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      Jul 13 2011: The following comment from TED's Chris Anderson is relevant here:

      Some have an instinctive dislike of corporations -- but if you care about a better future, then corporations have to be part of that conversation. One way or another, they have a giant impact on the world. At our conferences we engage with some of the world's biggest corporations in a constructive way. We'd like ongoing engagement on our website too -- and we'd like you to be a part of it.
      • Aug 2 2011: Emily, I agree with you that corporations will be key in solving the many problems we face today. I have not found evidence that our future eco-cities like, IBM’s smart city, MIT & MASDAR’s Abu Dhabi, and Koreas Incheon and Songdo city’s, are doing anything about agriculture and feeding their residents. We have developed a suburban/urban “Model Farm” concept that could be operational in one year. It uses no Petrochemicals, creates it's own energy and is based in conservation and recycling. I would like to introduce this concept to TED and Shell. What would be the proper way for me to accomplish this?
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  • Aug 3 2011: Since Shell is a modern corporation, that should mean that there is no fundamental allegiance to a fossil fuel based economy; whatever substitute energy sources that can be found can still be a successful business platform. So my question is, why are Thorium based LFTR nuclear fission plants not on the MAIN burner? These plants, developed, demonstrated and abandoned 50 years ago for various political reasons, were paid for by the taxpayers, and there doesn't seem to be any reason why they could not solve the energy problem ijn short order, as well as many other fringe benefits, such as gettting rid of all the accumulated toxic nuclear waste from the LWR plants. It is a tragedy that this technology has been forgiotten or neglected, while we're wasting billions on boondoggles such as the Ethanol Scam.( FYI : I mean a liquid fueled system, not the usual types that can blow up, meltdown , or release great quantities of toxic material).
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      Aug 3 2011: Thorium sounds like the stuff which will make even Star Trek a reality; a. bringing stability on earth AND b. we can go into the space adventure. ;)

      So the challenge is; who is going to show the megacity/nationstate number crunchers that this is the solution, better alternative. For sure - from Sorenson his ted talk, environmentally it looks for the better alternative. Though number crunchers first look economically, than socially, than environmentally (still).
  • Jul 24 2011: This is going to be a hard one.

    First off, nothing currently coming down the line will give us all the energy we currently abuse in a sustainable and safe manner. Coal, natural gas, and oil directly contribute to global warming, and will eventually run out. Nuclear has serious waste storage problems, and significant safety issues. Solar and wind are up and coming, but every indication is that they won't be efficient enough to meet current demand.

    Conservation therefore becomes the key - if we reduce energy demand through lifestyle changes and greater efficiency, we can get our usage down to where sustainable solutions become viable. If we don't, we face one of three major scenarios wiping out a significant portion of humanity:
    1) Oil runs out, economy falls apart. Massive food shortages. Wars. People starve or are killed fighting over food and energy.
    2) Oil runs out, but this time we go into the really dirty sources for the last little bits we can possibly wring out of the ground. Same as above, but we're fighting and dying over water too.
    3) Global warming makes large amounts of earth uninhabitable, adversely affects food supplies. People starve. People fight. People die.

    None of these are good scenarios, but they are the direction we are headed. Conservation and vastly more sustainable energy, agricultural, and other practices are the only way we will avoid this apocalypse of our own making.

    Oil, natural gas, and coal do have an ongoing purpose though - they need to transition to emergency fuels - energy sources of last resort.
    Nuclear fission and fusion also may have to be transitional energy sources, but they are sources we have to be very wary of.
    Wind, water, and solar need to quickly become our primary energy sources, but as I said, they can't meet our needs unless we adapt to using less - a lot less. Whether we can even keep the same standards of living is questionable, but even if so, it will take remarkable gains in efficiency.
  • Jul 15 2011: Even though I have previously responded to the question you are asking, upon reflection I have to say the real issue is not how to cope with that scenario, it is how to change it.

    I simply cannot imagine how bad the quality of life will be for the overwhelming majority of people in the megalopolises you are speaking of.

    I believe we need to move to highly sustainable local communities, to follow the Cuban model. That is, local commmunities with enough space to grow nearly all food, generate nearly all power, catch their own water, deal with sewage and provide employment and empowerment in the provision of these services.

    There are many challenges, family planning not least among them.

    Do we really want cities with hundreds of millions of people living in high density accommodation, most of them in slums?
    • Jul 15 2011: ok i agree that that may be the most efficient model and there have been studies saying that it is the most eficeint way at least with food... and how big are these communities going to be? you no what this reminds me of is that book The Giver... everything set and no freedom...
      • Jul 16 2011: Kevin,

        the only experiential evidence I know of is Cuba, where they did it for their entire population because they had no choice. So it can definitely scale to that level. The Cubans had to overcome many difficulties and each region or area will have their own challenges.

        I haven't read the Giver. There are videos and books about Cuba.
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      Jul 15 2011: Ken - rather than copy paste the same response perhaps you could have a look at my comments to Richard Moody Jr below.

      I think we may have our analysis of slums all wrong. I am not trying to say that the current model is perfect - least of all in human health terms. But I would argue that many of the things which are needed in sustainable cities of the future particularly in behavioural terms - like conservation of resources, recycling, density of development, are the basis for many slum dwellings.
      • Jul 16 2011: The slums I have seen are unhealthy environments in every sense. Perhaps we need some new terminology to describe different levels of amenity?

        I continue to refer to the Cuban model because it's real and because an entire society was able to make it work, because the input of resources to realign an entire culture was very low, and because both the process and the results were/are empowering to people and their communities.

        Adam, I think the difference between our sense of things may be that you are speaking from a perspective of enhancing slums and I am speaking from a desire to design a future in which there are no slums, just empowered self-sufficient communities.

        I don't think we're worlds apart when it comes to ways and means of operating in a low energy low resource environment.
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          Jul 16 2011: I think you are right, you and Adam are on common ground.

