TED Conversations

Skylar Garza

This conversation is closed.

Can small towns learn how to be more efficient from larger cities?

Small towns do not need to be all that efficient because there aren't enough people to cause large back ups or complications, but I still think there are things city planners can do to make their small town more efficient. What do you think small towns can learn from large cities?

Share:
  • Feb 24 2014: I would take the opposite view, that cities are inefficient.

    A large city does not have the means to support its populace, where a smaller town can support its populace from the efforts of the surrounding farms and land.

    A city is parasitic, totally reliant on outside food, power and resources. Factor in the dense population of the cities and the system is quite fragile. Example .. blackouts.

    If the movement of resources is the metric, then towns and cities are similar, the scale has changed but the methods are the same.
  • thumb
    Feb 25 2014: I am going to say no.
    For clarity, A small town of about 10,000 and a large city of 1,000,000.pop.
    A budget of about $1 mil would not be uncommon for a small town this size.
    The big city will budget $ 2 - 3 billion..
    The difference in budget rate is the first indication that more size is more inefficient..
  • Feb 22 2014: Yes, especially we are having breakthrough in the renewable energy (including small scale nuclear energy) and robotics in recent years, so that many municipal service functions can be carried out with much less cost or manpower services. For example, many waste collections and recycling can be done efficiently and with resource conservation. and also, at least portion of food production could be worked out with efficiency as good as the corporate farming technology in small scale automation with inexpensive cost. Also within a few more years, even the police and fire fighting work should be undertaken with more robotic helpers and less live persons, such as drivers, water hose handlers or traffic controls, etc.
    Nowadays, we often talk about the advancement of automation and robotics in the manufacturing processes, but as the basic principles of such technological development gradually mature, they would most likely to be extend to more small scale mechanical "tools" to be utilized for more practical small scale functions in human life. Some things such as driver-less cars, or mechanical limbs or robotic maids are already well developed, and such advancement should soon be extended to small town municipal operations within a reasonable time frame. Therefore the learning from the experience of large cities may not be necessary.
    • Feb 24 2014: It's an interesting point you bring up. I'm not sure if I'm deviating a bit much here, but in terms of 'less manpower and more efficiency', I'm not sure that I agree with you. Certainly, in the private sector such as farming and production robotic processes and post industrial thinking are what will help to keep up with the curve of population growth.
      In the case of the municipality, however, I more see those roles, not as ones that have to filled and, therefore, labourers must be employed, but more that people need employment and the jobs are created in order to fill that need. I'm in the position of having recently started two businesses, one in agriculture and one in film. Although there are many labour and cost cutting techniques which have been recommended which would greatly increase my profit margins at this point, I have chosen to rather employ people full time, even at this early stage, in order to spread that profit on to others who need it. In the meantime skills and initiative are also being learned and will go on to help those individuals in their future indeavours.
  • Feb 22 2014: Yes. And then return the favor by gleaning over the best ideas from around the world and really taking to heart the "planning" part of city planning. Small cities or communities can become the example. What's the town's big idea? It could be solar, waste management, cleaner water, lower taxes, or for instance my city is very big on being bike and family friendly. Your question makes me think of something called biobowser? Check out - http://biobowser.com.au/. It basically converts waste into energy (even feeding energy back into the grid). If more small towns or even new developments or neighborhoods converted waste into energy it would bring the cost down so that older communities could make the transition.
  • Mar 22 2014: the larger the better :d
  • thumb
    Mar 18 2014: I think they can. Small towns have the potential to avoid the gridlock that paralyzes larger cities. Communication and decisions can be more transparent in smaller populations. This would not happen automatically. I realize it would require a tremendous amount of involvement, effort and commitment on the part of the citizens. I simply believe it would be possible if they were physically closer and could see and feel a sense of common purpose.
  • Mar 18 2014: Absolutely, by analising the history of bigger cities, how they did grow, what problems it has faced, what solutions it has adopt and why, etc, etc.

