of pricing for things, a form that considers every natural item as it is, that rewards the most efficient technics (in terms of thermodynamics or so), we need to end with the fallacy of work for income. Tech will create enough abundance and not everyone will be able to have a well paid job. It's also safier to use technology.

    We also might want to change our focus from irrational economic growth to something like the ecuadorian concepto of Sumak Kawsay (Good Living), where the final goal is a better life (there are many different ways to measure this right now.

    Well, I just wanted to break the ice :)
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      Sep 19 2013: I'll take a very broad definition and just say sustainable means capable of surviving in the long term. I know this dodges a lot of nuanced issues, but it would include concerns like: is the city destroying the natural systems on which it depends? We certainly need to distance ourselves from the "grow or die" logic of economics, but we also need to embrace the idea that we don't get to a city that will survive if more than half of the residents live in unplanned settlement without basic services, disconnected from the economic mainstream. Kind of a socio-economic prerogative--we need everybody to contribute and to share in the bounty.

      There is a technical challenge--how can we close the energy, food, water, etc. loops in the larger geography around the city (its footprint) to maintain the city's existence. In my experience, we seem to be much better at overcoming technical challenges than we are at overcoming social obstacles. Good Living seems like a good place to start.
    • Sep 20 2013: You have to consider the utopian and dystopian aspects of technology. Please consider that technology is a dependent variable on the governance system and this system is often used to destroy jobs:
      Example (a): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/business/us-textile-factories-return.html
      Example (b): http://www.technologyreview.com/view/519241/report-suggests-nearly-half-of-us-jobs-are-vulnerable-to-computerization/?utm_campaign=socialsync&utm_medium=social-post&utm_source=facebook
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      Sep 21 2013: 。HI, Jorge,

      Yes!
      You are right:

      (1)City itself can not be sustainable.
      (2)Economic growth gives us invalid (harmful) happiness.
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    Oct 9 2013: Here is a useful resource taking an angle I have not truly seen in these comments. The article takes a closer look at where the growth in cities is globally and provides links to what the question of inclusion, or step-taking toward inclusion, looks like in cities with a large "informal city" component.

    http://blogs.guggenheim.org/lablog/tbc-bridging-the-formalinformal-divide/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bmwguggenheimlab%2Flog+%28Lab+%7C+Log%29&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail
  • Oct 9 2013: A city that is clean is inviting to its citizenry and visitor. Who can remember how Ed Koch transformed NYC from what it was 30 years ago into what it is now. City government needs to be visible within their economic obligation.

    Successful cities have large boulevards that ease transportation issues caused by over sized vehicles or public transportation infrastructure and can accommodate multi transportation modalities. Pedestrian pathways are clearly marked and pedestrian right -aways enforced. Signage is clear and not over used. Sidewalks are over sized. Local codes are enforced and the city is proactive in removing condemned or compromised structures. The city is also proactive in providing to the public, areas to remove debris or to offer rubage removal. Fire and police institutions are responsive to citizens concerns.

    Interactive and first response through phone or internet with out lengthy delays promotes public confidence in the city's authority and ability to solve problems. Enforcement of animal code compliance and strict rules for pet owners.

    Multiple centers for public documents and related civic permitting are convenient for the public. New public use plans are introduced and areas that were blighted are re purposed. Financial obligations that promote a cities civic health implemented and encouraged. Household recycling-solar panel installation, community gardens, cleaner public transportation. Hike and bike trails improved and promoted. Parks are maintained and tended too.

    City government is governed by single member districts with short terms allowing citizen panels and committees to have influence and decision making authority. Competent city staff. Contracting is transparent and conflict of interest rules enforced and encouraged.

    Local events are frequent and well organized and allow a city to develop civic pride for its citizenry.
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    Tao P

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    Oct 1 2013: I think promoting cooperative housing would create vibrant 'mini-communities' which would enrich the neighbourhoods in which they belong. There are many housing co-ops in Denmark for example. In these people share resources and their number of social contacts is increased. Children get to associate with many people outside of their age (ie grade) and more social contacts improves a childs quality of life on every measured scale. People can live richer lives, while owning less, but with access to more.
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      Oct 1 2013: In Denmark's cooperative housing, what are people sharing and what are the terms of their commitment to the unit of which they are a part? Do they share kitchens/cooking and common rooms, for example? Do they have work shifts to maintain common spaces? Are they actually diverse in themselves?
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        Tao P

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        Oct 4 2013: In the few examples I have read about it is a reorganized city block. Town homes rather than freestanding buildings. The saved space is used for green, social space as well as a commons building. This building includes a large communal kitchen which members use for their nightly communal dinners. The individual homes each have their own small kitchen but most seem to enjoy eating with others. The other common space is determined by the group: some have a daycare in which one of the members watches over the children during the day. Others have a workshop, gamesroom, movie room. It all depends on what they determine fits their needs. I believe most have a rotation so that 2 people cook for the whole on any given evening.
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      Oct 4 2013: Tao,
      This is a response to your comment which begins...."@Bryan Maloney, Colleen gives firsthand examples from the community in which she lives in".