          As long we talk about us and them there will be two different mindsets on two groups of people ( the haves and have not's). This is what children learn in school. At the same time we talk about a number 6.6 million city dwellers.

          The projections are - what I read - based on the assumption 'continents' like India and China will go through the same industrial process of labour and so urbanization as the 'West'. At the same time, like the Cuba example, there are other/better ways for personal/communal prosperity. Computers and internet connectivity also help a lot for a huge amount of people do not physically need to be downtown for basic earnings.

          As simple as in Romania where I am at, all villages slowly run dry, youth moving to the city. The first reason for that is that parents tell them to do so, it is simply the thing to do. No serious thought given on possible (collective) countryside futures.

          To create these more spatial communities, I think we need to get around with youth from 5-15 the sooner the better;

          phase 1 : advocate the real differences between 'cityside' and 'countryside' in primary schools, so children can have a open minded mindset on both. (Now it is shiny buildings/brands vs exhausted farmer family)
          phase 2 : at least half of secondary school education should be solutionist education. (Zoe Weil at a Tedx :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5HEV96dIuY )
          phase 3 : In 10-15 years from now when the first 'fresh' kids are working on solutions in the classroom, a ring of support can be in place to show interesting local/regional community ideas/companies/innovations get the support to sprout and flourish.

          Larry Page once said something like this; "In the past people only had to work hard in the summer on the fields. We invented machines for doing this work, yet today everybody is working on yearly basis more than ever. Where did we go wrong?"
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    Aug 2 2011: Paul;
    Good question about the incentivising of managers you raise! This can only be addressed if the make up of the boardroom is changed and a 'social' element is introduced. In the German model of boardroom representation the workers of the company are represented - so why not having some other representation to assure the interest of the public ... Only when such influence is leveraged, it gets done in a company! but that seems to be harder then to find the technical solutions ...
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      Aug 3 2011: In other Tedconversations successful regional co-operatives have been mentioned. "Self-organizing" on a regional scale. I guess this model should be looked at for mega cities as well.

      Decision makers : people living in the region, the buyers; social+environmental incentive is quite strong.
      Board room/field : netcentric, due to transparency overview is not in a handful of people.
      Share holders : Are the people in the region as well; non-financial reward / quality of life plays a role in being happy with less gold in the bank.

      All this was not possible on city level due to the amount of people 'involved' and complexity of interactions, cause and effect. Maybe because of communication and gaming/collaboration technology it is possible these days..
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    Aug 2 2011: Fills like Hypocrisy from Shell ….. presenting Intention to help billions people lives in slums in poor/non-develop world and …“ how can every city have reliable energy, clean water and enough to eat “
    ….and quietly using poor/non develop countries national resources to maximize company profitability !

    Question from Shell which fit better is probably: What was the biggest environmental disaster cause from Shell and can innovations prevent this to happen again ?
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      Aug 2 2011: Hi Bruno,

      It is an interesting phenomena if a corporate logo is next to a person, we are talking to the legacy of a corporation.Ifit is just a person posting a question, we talk about his/her dreams.


      on your point;
      I am not defending Shell here, or any corporation, though is this way of thinking about a corporation/this thread not the same as saying every christian is a crusader?

      Probably you know, the problem in the energy domain is free market economics, megasaurus against megasaurus. It is like playing Simcity/Civilisation the numbers matter not the smiles on peoples faces. If Shell and the like would be offered a better model to do their job in, wouldn't they do it?

      Where lies the potential for a better model? Any suggestion?

      ( P.S. of course it is a poverty to exploit for profit, but that is another conversation as you mention)

      Thanks for sharing!
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    Aug 2 2011: Reduce the global oil consumption by encouraging public transportation. You do it without rising your prices and then we may take you serious about a better world.
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      Aug 2 2011: This would be all great! Who is taking the first step? Or did they and now are 'forced' to take a step back again?

      Naive as I might be; Tesla also had some good ideas but the global crisis is not big enough yet to adopt them.

      I believe the crisis is getting big enough for companies like Shell-like collaborations take the great ideas from their shelves and calculate investment potential on them. As for starters, this thread, energizing the future cities with oil, food and water.

      Yes, marketing budgets and profit reinvestment budgets should be used, and are more and more used for 'authentic' projects. It is still small, but we are slowly getting somewhere :)
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    Aug 2 2011: O Yes , there is a definitely solution to achieve this goals . Shell and Shell like companies should be leading and contribute to the solution with :
    • Stop abused a local countries tax regulations
    • Accepts responsibility for the disastrous oil spills and environmental issues .
    • Do not treat countries , countries resources and people as your own property
    • Stop spending cash on marketing to improve corporate reputation but use this cash to contribute as much as possible …….that every city has reliable energy, clean water and enough to eat !
  • Aug 2 2011: The first step is to ensure the sufficiency of urban energy supply; moreover, this means that there is a need of investment in smart, and secure, electric grids, which are going to support a transition from vertically distributed fossil fuel, to systems of renewable energy.

    Then, the second step is investment on urban argriculture, which is a method who is currently being tested, in countries such as Singapore, and which can minimize the cost of food by eliminating the need for distant transportation; in adiition to that, genetically engineered food, and specifically meat, can make the production of protein based food, conceivable, in an urban environment.

    Finally, water sufficiency can come from two places, and non of them are rain water, because it is clealy insufficient to support the populations of modern megacities. Therefore, cities are going to have to use recycling technologies, to clean, and recycle, the water which has being consumed, and then they need to invest on desalination plans, which are going to allow us to access, the virtually abudant reserves of the oceans of the planet.

    Therefore, in conclusion, the conjunction between smart grids and renewable energy, urban argiculture, disalination, and recylcing, are going to create the cities of the future.
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      Aug 2 2011: Yes! So you are saying enough people are working on solutions and we will all be just fine? I go to learn surfing and chess than.
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      Aug 2 2011: I dont think George's point is that this list of solutions can be achieved easily. But it does point back to this issue if assessing the infrastructure needs of new cities and working better to plan them at the front end of development. To what extent all of the issues raised here can be managed at scale - i am not well placed to judge.