    Anyone knows if there is any manual for that? Or a decision support system?
  • Mar 12 2014: I don't think efficiency is a size issue. I believe it's a question of community resolve…which translates into political will (It really depends which cities and towns you compare).
  • thumb
    Mar 11 2014: I am not sure whether larger cities are really more efficient.....in most of the BIG cities I lost average 3-5 working hours daily just in traffic...... more over what amount energy big cities waste every day due to traffic wondering about it....
  • Feb 28 2014: Ttry to stay small and put limit to its growth, Keep enough land around you that does not have man made structures other than necessary for your needs.

    You will still need a nearby city. Know that isolation is death;
  • thumb
    Feb 26 2014: I think there are quite a few things small towns could do to be more effecient but they shouldn't be learnt from cities. Citites, on the whole, are quite inefficient. Perhaps small towns can be more efficient, not just in terms of electricity but also in terms of growing things locally, etc. because they have more space to do so.

    Growing good locally, composting any leftovers in back gardens and using the compost for next years vegetable patch. Saves on transportation, cooler cabinets at supermarkets...
  • thumb
    Feb 26 2014: what is the efficiency of larger cities that you identify?
  • thumb
    Feb 26 2014: In my opinion small towns are far more efficient than cities; because in small towns the spirit of Ubuntu is experienced.
    Cities are usually driven by greed, animalistic competition, and materialism. I've lived in Johannesburg where the Police are efficient in terms of response speed, but a rapist or murderer would have done his/her evil and gone before they could help. And the nearest people? They'd just walk on by. Noise pollution, air pollution, unbridled materialism, you are far more likely to wonder if someone is really a human being in the city than in small towns.

    In small towns money is not everything, community takes precedence. And when money is not the first thing we as humans think about, we are like humans than sophisticated animals.
  • thumb
    Feb 25 2014: Of course yeah! you should research about "marinaleda". it is a town which is located in spain , and is a really good example of the cooperation community. They can be the best town which is really efficient on its human rights ,and production. you need to find that video on Youtube! I hope that will help you lot,also Thanks! good question ! we need more people like this.
  • Feb 25 2014: Small town can very efficient because everyone knows everyone. Unfortunately, small towns do not have the economy of scale which large cities do have. What small towns need to wait for the price of technology to drop which would make it feasible for them to use it.
  • thumb
    Feb 24 2014: Skylar, I live in a small town. I have served in many positions and yes we can learn from both large and small.

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    We have to make smart decisions the first time as the assets to recover are not as readily available. We are a bedroom community with no large companies, utilities, etc for taxes.

    There are advantages and disadvantages ... everything is an asset if used in that manner.

    The problems with a small town is that if I sneeze ten people call to see if I am alright and offer soup. In a big town only the media is that close.
  • thumb
    Feb 24 2014: I do believe that it is feasible but there are many factors that have to be tackled first. Basically we need a team that will be able to demonstrate the benefits of those planning for efficiency to the citizens of those towns, through successful media and interaction and motivate them to support such changes. On the other hand we need that team be be efficient, having professionals and persons that are qualified in several areas that will successfully implement the necessary changes. We have countless barriers that will hinder progress such as corruption and meritocracy issues.
  • thumb
    Feb 22 2014: I live in a small town & I love it! Everything is here and it is all within walking distance! Everything! I can walk to the grocery store, the dollar store, the pharmacy, get a pizza, McDonald's or Taco Bell, everything is close by. We have a movie theater and a thrift store and a car dealership.

    I lived in Texas for a lot of years and they don't have towns like this there. This is a college town with about 3000 people (8000 when the college students are here). It's great for the college kids w/o cars and also the old people (who also don't have cars). Everyone walks when the weather is good!

    The college has a couple of windmills (3) that provide maybe 12% of the electricity the college uses (on a windy day). Some houses have solar and there are energy efficient changes being made to the city infrastructure.

    Most larger communities (like Denton, TX -- been there!) prefer mass automobile traffic to foot traffic. Here in the midwest, it's like shopping mall foot-traffic all over town. Many of the old folks have 3 wheel bicycles w/baskets for shopping bags. The movies are kind of lame sometimes, but there are two Redbox vendors in town.