      I agree....we need to encourage common ground....nice idea to draw people together with the hockey game:>)

      We have a Burlington based resettlement program which began many years ago, as people from different countries were moving into Vermont. The director put out requests for donations of cloths, furniture and other needed items. She also started a program which connected local people with the new folks, for many other needs....mentoring, transportation, teaching the English language, etc.

      I have a friend who "adopted" a family from Bhutan years ago, and they have become good friends. At first, her role was to help them adjust to language/cultural differences and help them set up housekeeping. They all learned a lot together, and it has been a wonderful experience.

      Another friend was hooked up with some young boys from Sudan, called "the lost boys of Sudan", because they wandered in the desert for years after their families were killed. They had never seen a bed....common household items like stove, refrigerator, heating system....on and on! They had never had regular meals....only what they could find in the desert. Can you imagine their first time in a supermarket? Can you imagine what an adjustment that was for them??? Most of them are now college educated, and doing very well, and everyone involved had the opportunity to learn SO MUCH!

      If we honestly want to build, redesign and encourage cities that are sustainable and inclusive, we need to look at all possibilities, open our heart and mind and just DO IT:>)
  • Sep 30 2013: What type of Cities are you planning for ? Will the cities have houses or homes?The homes of old cities are getting transformed into houses.The Family which is the basic entity of home is disintegrating and collapsing.Materialism and Money has taken the front seat and love is evapouriting into the thin air and going into the space.The market is following the divide and make wealth philosophy.It is dividing the family and creating the gender war.

    The sociologists are living in their own fantasy world and have no concern about economy.The economists are living in their own world of fantasy world and haave no concern about the society.Scientists are living in their own fantasy world without any care for the society and economy.And the most important thing what these people are ignoring is the family system.

    They are all working in an isolated way within their own compartmentalized thinking.If you are planning for a truly just city then all the above mentioned people should sit together and work harmoniously with each other towards planning cities with homes not just houses.
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      Sep 30 2013: Dear Santokh,
      You do not paint a very good picture of our world, and I wholeheartedly agree that people need to come together and work harmoniously with each other towards planning and building cities that are sustainable.

      You and Bryan bring up the same good idea.....we need to work together.....we are all in this together....we need to recognize our interconnectedness and build villages/towns/cities to support and nurture ALL people.....together.....excellent point!
  • Sep 27 2013: "Cities have long been places of promise and possibility, vibrancy and creativity."
    The people who might disagree with this statement may not have access to the technology required to respond.

    "embraced fairness and a commitment to shared prosperity"
    Cities are civil states with a dynamic that's neither fair nor committed.

    So to answer your question...start with acknowledging the reality of modern cities, and truly seek to make a difference. A difference that is connected to social change rather than social compliance influenced by programs established to placate the opinion of the disenfranchised majority.

    [Synthetic vodka is an acquired taste]
  • Sep 26 2013: Cities should have their own economies apart from central banks, reducing corruption, increasing transparency and merchant trade between city states as it used to be. Cities would also be more democratic as they would have more autonomy and could choose issues of inclusion such as war or pipelines rather than be at the whim of external forces. Move to proportional voting system and elect councilors from communities that actually have the power to create policy on behalf of the public. Cities are unsustainable as they are - just a matter of time as their footprint extends well beyond their borders thus cultivating a relationship with greenbelts and urban agriculture.
    • Sep 29 2013: There has not been trade between city states for thousands of years. We can't go back to the Bronze Age.
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      Sep 26 2013: Carolyn,
      That is what I discovered....lack of awareness, imbedded in its midst, dismissive of the effects, etc. Corruption and conflict of interest have been around in most governing bodies forever, so many people simply accept it as the way it works, and become participants, either directly, or indirectly.

      We become "subject to this environment" as long as we accept it. If enough people speak up against it, it would be more difficult to maintain.

      One person in a governing body usually cannot make inappropriate decisions by him/herself. There needs to be support for the decisions that person is making. So, if that person can convince everyone else on the board that s/he is right in what s/he is doing, then the other members become part of the problem. Then we have the issue of members of governing bodies expecting that "if you do that for me, I'll do something for you"......you know.......the good old boy type connections.
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    Sep 25 2013: We're discussing about re-densifying urban areas as a response to sprawling; probably in a less general, more specific way to find a solution to the particular problem of industrial parks and factories – possibly not related to inclusive and not even to truly just cities – but still, I think it may be of your interest: http://www.ted.com/conversations/20134/can_we_think_of_factories_and.html
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    • Sep 25 2013: In a word: Sprawl. Such a city, to not be so tall as to be a constant physical hazard, would have to be low. A low city is a sprawling city.
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        • Sep 25 2013: If the buildings are short, there will be even bigger urban sprawl. If the buildings are tall, there will be all the horrible results of urban living. There is no way around these two issues. Short buildings = sprawl. Tall buildings = vertical living. It's simple math.
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      Sep 25 2013: Carolyn,
      This style of residential architecture is still in use in southeast Asia today. There is a large community of such houses built in the 1970s in Arabia.
      Consider:
      It's desert. Rammed earth buildings, with flat roofs, can only be built so high. Draft animals on the streets... sewage, mud and ruts knee deep. Where better place to cook, have children play, live... above the waste, smell, insects on the streets. Historically, peoples have not built cities based on principles listed in this
      conversation. They build them to be functional.
  • Sep 25 2013: Here is an article on density and natural disasters: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/09/urban-density-infastructure-natural-disasters