      On the waste point we haven't explored the many and various ways in which that can be managed. It's clear that different categories of waste water can be reused in many different ways - only some of which are currently happening in a few places. Ditto the by-products of refuse - both gas and liquids - which have a role in providing sources for power in models for modern co-generation.
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        Aug 2 2011: Agreed it will not be easy to do,

        I simply wonder on what Lary Page from google once said;

        "If enough people are working on a challenge, the solution will arise".

        Are enough people and companies working effectively on the future of megacities? I read in one of your replies today not enough stakeholders are working together yet so there is the answer.
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    Aug 2 2011: O Yes , there is a definitely solution to achieve this goals . Shell and Shell like companies should be leading and contribute to the solution with :
    • Stop abused a local countries tax regulations
    • Accepts responsibility for the disastrous oil spills and environmental issues .
    • Do not treat countries , countries resources and people as your own property
    • Stop spending cash on marketing to improve corporate reputation but use this cash to contribute as much as possible …….that every city has reliable energy, clean water and enough to eat !

    Bruno Kapetanovic
  • Aug 2 2011: This may not be a popular view, but I believe it to be a necessary one.

    If a species, any species, grows too fast then it exceeds its resources, sickens and dies out. This applies to us too.

    At some point we cannot continue to grow in population. The earth is a limited resource. We can either start choosing to limit our population over the next 40 years or we can do it after that, after the creation of these nightmarish megalopolises and the attendant degradation of the earth.

    I suggest we need to accept that we are in fact part of the natural order and not exempt from it. I suggest we need to set a reasonable limit on human population based very much on the society we choose to have, and then work to bring this to the consciousness of all people.

    We must change our growth imperative or it will kill us all. Let us do it now rather than when it is far too late.
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      Aug 2 2011: I agree with you Ken,

      "change growth imperative". Without the feeling we need to give up on something consciously, as we will not do that if the neighbor will not do it first.

      Therefore I think we should start with understanding global public health, first step what do we need to 'live'

      If we see planet earth as Buckminster's spaceship earth - and we should as 'wild-wild' nature does not really exist anymore according to some - we should organize it as space travel.

      A collaboration like Shell can bring forward the logic on how to handle spaceship earth it's energy flow. What is needed where to survive the day in central new york and the outskirts of mexico city.

      'Pioneer' could tell this globally of food survival
      'Coca Cola' on water needs.

      This way the general public and the standing self-supporting collaborations can image andmake this spaceship function in spaceflight.

      After that we can dream again about luxury and leisure as we enjoy a lot to be lazy.
  • Jul 26 2011: I think we should shun mega corporations like Shell that use threads like this as a new form of veiled advertising. Shell has no real concern for the problem at hand, and moreover are not just major polluters, but some of the biggest polluters in the world. Just Wikipedia Shell or GE, and of course you'll have to scroll down towards the end of the page to see their pollution and world relations record. I just find this whole thing absurd. TED is probably making money by allowing corporate sponsors, like Shell or GE, to start these threads in hopes to manipulate people into thinking that Shell is doing their part or something. Wake up people.
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    Jul 23 2011: Amici tutti its a joy to find an intelligent conversation with intelligent people. I think the first rule is to avoid opinions in this extremly important topic. Adam miei complimenti per lei.

    The city is becoming usless. The concept of the city is utopic, but the reality is sometimes catastrophic. This dicotomy pulls the string till break the equilibrium. The city has to be redefined to find a new way to comprehend the citizenship.

    Its nice to see you again Michael and Paul.
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    Jul 21 2011: I dont know if this is appropriate, but my company "Higher Mind Technologies" is bringing the SOLVATTEN unit to South Sudan and all of Africa. This unit takes the turbid, unsanitary water that the people have access to, and uses the UV rays from the sun to disinfect and pasteurize the water. This technology alone can help provide thousands of gallons of clean water a day to people of third world countries. Anyone who would like more info on our project or ways to help, please email me at justin.highermind@gmail.com. I apologize if this is inappropriate, but I thought a thread like this would be an ample spot to try and get the word out.
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      Jul 24 2011: Justin

      This sounds interesting and something perhaps I can pick up with you off Lin in the coming days and weeks. What do you see as the applicability of the technology you are talking about at scale in slum urban environments?

      Look forward to speaking again....

      A
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    Jul 19 2011: The automobile is a big drag on our culture. It kills and mames many of us, it squanders resources, and it wastes a large fraction of our attention on driving that could be better employed in other pursuits as we ride in shared, safer vehicles.

    A better transportation system than the automobile would require a number of elements. The automobile is attractive because you can get in it in your garage and drive to your destination on your own schedule. A system to replace the automobile must allow the same flexibility. Transportation on the thoroughfares is made more efficient with mass transit, but mass transit as it exists forces its own schedule on us and requires both transportation from our point of orign to the mass transit origin and transporation from the mass transit terminal to our destination. To compete with the automobile, (1) cost competitive mass transit must become used so heavily that it leaves the station every few minutes, (2) there must be readily available, cost competitive transit to and from the transit stops to our homes and destinations.

    To replace the automobile, a new transporations system must also become so reliable and efficient that we can stop investing in automobiles. Our addiction to the car is based on the fact that one cannot afford not to buy one (or two) since it is the only consistently dependable way of efficeintly getting where one needs to go. But once one has one, one cannot afford to spend much on other forms of transporation. The car is the crack cocaine of transporation.
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      Jul 20 2011: You're right to point out that the city scape is shaped by the underlying transport infrastructure that serves - and in some cases dominates - it!

      When you look, in particular at cities in North America, the underlying assumptions made about the long term costs of gas at the time of urban developments pushed a model of urban development supported principally by the motor car. It's resulted in large sprawling cities which are incredibly difficult and costly retrofit for mass public transportation.

      I have referred to the issue of density in other threads to this conversation and it's clear from the model of cities like Singapore and Hong Kong that dense development and integrated transportation systems that th energy benefits are locked in.

      This has to be a priority in emerging economies, notably China but also India and other parts of developing Asia.

      Thanks for your contributions.
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    Jul 18 2011: By planning for the future, we create a city infrastructure that is easily update-able. This would include transportation such as roads, railroads, public and private transportation, and air travel. Water and power sources are two necessities that must be able to handle an ever growing population, and the only way is to plan water and power sources for future expansion instead of the for the next tens of years. We need to create a water system that does not shutdown roads to repair or update, we need reliable power sources that can with stand severe weather and even solar flares.

    The first step before starting a project should be how will be able to update this or tear it down for something better, that is planning for the future. If we cannot create an adaptable infrastructure for the most adaptable species on the planet, I fear we will experience a global catastrophe the likes of which I hope I'm not around to see.
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      Jul 19 2011: That's exactly where I am on the issues. But how we get that collaboration working wit policymakers, business and society is key.... We shouldn't undestate the extent of early investment that this approach would require....
      • Jul 19 2011: EDITED
        Adam
        That is why I think it so key to think not only about the mega-cities and their slums, but the emerging cities that are all around. It seems to me that in those places, there may be enough wiggle room to actually make changes. Obviously some governments (national and local) are going to be more open to this type of planning.

        Frankly, for many in Latin America it is hard to think "long-term", when there are so many pressing needs now. It doesn't work well in Latin culture many times. Long term planning is very linear. Their worldview is much more cyclical, like many from around the world. In order to get a big project through, it should be broken up into several mid range (no more than six-twelve) month plans. It is hard for us, with the western rational cause and effect mindset to see this. Since it is cyclical, turning things around in stages and making those stages work is terrific. If we are going to move like Conner suggested, I believe this is a better way to move.

        There is a need I think to develop some quality (not quick fix) medium-term changes that they can see in place. Developing those good, cost effective changes could have large effects later on in the growing cities. It is a question of looking for the leverage point.
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          Jul 19 2011: I love this practical approach. It echoes real life. We make a difference where we can, allow the ideas and concepts and results to prove themselves and then it is a matter of natural diffusion of ideas.
    • Jul 19 2011: Conor,

      Agree wholeheartedly -- improved planning up front can dramatically change the lifecycle cost and impact of cities (up to 70-80% of cost is locked in by the design, by some estimates).

      In this planning, we have to be thinking about a number of key themes:
      - lifecycle costs vs. up front costs
      - how to incorporate new technologies as they arise (esp. with things like waste to energy, biogas etc.)
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        Jul 19 2011: What about financing the sort of up front investments your talking abou Nick... The case you make in the WWF work suggests that there could be significant early mover advantage..... How do we start to structure those kinds of investments.

        Perhaps you can also explain for folk in the discussion, the assessment that infrastructure development costs could be in the region of $300 trillion....?

        Thanks
        • Jul 19 2011: Thanks Adam.

          By way of background for other folks in the conversation, we did some work with WWF in 2010 looking at the challenge of urbanisation, the concentration of energy usage/CO2 emissions in cities and whether that provides a new way of thinking about approaches to mitigating/managing emissions (link elsewhere in this thread). There is also a follow up article in Strategy & Business, also written with WWF (link to be provided) on how certain cities have taken practical steps.

          The headline $ figure that Adam references above is the anticipated cumulative investment costs + operating costs for the next 30 years, for the urban environment, globally (transport, buildings, infrastructure etc.), based on conservative economic growth assumptions and understanding how urban infrastructure typically grows with economic growth -- clearly these numbers are open to different modelling assumptions, but whichever way you look at it, the number is in the hundreds of trillions, cumulatively, to build and operate cities in the coming years.

          The next question then becomes, can I be smarter about how I spend that money? -- as per discussions elsewhere in this conversation, good design is imperative, lifetime costs and emissions tend to get locked in at the design stage. The analysis suggests that, yes, using latest technologies would increase up front costs by $22trillion, but reduce lifetime costs (mainly usage costs) by $77trillion. Similarly, up-front emissions (embedded) increase very slightly, but lifetime emissions reduce dramatically (by ~40%, or ~200Gt) over the next 50 years.

          This level of investment is not available in the public sector, so private sector investment is inevitable. Also, the various international funds set up over recent years as a result of international negotiations are only a fraction of this amount, so will have to be used as seed funding to attract more private sector investment
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    Jul 16 2011: "We" can create a utopia (that is basically what you are describing) only if a plurality of us become utopians. Definition; A Utopian is a human who has reached their full potential such that they support themselves and at least two others, can solve most problems and know how to get support for those that they can't. A peacemaker and an effective communicator with impeccable emotional maturity and balance. Creating utopians can not be decreed by a dictator nor brought about by violent revolution. A democracy will never vote for it and it is certain that our congress will never agree on a coherent program that might lead to its creation. Utopians can only evolve with the cooperation and full commitment of each candidate. Since such characteristics are not inborn then it must be brought about by education but not education as it now exists, that is clear. It must be such an obviously better mousetrap that it will draw support from all sides. An ideal system would not only need to be more efficient to compete it would need to be self sustaining and virtually free or affordable to all motivated students (ie..work study). How to achieve this? Such a school must be incredibly flexible and adaptive to the precise needs of each student. That will require that each student be given a great deal of freedom and an equal amount of responsibility. The recipe would include the following ingredients in order of emphasis. Highly experiential, fully modeled and mentored, real life entrepreneurship in the laboratory, theory and lecturing kept to a minimum and only when needed' then immediately grounded by practice. For example Chemistry would begin with cooking. There have been enormous scientific strides in our understanding of how the brain learns in the last decades but no one school (that I know of) is using more than a fraction of these advances. If used holistically in a synergistic manner these advances could, I believe, save 50% in time and money over any current system.
  • Jul 14 2011: I think that as long we choose economic growth to be more important than keep the balance with the nature, then nothing will help. Already now - with the population of 6,8 billion - there is nearly no lakes or rivers you can drink the water from without getting sick. The problem is our self. Sure there is place for more people - but the balance with the nature is not working at all. There will come a day where 1 child per family is the only way out of this global problem. All people know it - and will probably go for it - but first when its to late. We should start already now. When we all agree on this - then we can start take care all the problems. But when we continue to be more and more, and at the same time not have the technologi to stop pollution, take care the poor etc. then we can only watch the earth faster than ever end its life. Sorry my english is no good.
  • Jul 13 2011: Having lived in a large city (Mexico City) I am very interested in this sort of discussion. How, in a country like Mexico, where there is infrastructure but oftentimes a fault of implementation, how do the scenarios talk about dealing with that sort of thing? Also, with the many "non-regular" communities, how do you get energy resources to them without somehow legitimizing them? Having worked in hunger and ag development projects and seeing the growing trends in cities outside of the giant ones, how do you help the growing smaller urban areas now rather than later? The rural municipal capitals are often growing very quickly. I would love to see how the systems thinking of "Eric Berlow from Berkley on using systems modelling to handle complexity around the relationships between energy, food and water," could speak to these issues. I do believe that the systems thinking approach to that sort of complexity is the only way we can find the leverage.
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      Jul 14 2011: Michael can I say this is a really smart and concise crystallisation of many of the issues w are feeding into our next scenarios which consider a range of new lenses through which the changes we expect in the world - political, economic and social/environmental can be viewed.