    I would note that you have to look at the role played by specific urban plans, mobility patterns (e.g. in the Katrina disaster the lack of physical and social mobility literally made some populations "disposable," the role of specific architects and the support that they gain or do not gain,.
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      Sep 25 2013: You raise a good point that emergency preparedness is an essential design feature for a just city.
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    Sep 24 2013: Perhaps it would be instructive if we turn the question on it's head?

    What are all the 'institutional and other barriers' that prevent us from meaningfully exploring the notion of sustainability? What is the relationship between the use of the word 'sustainable' and the fact we seem to be moving away from it more and more every day? Is denial a part of our DNA now? Seems there is a lot of evidence that would support this conclusion...

    Your thoughts????
    • Sep 25 2013: I posit that there are actually very few such "institutional" barriers. Most of the important barriers are hardwired relics of our ancestors' lives as plains-dwelling African apes. We are hardwired to create hierarchies. We are hardwired to set up personal territories and defend them. We are hardwired to live "like with like" and distrust the "not us". We are hardwired to not be able to viscerally conceive of a "community" larger than a few hundred people--anything larger becomes nothing but an intellectual abstraction. It is a mistake to think of a "city" as a single entity. It isn't. A healthy city is a chimera. A healthy city is never balanced, it is in homeostasis.
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        Sep 25 2013: Hey Brian, Your male domination prejudice is showing.... 'Why don't you read, The challis and the blade, and expand your horizons...just a thought..

        Regarding those institutional barriers, they are embedded in every disconnected institutional endeavor of human management from economics to energy, from agriculture to war. Careful cause if you don't see em, they might bite ya.
        • Sep 25 2013: Silly me, to think that we might be biological creatures and not able to just wish unicorns and ponies into existence! Until we recognize our fundamental biological natures, we will keep creating doomed pseudo-utopias like New Harmony, Indiana. They will continue to fail because we will impose dogmatic solutions without taking fundamental facts of our existence into account. Pol Pot's Cambodia is an example of such dogmatism.
  • Sep 23 2013: Why is it that people discuss what is already out there. Sure aone cities do great in certain area and others in others. What we need to be discussing is how the cities of the future will harness everything. Based on community neighbourhoods. Self sustaining organized neighbourhoods that promote a foundation to the building blocks of a giant in the making. Main streets that reduce the slightest events such as braking in automobiles. Imagine commuting home from work and not having to brake once. This is the first heart beat of a city that can base itself on sustainability!! Transportation! I'll leave that point there. Next is the positioning of the city itself. Growing on the future itself is key!
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      Sep 26 2013: Carolyn,
      You make a good point....many people are "out of the loop", and not aware of some circumstances like corruption, which works against healthy, sustainable communities.

      When I became aware of corruption in our town, I addressed it. A person who owned and operated an excavating business was the chair of the planning and permitting board in the town. That person, was only interested in making more money, and as chair of the permitting board, made the process much more difficult for anyone who did not hire that company to work on the project. Projects that hired that company slipped easily through without much consideration for people, the environment, or laws that were already in place.

      In the meantime, they did whatever they wanted on their own projects, some of which included the land adjacent to my property. As I started to notice toxic activities, I reported them to the state environmental board, and it was discovered that they were in violation of local, state and federal USEPA laws. As I said, the owner was chair of the planning and permitting boards for about 20 years!

      My life was threatened for awhile, my home and property damaged, and it was very frightening for me. However, one of my life philosophies is....if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I persevered, and the business was finally ordered by the state environmental court to vacate, and the owner was finally relieved of the planning/permitting positions in the town.