      Really interesting that you raise Eric's work. I have been lucky enough this year to work with Eric on a project around the complex interrelationships and dependencies between food, water and energy. Both from society's perspective as we go from 6 to 9 billion but also for an organisation like ours, it really seems to be a nexus of our times.

      Using systems mapping to understand the key pressures and linkages in that system to consider where the most effective action should be, and guess what you find? The design and operation of cities are amongst the most important factors for managing the entire system....

      Eric is great and we are looking forward to continuing with that project in due course.

      Thanks
      • Jul 14 2011: Adam
        Thanks for your response. I do feel that systems thinking tools are a great help. I believe that perhaps one of the major considerations should be an emphasis on quality of life not just quantity. Food, water and energy (I'll give Shell its due here) are fine. I think perhaps however basic health care should also be a factor.

        Frankly it shouldn't be just looking at the megacities, but the large urban cities (once considered rural) that are springing up. Those cities are at the perfect place to be helped with their planning. They are now large enough to have problems, but many do not have valid infrastructure to reach a new level.
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    Jul 13 2011: I think that the answer to all these dilemas is through research and development.
    There will be no limit in what we achieve if there is no limit in what we spend to achieve it!
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      Jul 13 2011: You are without doubt right... The interesting thing as I see it with cities however is that they don't work like other big infrastructure projects - building a freeway, or a soccer stadium. The range of different players you would need to consort with to build a big city don't typically work together (at least not yet). We're looking at how the magic mix of partners could come together to manage all the different pieces - planning, design, energy, mobility, water and waste....

      There also needs to be detailed discussions on what funding models would work and how policy would need to change to support this type of integrated approach
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    Jul 13 2011: Stop having conversations with Shell if there only interests is to sequester more and more oil.

    Two: The cities are not jungle enough.
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      Jul 13 2011: What do you think about natural gas though? It's playing a bigger and bigger role in cities.... We're over fifty percent gas now and that's growing. Cheaper electricity from more widely available gas that is over half as CO2 intense as coal.....
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        Jul 13 2011: The reality is that we live in societies that use oil/natural gas now. That is simply the reality. we all depend on them whether it is ideal or not.

        I will support any effort to do it better with the ultimate object of getting to the healthiest possible system for the whole planet. That will require working with what we have and the facts. No one is going to suddenly abandon coal, oil, gas unless we provide a workable alternative. So I think the constructive plan and the viable route to a solution can be found in the sort of discussions and inclusivity that Shell scenarios have pioneered.

        Brainstorming is the first step. Bringing together the ideas so that we can make better choices is progress. Being responsible to choose the best ideas is what we must all commit to shepherding and demanding. Being at the table enables that.
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        Jul 13 2011: Adam,

        If it is biogas (not fossil methane fuel), then yes, I could see condoning it. I can't argue with you that natural gas is to some extent pretty efficient stuff. When compared to oil and coal it is obviously a no brainer.
        Why we are and have not been using our natural gas pipelines and risking our efforts for oil, is, to me, false.
        Moreover, overall, with that said, I am not interesting in non-renewables as they belong in fiction and to an infinite growth paradigm, which we do not necessarily have at the moment.
        I also think all nuclear reactors should be torn down. I can't see the counter argument for why we shouldn't. Until the world is at ease and has come to terms with all of its internal oppositions then maybe we could use this highly powerful source and discover space together, but as of right now, I cannot see that happening and nor do I see it as an economical reality.

        Thoughts?
        • Jul 13 2011: In Japan we had old nuclear plants, underdesigned for known historic tsunamis and earthquakes with inadequate back up systems yet after over a month later no one has died. It is highly likely that more lives will be saved as a direct result of the release of radiation i.e. Tokyoites exposed to radiation we can predict from experience will have lower incidence of cancer, better immune systems and live longer than fesidents not exposed to the radiation (hormesis, or as one radiation expert told me from a recent conference "adaptive response")

          One scientists suggested for regions with ultralow radon levels that we build into the insulatation and concrete low-level radiation to get its therapeutic effect.

          Modern plants can't melt down and consume their own wastes. The track record of nuclear power is better in terms of lives lost than even roof top solar facilities (Check out "Death per terawatt hour by energy source".

          Even the cofounder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, realized that the zealots trying to stop nuclear power development everywhere were dead wrong. He recognized that only nuclear power had any real hope of stopping green house gasses from base-load power generation.
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          Jul 14 2011: Matt, thanks. I can imagine your view of the energy system being popular and appealing to a large number of people.

          But whether we're talking just in terms of cities or in a broader sense, the transition time for the energy system to move from one dominant energy source to another can be decades (a coal fire power station commissioned today without technology to capture and store CO2 may have an operational life of 20-30 years).

          We also need to face the reality that the time for newer technologies to become cost competitive will not be overnight.
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        Jul 13 2011: Richard,

        (To all) First of all oil and electricity have nothing to do with each other. Less than 2% of our electricity is made from oil and less than 2% of oil makes electricity.

        What nuclear could do is displace coal. But expanding and maintaing nuclear makes our climate worse. Nuclear is incredibly expensive. If you buy more nuclear plants you are going to get about 2 to:10 times less climate solution per dollar.
        Anything less said is a carefully fabricated illusion, in terms of the supposed nuclear revolution.
        You have a 100 plus % subsidies and wall street is still not interested in buying with private capital. Three times as much as wind power, which is booming. Why would anyone move in any other direction?
        My argument is not about Japan alone (species factor), although that is one more case that supports my vision.
        My core case is that it is not economical. If you disagree with this, I am sorry to say, you are highly uninformed. Between hydro, electric (solar), wind, geothermal, tidal, biogas, and so on; you have a solution for oil, natural gas, and nuclear. Case solved! :-)

        Welcome to the Micropower revolution.
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        Jul 13 2011: I would also like to add that if the world were to, somehow, dismantle and make illegal the production and maintenance of large scale nuclear power plants through UN treaties — the amount of efforts spent monitoring our plants and worrying about others such as: South Africa, Iran, and so on - would be drastically reduced and save all of us money and increase foreign relationships. This large scale disarmament would be the most significant step towards economic, ecological, and human justice.
        If the UN could make it illegal to produce large scale nuclear power around the world, this subsequently, would obviously lead to the production of weapons that use this technology illegal as well. I would like to see that happen, how about you?
        I do not have any intimate proclivity for large scale nuclear power. I could give a hoot in fact.
        Like I said earlier, if one day we are capable of cooperating and using such power appropriately than those laws could be reformed and I would condone it.
        Make no mistake about it, most environmentalist are against nuclear power, or at least the ones who have thought about it through and through.
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        Jul 14 2011: Adam,

        "(a coal fire power station commissioned today without technology to capture and store CO2 may have an operational life of 20-30 years).

        We also need to face the reality that the time for newer technologies to become cost competitive will not be overnight."

        These are not laws of nature. It is not like, the wind. I do understand what you are saying. Your metaphysics, may I be frank, are of the school of pragmatics. I am bit more airy, I know. But in fact, the transition to what is truly the way of efficiency can only make sense to a true pragmatists, so in some sense, there is an internal contradiction to the refusal of accepting the very reality of the ease of the transition. To re-tool is not the problem and we both know that. The issue that runs through the heart of all of this is actually much more enigmatic and insidious than many care to admit as those who would are very much outcasted.

        But I also mentioned nothing about switching from one dominant energy source to another. I simply mentioned switching from one dominant source to a matrix of many distributive sources, which would be modeled into the fabric of the natural landscape, i.e, following nature as to where and what to use. For example, we are not going to use tidal in the Sahara, we are, I would hope, going to use solar.

        I always liked to refer to the ideals of Bucky Fuller on this kind of topic.
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    Jul 13 2011: it is good to see that the ever-whiners are wrong, and big companies like shell indeed invest in and think about the future. the focus on cities is apt. nations and states are slow to move and are wasteful. cities, or even smaller entities, quarters, neighborhoods can make much better decisions in line with their own needs. it is a primary goal is to promote freedom, and oppose the ever-increasing, creativity-choking, centralizing power of the state. this is, however, kind of a slippery slope for a private organization, so i understand if you would rather skip that part.

    as i see shell's and other big corporations' main role in this is scientific/technological invention. develop and provide solutions, and you will find your customers. cheap, clean and abundant energy is a key to a better future. double the R&D budget, and if you've doubled it already, double it again.

    it is also important to focus on developing areas of the world: india, china, sub-saharan africa. if your technologies are successful there, more monolithic political entities like the US or the EU will have no other choice but follow. you have a better chance to power up the dharavi slum in mumbai, than convince mrs merkel to liberalize the energy sector.

    it would also be of high importance to invent out of fossils. it might sound strange to ask an oil company to bring us to the post-oil era. but it makes sense, since there is a strong incentive for oil companies to pave their road to a future without fossils. or else they will inevitably face their doom sooner or later.

    i recommend you to take a quick look at what the acumen fund does. they operate in the water-sanitation-agriculture area. you could do a similar approach in the energy sector.
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      Jul 13 2011: Thanks for your comments. I am going to feed these into the team. When we have had a chance to digest what you're proposing here I will write back again.... Thanks Krisztian
  • Jul 13 2011: In many big cities, because of the space limitations, people go to gyms for recreation and weight-loss.

    Why not pair stationary bicycles in gyms with generators, connect them to the electric grid, and harness their fat-burning energy for the public good? Actually paying people (even a small amount) for their kinetic energy transfer could then provide motivation for more to join the trend, and would also help to fight against obesity.