      My action encouraged other similar actions in the region. We all need to step up and address the corruption issues in our respective towns and cities. What we focus on expands, so each one of us being mindfully aware of what is happening in our area can contribute to resolving this issue.
  • Sep 23 2013: Cities are not independent variables. We need to determine what a good city is and what a bad city is. But that is not enough. We need to determine the regimes that make for good or bad cities. This is urban regime theory. The problem with that theory is that it is too deterministic, although it does allow for discussions of social movements, it under-theorizes the role of technology in enabling change. Once we understand what technology is, i.e. it is a byproduct of a governance system (on the front end with the work of designers, on the back end in the systems to deploy it and rationalize displacement via job tenure systems or not, retraining systems or not), we can then discuss variance of technological regimes. If were are truly ambitious we analyze the social movements that support better urban and technological regimes. We need more education about: a) technological choice, b) regime choice, c) how social movements reason about these choices, if at all. We need to discuss alternative models that transfer power to those in the bottom 80%.
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    Sep 22 2013: George, I ask you to identify one good example (city) from the perspective of the poorest and disenfranchised with a majority (of those poor) echoing that perspective then and only then I would be inclined to believe you. But in my experience it's folks like you well healed with good jobs who are clueless about those struggling on the bottom. Please prove me wrong... it would do a body good...
    Get out and smell the poverty.....then work from the bottom up.... not the top down...
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      Sep 22 2013: Craig, I'm not sure what your question is, but I appreciate the ad hominem argument.

      I'm not trying to convince you of the existence of a utopian city where all of the disenfranchised are enfranchised and happily participating in the mainstream economy. Instead, I would like you to believe in the possibility of Just Cities--cities that are prosperous, inclusive, fair, and sustainable. It is my hypothesis that cities that provide equal access to opportunity and engage those on the bottom to participate in the life of the city are likely to outperform other cities in the global economy.

      I can give you plenty of examples of cities that failed to consider the fortunes of those on the bottom and have suffered for it (economically, politically, socially). This is the story of the Arab Spring, Occupy Everywhere, or recent uprisings in Istanbul or Sao Paulo.

      There are many cities that have done a better job at bottom-up planning and development and are succeeding because of it. Examples like Medellin, Curitiba, and Vancouver come to mind. Even Detroit made a big leap forward by engaging more than 100,000 people in its recent Detroit Future City long term plan. In addition, cities that have embraced immigrants and inclusion have prospered--like the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, or Toronto. This is not to imply that the latter cities are exemplars of bottom-up planning, but "better" has many dimensions.

      I have no illusions that I can convince you with these examples, but I hope you remain open to the possibility that we'd all be better off if we build Just Cities.

      It is true that well-healed people like me have the luxury of being idealistic, but many of us are working hard to make cities better by promoting bottom-up solutions.
    • Sep 23 2013: Here is another example: http://www.thenation.com/article/cleveland-model#axzz2fhtxq9tC
      Here is another example: http://www.amazon.com/Activists-City-Hall-Progressive-Response/dp/0801476550

      I don't think we should attack people because they have "good jobs." Rather, we should fight to make sure that more people have "good jobs." I would not be happy if another person had a "bad job." Therfore, why would I be happy if someone has a "good job." If you want to critique a specific think tank, you have to do a content analysis of their programs and indicate alternatives. People who have bad jobs can also have bad ideas. Think this through logically. People who are sheltered from problems may have less informed ideas, e.g. "standpoint feminism." Yet, this epistemological view is wrong because it preordains a priori a person's trajectory. It is one dimensional. You need an a posteriori content analysis as well. This was not provided.
  • Sep 22 2013: Build them without allowing human beings inside.
  • Sep 21 2013: I want to also note the paradox of multi-ethnic Silicon Valley. Yes, there are lots of Chinese and Indian immigrants involved, but at the same time Latinos, African Americans are under-represented in the quality jobs. If such persons are put in the low-waged or even low-tech track, they might not get into the more qualified jobs. Of course, if cities created procurement policies to support socially responsible businesses that created ladders into qualified jobs and were cooperatives networked with universities like Stanford, MIT, and Columbia, etc., you might be able to change the paradigm. We have to go back to some basic, old-fashioned ideas, e.g. the fight against inequality. Surely there is a technological economic development paradigm that responds to the ideas of the 1% vs. the 99%, although the idea of the 99% does not capture what I am talking about regarding labor market segmentation, etc.
  • Sep 21 2013: Cities are not the be all, end all you urbanist suggest. The population is moving to cities because that is where commerce is..ie :jobs. It is getting tougher to have have skilled, high paying jobs in rural areas. The density just isn't there for the talent pool needed for a Google or a Microsoft, even a Boeing. Farming takes less people than it did 100 years ago. A farmer with 2 employees can handle a 1000 acres, in the past it would take his family and 5 other people. The current employment market is leading people to the cities just like the Industrial Revolution.

    My biggest concern with this trend is that cities (especially major ones) are bullies.They take water resources from surrounding counties (Los Angeles), they ship their garbage to other locations out their community (NYC), and want to impose their regulations on the entire state (Gun laws & Chicago). I really do not care what a municipality does within it's own borders, but when it effects me and I do not get a vote on its leadership-I have a major problem.