    Cities concentrate the people into an area too small for individuals to fend for themselves. The increase in city dwellers necessitates the creation of meaningful work for them, but also an escape from the "me first" ideology of individual wealth concentration. As long as power rests in the hands of a few wealthy individuals (or corporations) seeking to maximize their profits, the slum dwellers are unlikely to receive enough trickle-down to meet their needs.
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      Jul 13 2011: what about learning how to multitask
      we don't know what potentials are of the human being
      we can see this in the Olympic games record are broken every year, since (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_Games)
      this means we don't know the human body potentials
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      Jul 13 2011: Hi Chris, interesting idea. I like that you're thinking about solutions that address several challenges at once and incentives that will motivate people to take action. I agree that decentralised and local solutions have a big role to play. But you hit on a big point around how to manage intermittency issues when we can't store the electricity - what happens when the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining..? Cleaner fossil fuels like natural gas could have a role in cities, especially as there is a lot more of it available than was previously thought and it can be ramped up and down relatively easily.
  • Aug 3 2011: This has been a great conversation about cities and the sustainability challenge. I wonder, though, with the debt crises in the US (arguably more of a political rather than an economic issue) as well as the ones in Europe, where will the money come from to finance all of these sustainability efforts. Are citizens willing to pay extra taxes/ fees to live in sustainable cities? If yes, how much and for how long? I feel that this would be a major obstacle in realizing many novel transportation and energy ideas.
  • Aug 3 2011: Hello, one interesting concept that I discovered through a great website called www.stumbleupon.com was the vertical farm project. Here is the link:

    www.verticalfarm.com

    Now I may not be a scientist or an architect (yet), but I believe that this idea would be very successful in a bustling world like ours, especially in our most crowded (therefore needy) cities. Thank you.
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    Aug 3 2011: Adam Newton of Shell Oil Company’s Global Strategy Team,
    Hi,
    I am a student of the TED talks. My opinions are my own but they have been shaped over the years by hundreds of their wonderful presentations.

    You ask, in part:
    How can early intervention and investment in cities lead to more sustainable long-term outcomes? AND How can better urban infrastructure be achieved?
    If we see our long term as humanity thriving in the centuries to come, and if we take the big picture view of the whole biosphere of our spaceship Earth, then I must say, “Houston, we have a problem.”
    Adam Newton, I believe that only by adopting a C2C strategy where “waste equals food” will we be able to put the “long” into “long-term.” (See http://www.ted.com/talks/william_mcdonough_on_cradle_to_cradle_design.html )

    What governance mechanisms might support effective city development?
    Willie Smits has one excellent example of including governance on the local level while transforming an economy and an eco-system. His point is that the local governance must be included to give people a voice and ownership of what they are doing.

    And Michelle Holliday has a good idea about the sort of patterns that green businesses ought to have. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUIStx-nZ3I

    Mark
  • Aug 3 2011: I'm stepping into this conversation relatively late. The reading is about social responsibility of global corporations. Appreciated. let me give it a different twist:

    Shell considers itself an energy company (fact). Solar energy is economical viable around the equator (fact). Let me zoom in on northern Africa; there thermo solar is economcially viable (fact, see desertech.org). The size at which this can be done is material (fact, deserttech talks about 15% of total energy consumption of europe from nothern africa). ... so far everything is the green

    Issue is stability of these countries and guaranteed demand over the next 10-20 years; (thermo) solar energy requires a significant upfront investments that has to be earned back over 2 decades; debt holders of such an undertaking want to be sure they get their money back with the required interest (no nationalisations, no physical collaps of the plant, not evaporation of the demand). Shell has -almost unique- experience in dealing with instable countries with mostly good success (fact, Nigeria, Russia)

    My question: What would make Shell go for this opportunity in a big way?
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    Aug 3 2011: Bruno, you make again very valid points and I agree whole heartedly with you on these issues. But do you really believe that this discussion thred here, sponsored by an entity that pretty much runs counter every issue you raised, is even 'designed' to change corporate behavior ... if so at all then in the VERY long run only.
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    Aug 3 2011: You do make a very good point about the people volunteering and being involved in the interaction. Without such engagement of the 'public', very little will be ultimately successful.
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      Aug 3 2011: Global ,powerful corporates should focus more on Improving individual consciousness in their own organizations and therefore :
      • Not be Involve in abused a local countries tax regulations
      • Accepts responsibility for the disastrous environmental issues .
      • Do not treat poor non developed countries , countries resources and people as their own property
      • Not spend cash on marketing to improve corporate reputation but to contribute to innovative solution locally
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  • Aug 2 2011: Cities are great, but have only been made possible through energy input from elsewhere. Today, this energy comes to a very significant part in the form of fossil - not renewable - fuels.

    I don't wish to be gloomy, but unless we find an alternative to that, our cities will inevitably collapse. Not knowing - but having to believe - that such alternatives are out there, what is our biggest problem?

    In the short term, evading and postponing tactics appear to be a good solution. But they aren't in the long run. As an example of such:
    In the face of rising commodity prices, subsidies may help a politician in becoming reelected, by giving the short term impression of having solved the problem. But this does not just postpone the problem, which in itself might be a good thing, as it would give developers, companies and inventors more time to come up with solutions. No. Once the problem strikes, the changes will be far more rapid, hiting a less aware society, that is less prepared and has less resources left to react.

    While there are food, energy and fuel subsidies in some countries, in other countries these subsidies may occur to some extent indirectly in the form of wars, welfare and bailouts.

    So what can Shell and others do? A few ideas to create awareness and distribute knowlege of solutions:

    - Creating awareness of the reliability of our modern systems to fossil fuels, by conducting and publishing a study on the effects a deprivation of various fossil fuels would have on various modern cities as they are.

    - Transparently financing new or existing open initiatives in linking up cities and sharing of best practices. (funding of "TED cities" conferences with significant players attending only)

    - looking for new economic paradigms that bridge the gap of what fiscal figures should stand for indirectly and what is actually happening on the ground.

    If you want your goals to be acknowledged openly, act openly.
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      Aug 2 2011: Lukas I think you conclude with a very reasonable set of proposals and I think in essence you have captured a number of the key insights we have drawn from the process of trying to understand cities and building plans for constructive engagement around them.

      Our existing scenarios work (www.shell.com/scenarios) looks at a range outcomes for energy use and considers the ways in which shifts in demand and resource availability can accelerate or surpress the diffusion of non-fossil fuel energy technologies. As we work towards the next set of scenarios we place the urban environment at the very forefront of our thinking as we recognise that cities will be the environments within which a majority of the resource constraints will occur as will the innovation to create sustainable solutions.