    Cities want their surrounding areas to help support them when they are decaying (ie city sales tax & income tax even if you commute from outside its limits or work outside its limits and live there). Detroit decayed for 6 decades due to terrible leadership that drove their commercial tax base and residents out of their city. With a lot of density, power gets misused to stay in power.

    Great things can occur with that density of like great minds ( Palo Alto). But with that success, you drive out the lower and middle class. Cities are not the savior, its creating communities that work together for their own benefit. Maybe we should think smaller--like the area around our public high schools and making those areas sustainable nationwide.

    "How do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time"
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      Sep 21 2013: I don't look at cities as be-all-end-all, so much as I look at them as inevitable. Humans have been urbanizing steadily for the last three centuries. In 1800, the world's urban population was about 3% of total population (defining "urban" as agglomeration of 20,000 or more). Today, we're closing in on 55% of world population in cities. Each year we're adding 1.5% of world population to cities. I don't think we're going to stop the process, so it behooves us to influence the process to minimize damage to surrounding areas, damage to the planet, or damage to cities' own inhabitants. For us, Just Cities are cities that don't victimize anyone. The challenge is how we get there.

      New technologies and innovation can bring technical answers to issues like water, waste, etc. Innovation in social and political realms, however, is a little harder to generate. And there's no guarantee that poorly distributed power and wealth will not rear its ugly head and misdirect social and political evolution to the benefit of a few. But, just like the bullying practices you note above, the misuse of power puts us on an unsustainable path. That is why we are trying to build the commitment to social justice as a prerogative for urban success and prosperity in the long run--the path to urban success runs through fairness, inclusion, participation. And we need to prepare people to more actively shape their cities.

      One step in the right direction is a redefined 21st century citizenship. I recommend Eric Liu's talk at TED City2.0. (One take home from that talk was the danger of fatalism and Eric's observation that one commonality shared by most of the over-privileged and the under-privileged is they both somehow feel that they deserve what they've gotten.)
    • Sep 22 2013: Spencer's urban planning "bully" description is real history; and that corruption destroys people and their family enterprises. The Mulhulland criminal abuses in the Owens Valley (LA Water history) come to mind; but I'm sure there are other examples.
      A GREAT model of success and potential serious growth lies in the "Neighborhood - Block Party 'Watch' " community interactions. Our glorious PTA organizations lifting UP children all over the country are also great models of potential prosperity. When neighbors and fellow parents are able to come together for common goals and mutual beneficience; THAT is a beautifully creative, profitable scenario.
      Urbanization may naturally occur by human nature or some other phenomena?? The challenge our Ford Foundation (and others) has is to serve the success stories around our good 'ol U.S. of A.; and help people duplicate those profitable success stories as they are uniquely adjusted for various locales.
      When economic development is brought down to the family level, great results can happen. Rotary Clubs and other effective service organizations can be excellent vehicles for this development; and the social changes Mr. McCarthy speaks of can be put a fast track of furthering our "American Exceptionalism". We may have lost an edge to global competion; but we still have TREMENDOUS social capital and millions of strong familiy untis that can still DELIVER THE GOODS !!! :):):)
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    Sep 21 2013: This is an utopia idea.What do you mean by truly just,there is no true justice in these world? I think a all catch solution to social and world problems are education and innovation.
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      Sep 23 2013: .
      Yes.
      Especially, "education" on invalid (harmful) happiness.
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    Sep 21 2013: To build a "truly just" city solve the problem of denser population equating to higher crime rates. http://law.jrank.org/pages/2222/Urban-Crime-Are-crime-rates-higher-in-urban-areas.html
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      Sep 21 2013: Edward, you need to move beyond simple correlation if you want to solve the crime problem. There is extremely high variation between cities of similar size and, similarly, very high variation across rural areas. In fact, because of their small populations many rural areas have the very highest crime rates (usually measured as the number of crimes per 100,000 people).

      Let's look at the cities with dense populations and low crime rates to get a clue about how to solve this challenge. How about some help from others out there?
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        Sep 21 2013: Do you have a particular reference you can easily link here that displays such variation among urban areas of similar size? Such a reference might help people here hypothesize about what the differences are among the cities that might account for the difference in crime rate.

        Here is a Wikipedia link, for example, fro the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate
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        Sep 21 2013: Do you dispute the data on the link? Statistical outliers (cities with dense populations and low crime rates) do not form the true picture of the way things are. The crime RATE is higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Simple correlation is a valid tool. So far you have said there will be zero poulation growth in rural areas between now and the year 2050, and, in addition, you seem to be saying crime RATES are not higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Both of those rather contrary assertions demand confirmation.
        • Sep 21 2013: There can be higher crime rates in certain kinds of housing projects, such that you add up these projects, you get greater density and greater crime. Yet, you can change the design of housing servcies, promote policies that favor economic equality, change the configuration of high versus low housing, and change the logic. It is important to avoid reductionism.
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    Sep 20 2013: Again, all these new and innovative solutions to the problems of the great cities of the world addressing social changes in education and transportation, housing, et el. in my view fail to address the root problems... in every instance in history when large groups of people are gathered together (aka cities or urban centers) the worse of humanity has come out of them... World cities today give raise to the greatest poverty and human misery as well as the greatest wealth and the greatest criminality. Paraphrasing Willie Sutton "it's where the money is"
    So, my first question would be... with billions of peoples living in urban areas, how do we even begin to do all these things to improve their lives with out changing the very nature of man... greed, lust, envy to name a few....
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      Sep 21 2013: Mike, Mike, Mike...listen to yourself. You are condemning a species of which you are a member. Do you think that large gatherings bring out the worst in you? Let's consider an alternative.

      The vast majority of people in urban agglomerations, and other gatherings, sincerely want to make it work. Let's say 99% of them. But the mere fact of density is that we increase the concentration of those who don't. Urban density increases the probability that we will encounter people who respond to crowds with aggression, paranoia, and those that are just having a bad day. This probability might increase 100-fold relative to rural areas. And, because we tend to focus attention on negative encounters and ignore the positive or neutral ones, we miss the fact that almost all of our encounters are good. So even if 99% of people are trying to make it work, if we generalize from our negative experiences we might draw erroneous conclusions about humanity. I would like to believe that you are one of the 99% trying to make it work.

      Density also increases the concentration of ingenuity, brilliance, and innovation. Thus, cities are the crucible of modern government, not to mention the source of solutions to problems like cholera. The concentration of people and resources unleashes unprecedented creative forces--including evolutionary adaptation. There is no doubt that urbanization is driving human evolution--consider the fact that the mating and reproductive behavior of human urban and rural dwellers differs more than behaviors across race, religion, or ethnicity. So, I would submit that urbanization is changing the nature of man--to the benefit of both the species and the planet--for example, lower urban fertility rates are now defusing the "population bomb."

      So, I prefer to celebrate the better humanity that urbanization brings forth.
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        Sep 21 2013: George, I know I sound like a downer.... but, when I look at the history of mankind... for every Mother Teresa there are a too large a number of Gangis Khans, Hitlers, etc. Further, it can to well be shown that concentrating too large a number of humans in a small area seems to bring out the worse.
        On one hand, I would be all for a kinder, gentler humans living and prospering in great urban areas... I just don't know where you are going to find them...
        That is the reason, I stated that population size of urban areas be limited and spaces in between... Maybe if kept in small groups that are manageable and get past the YY chromosome and, and, and... you may have a better chance to gain the utopia you suggest is plausible...
        But, I will bet on the inhumanity of man...
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          Sep 21 2013: Mike,
          If you bet on the inhumanity of man, that belief will probably color all possibilities for you.

          You are right, that "concentrating too large a number of humans in a small area seems to bring out the worse".....in the past.

          You also say you like to look at history, so how about considering the way in which large numbers of people were concentrated in small areas. Was it always by their choice? Were the conditions in those small areas pleasant and sustainable for those people?

          I suggest that if people are content with their living conditions, it might change the dynamic? We have the opportunity to encourage and create that situation.

          It's ok Mike, if you want to stick with your idea......why?
        • Sep 22 2013: It looks to me like we have a discussion forming between Optimists v. Pessimists.

          The 'beaten up' members of our readership group are completely justified to be skeptical. How about we were to form a "Peace Garden Healing Center" in these future cities whereby people can go to heal and prosper. Modeling and Mentoring, by the way, need to definitely be mentioned in this social utopia we are hoping to create.
          We must remember that caring for one's family and strengthening the family are fundamental desires and needs of all folks. When half our country's homes went 'underwater' caused by mostly others; that will take a long time for people to trust their community well enough to contribute their time/talent once again.
          One last power idea: building a small senior residence facility whereby families can gather and enjoy socializing has been TREMENDOUSLY SUCCESSFUL. These simple ideas need leadership, capital, community involvement and committment. Our local "Nova - Ro Housing Corp" is an amazing example of such a senior residency project. I am proud to have served :):)
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          Sep 22 2013: Hi Paul:>)
          I think your observation regarding optimists/pessimists is very good!

          I LOVE the idea of a "Peace Garden Healing Center" incorporated in all town/city plans! I also agree that incorporating senior residence facilities and senior centers is a great idea.

          Communities are made up of people....families.....so in addition to other considerations, we need to look at what families need when we are planning/designing/developing villages, towns and cities.
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        Sep 22 2013: why Hi, Colleen
        Vermont is a beautiful state. Not densely populated, wealthy with many resources, I would suspect that people living there are content with their situation.
        However, I have been to places and have seen things that show the worse of man. In most situations of large urban areas, too many people are crowded together and the worse of man is
        the rule of the day.
        A number of years ago, an instructor in a community planning class suggested that the ideal size of a city is 100K in population and there must be a green space of at least 30 miles of green space around the town to balance the pollution of... 100K population.
        I can not see great urban centers of prosperous happy people... I have only seen great urban centers of misery.
        So, where does this conversation fail... Consider, all the useable wealth in the world is less then $100 trillion, If half the world's population lived in urban centers about 3.5 Billion... that would use about $30,000 each to provide all the wonders promised. No where near enough, and then it would be gone.
        By the way, Mr. Feldman version of history is not what my immigrant family found, the big cities fostered unemployment and poverty, that is why we left the big cities as soon as we could.
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          Sep 22 2013: Hey Mike:>)
          I wouldn't say Vermont is wealthy. If you look at the charts, we are about in the middle.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income

          I live in one of the poorest counties where there is quite a bit of poverty. We are also known to have some of the most effective initiatives because we have a GREAT director and staff in the Regional Planning Commission, and board members who are positively moving forward. We are aware of the poverty, and our regional and local plans reflect the needs appropriately.

          I don't agree that the "worse of man is the rule of the day". It may be your rule, and I do not agree with focusing on the "worse of man". I believe in focusing on how we can improve our communities to bring out the best in people.

          In our planned developments, there are usually green spaces in the design and obviously I think that is a great idea! I'm sorry that you have "only seen great urban centers of misery"! Come on up to Vermont and I'll show you what good planning can do!

          There are many elements to history....don't you think? I mentioned one element, Jonathan Feldman mentioned another element.....perhaps you can add to that.
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        Sep 23 2013: Paul,
        I am not a pessimist, I am a pragmatist. I have never said that a city could not have all the wondrous things that have been discussed in this conversation, What I have said or implied is that it will be difficult to deal with all the programs where you have megalopolis of 10 or 20 million people. From an environmental point of view, a city of 100 K population is about the limit.... I'm talking about water, sewage, garbage, the mundane... If you increase the population by a factor of 100, the cost goes up a thousand. As I have said before, if 55% of the global population congregates in a giant cities as envisioned and all the wondrous programs to bring these cities to the level implied will take more wealth then is globally available... leaving nothing for us poor country mice.
    • Sep 21 2013: There were millions and millions of immigrants who were saved from unemployment, poverty, and destruction by big, urban, dense cities. This is a basic part of U.S. history. Just read it.
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        Sep 21 2013: Good point Jonathan, and I think it's important to revisit our history for the purpose of learning.

        It is also important to consider ALL information, as you insightfully mention in another comment....

        "....different cities have different crime rates, the city managers do things differently, the economic and social conditions vary, etc. Figure out that variation".

        Laws and practices that are in place on several different levels impact sustainability, land use plans impact sustainability, town/city managers and governing bodies impact sustainability, location may have an impact, etc. etc. etc.
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    Sep 20 2013: George, I applaud your efforts and wish you every success. As your study indicates this is world wide 2.3 billion. As TED is a international mixed community ... would it be possible to narrow the scope down just a tad. For example I live in rural Arizona. Could you state what the urban movement in the USA will be in the next four decades so that I could understand the impact and make viable suggestions based on my countries needs to make this work.

    Programs in major metro areas in the USA would not apply to undeveloped countries ... whole different ball game.

    Perhaps if you could provide the data source or formulas used so that we could all be more informed and on the same page thus making sound arguments based on the same data. This would make it easier for you to analyze or plug into your model.

    Thanks for your consideration. Bob.
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      Sep 20 2013: I think George is looking to hear from you about developments, innovations and ideas in your community. It's about gathering ideas in one thread, as TED does, and then allowing other people in similar situations to be inspired by the ideas and change you're seeing. Maybe you've seen changes in Phoenix in the past few years that you think should be applied in similar cities? Or, maybe you can think of a few ideas from rural communities that urban centers should be adopting? Think of yourself as the data source, bringing new ideas to light in a qualitative, informal study.
  • Sep 20 2013: One additional point that has to be considered in "sustainability" is the problem of replicability as economic sustainability. We have the case where foundations have done noble things but could not replicate their experiments elsewhere. Sometimes we treat innovations like Darwinian systems where the good or superior species/innovations replicate themselves. Yet, we know the limits to biological analogies when applied to human beings and society. There is some replication via good design, but there can also be differences. In order to replicate one key will be a kind of endogenous growth component that networks capacities and scales procurement. There are examples of these in Canada and partially in the logic of mass transportation production systems, note national champions, new budget priorities are key to these examples. See the links here: http://blog.usw.org/2012/05/23/we-can-save-the-united-states-with-democratic-production-networks/
  • Sep 20 2013: Start with your premises. It is true that density can create advantages but there can be disadvantages. First, the replacement of the garden city with the mega-city can create diseconomies of scale, the loss of aesthetic spaces can lead to the purchase of double homes, i.e. that is not efficient. High rise, dense structure create economies for mass transit development, all things being equal. Yet, certain people will not choose high rises but inefficient suburbs, with the suburbs off mass transit, rail routes. Therefore, rather than talk just about density you have to talk about mass transit and density, e.g. bringing mass transit to suburbs as a densification move or to create amenable spaces linked to the transport net.

    The independent variable is not just the city as the unit of analysis, but also the national scale budgetary priorities. When nations cut military budgets and invest in mass transit infrastructure, that's not something "cities" do. Cities are often dependent variables, so you must address scale.

    The density of a city may be a necessary or contributing condition to quality education, but it is not a sufficient condition. You have to address the resource scarcities in education investments, the governance system of the schools involved and the ability for pedagogic renewal. That's also national scale in part.

    Density can create collectives for social change in contrast to ex-urban developments where such collectives only exist virtually or have less clout/density. Yet, social movements are a necessary intervening variable. Therefore, you need to talk about social movements as well and how they operate.

    The examples of alternative modes of governance include Cleveland, Ohio and Jackson, Mississippi having models for inclusive economics or politics. Yet, replicability is a function of power systems, movements, strategies.

    Innovation is not simply based on learning, that is a fallacy neglecting power impacts.

    www.globalteachin.com
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    Sep 20 2013: Cities are the human equivalent of anthills. They fulfill functions. When they don't they collapse (cf Detroit). Posing the question as "How can we build cities that are sustainable, inclusive and truly just?" strikes me as analogous to asking an ant the same question. The ant is just a cog in the organism called the anthill; so to "we" are just cogs in the complex organisms called cities. Environmental conditions and constraints -- and the needs and wants of humans -- define the evolution of cities. It's not about what any of us 'ants' embrace or commit to that shapes cities. They just are. And they develop, rise and fall due to things we have no control over.
    • Sep 20 2013: Was it the City that failed to fulfill a function or the Big Three automakers? The function of transportation has not disappeared, rather the technology and corporations to deliver the function failed. First, the technology was the byproduct of designs embedded in engineers and managers who failed. Second, the corporation which produces cars increasingly overseas still fulfills the function, albeit elsewhere. If technology were democratized, the means of innovation, and an ecological industrial policy had existed, then we could convert some of the auto production capacity to mass transit. This is the larger institutional challenge which is ignored when one blames Detroit, i.e. the City really is the dependent variable, not the independent variable.
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    Sep 19 2013: One must be careful as there is a finite size to an urban center. Once that physical size is reached and exceeded social fairness and shared prosparity are out the window. Idealy, a urban area of 100K population and a green zone of a 30 mile (45km) radius around the city is about optimal.
    There is no large urban area in the world that can over come it's inherent failures regardless of the best intentions of TED or the Ford foundation.
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      Sep 19 2013: I'm always suspicious of fixed constraints. Why 100k and 30 miles? Why not 50k and 25 miles? 150k and 27 miles? It seems to me that these kinds of limits are set by a variety of contextual factors--not least of which culture and technology. I'm optimistic that large urban areas can overcome current failures through the natural confluence of human, financial and technical resources that cities provide. Innovation has invariably released constraints. Social fairness and shared prosperity are a result of decisions we make, systems we build, and the discipline we are willing to exert on ourselves to adopt better practices. I think I'll keep plugging at the challenge.
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        Sep 20 2013: The average amount of pollution from a city of that size would take an area of about 2800 sq miles of forest or fields to balance it out. It was not fixed in cement but a working number based on an ideal set of circumstances.to be sure. However, the idea that huge huge urban developements based on the best of intentions, fairness, confluences, etc. is somewhat flawed in that we are talking about people, too many in a confined area.
      • Sep 20 2013: You need to consider the aesthetic choices that are made, but the frontier of creating new designs to change that choice about aesthetics is somewhat open-ended. Also, there is so much waste in the NYC-metropolitan configuration given sprawl, etc. that you have to talk about the QUALITY of density, not just the size of the perimeter.
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    Sep 19 2013: Please explain this statement from the intro:"All of the world’s population growth over the next four decades—some 2.3 billion people—will take place in urban areas."
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      Sep 19 2013: If we divided the world into urban residents and non-urban residents, the population of urban residents is expected to grow by 2.3 billion people by 2050. The population of the planet is expected to grow about the same amount in that period. This means that there will be no net growth in rural populations--mostly as a result of rural-urban migration. Natural growth rates are much higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the movement of people will compensate for that..
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        Sep 20 2013: I know I am responsible to look-up the data myself George, and I will, but may I ask you to share whatever sources you have for the surprising statistic indicating zero population growth outside urban areas? Thank you! PS- you edited the title of your post?
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        Sep 21 2013: I found several reputable sources which refute your assertion that there is zero growth in rural population growth predicted between now and 2050. It appears there has always been, even since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, moderate growth in non-urban population. Is it essential to your purpose to insist that rural population growth is expected to be zero?
        http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb12-50.html