      On funding you make an excellent point. The type of consortium that could effectively plan and execute new city development against a model of better integrated urban infrastructure does not currently exist. It is clear that in such a consortium the array of skills - from planning and design, to financing and construction would be required. Already we are working hard to establish a dialogue between companies like our own and other in the technology, electronics, mobility, water and waste spaces, to consider how to create effective relationships that would be able to address the challenges that rapid urban development pose.

      It is a long road.....
      • Aug 3 2011: Beeing a historical as well as an actual part of the kind of infrastructure that we are now - both for good reasons as well as out of necessity - trying to overcome, Shell and companies alike face the challenge of adapting to the ongoing change towards more sustainable technologies, while at the same time having to foster the very demand for such, in order to be able to make high investments in "renewable" techs without having to abandon business goals.


        Due to the unrenewable nature of fossil fuels, one might be inclined to believe that rising prices will eventually solve the incentives problem, arguing that the performance required of renewables in order to succeed on the market gradually declines inversely proportional to the rise in energy prices, making renewables sooner or later an economic imperative. (to the extent they don't need unrenewable resources themselves...)

        There are good reasons to believe that. Let the market decide as some say. But that only works smoothly if all external costs are taken into account and the market is not distorted in one way or the other, e.g. by direct or indirect subsidies.


        But as I stated in my previous posting, there is a danger of short term "thinking" trying to bypass these high energy prices, that are in fact needed by decision makers to justify the inevitable change in strategy.


        Not just can such subsidies become a problem for society, but also for traditional energy suppliers I would argue, as such short term evasion tactics eventually lead to a more rapid, more challenging shift towards renewables.

        As the time runs out, let me just conclude with a few ideas:
        - Experience in renewable technology gained in more advanced markets (with renewable tech subsidies) can help overcome rapid changes in markets that have been held back by subsidies of fossil fuels.
        - Criticism concerning the paradox of beeing a fossil giant while at the same time advocating change can best be adressed with total openness.
    • Aug 3 2011: Lucas: Cheer up! An excellent alternative energy source has already been invented, developed, and demonstrated to work (for 5 years) 50 years ago. This was an Air Force Project to make a nuclear aircraft engine. The successful design was completely different from the present generation nuclear fission plants: the Thorium LFTR type cannot blow up, melt down, or release intolerable amounts of toxic waste. The scientists who developed this (in cold War secrecy , of course) are mostly dead,, retired or ignored; the present day type nuclear plant was chosen, because iit could make nuclear bomb material , whereas the LFTR type doesn't. The LWR nuclear Industry doesn't want to hear about all this, because of their solid (expensive) fuel based business model. Thorium is TOO CHEAP. FYI: see Youtube: Thorium Kirk Sorensen, or wikipedia.
  • Aug 2 2011: I feel it will be a slightly different problem. People will keep multiplying regardless of what we do. But should we stop it, can we stop it. The only reason we are worried is because we live on earth and that is the only place we can be. But space is big. If we could colonize space we would have resources galore. 24 hour intense sunshine. Loads of raw materials in asteroids and satellites. Even other planets with low gravity could be mined. Water in abundance in comets and asteroids. Enough space for unlimited expansion of the human species. A tiny self-sustaining population out there will eventually hold more people than earth. No space restriction, no material restriction, no power restriction. Why spend billions on fusion when we already have a ginormous fusion plant right overhead. Use those billions to make a settlement in space where simple solar cells can harvest the inexhaustible supply. Expansion will be geometric and people will leave the crowded Earth for the new frontier where you can find a community that fits you. Space is so vast that two communities need never interact with each other. One community with one farm with one mine with one foundry with one factory that makes solar cells, and chips and another factory that produces chemicals from the farm's waste stream would be the minimum needed for a self sustaining community. How expensive would that be compare to research into fusion, the lhc and other research into sociological problems caused by population.
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      Aug 2 2011: O Yes , there is a definitely solution to achieve this goals . Shell and Shell like companies should be leading and contribute to the solution with :
      • Stop abused a local countries tax regulations
      • Accepts responsibility for the disastrous oil spills and environmental issues .
      • Do not treat countries , countries resources and people as your own property
      • Stop spending cash on marketing to improve corporate reputation but use this cash to contribute as much as possible …….that every city has reliable energy, clean water and enough to eat !
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        Aug 2 2011: Bruno; you are so 100% on the point regarding corporate responsibility, however the mechanism in place to reward CEOs and senior management works nearly completely against such goals. The way I see the current direction here in the US: it's going for the very reason of corporate malfaisance against a civil society, corporate greed from barons like the Koch Brothers and their growing political influence are detrimental for all the good points you make. That is the reason that nobody canbe a 'conservative' in the US without being chastised for the bad state of the affairs in this country! Europe or at least some European countries are defintely ahead of the US in the fight for a civil society with civilized, environmentally friendly cities and which this debate does address ...
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          Aug 2 2011: Hubertus; I would like to learn here... you know of any solution to have as a manager an incentive to be responsible?

          I know of senior managers who try very hard, but in the end they are nailed down on delivery of results and numbers. A vicious circle between decision makers - board members - shareholders.

          How to break it?

          In EU there is a lot of civil society law enforcement, but pushing this through to the max would result in "police state capitalism". Is that the solution...
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    Aug 2 2011: Shell might have a great influence in China, and even beyond China, if it will take this fantastic opportunity to start practicing new ways designing the city infrastructure. The new city can feed itself, but this Sustainability can be reached only if the districts of the new city have diverse businesses, including some greenhouses and farming. The Chinese are so great to produce a lot even on a very small patch of land.

    There are quite a few super effective very "clean" methods that can be included in design, such as pipe-less sewage that does wonders using special trees, or a renewable wind power option, with a sleek Propeller-Free design, ultra quiet operation and affordable pricing. We, while designing our project (Nova Town) have found ourselves surrounded by highly advanced architects and engineers. The major road system can be designed very intelligently for providing effective commute for commercial traffic. Hope, dear Adam, you will do something very inspirational, and will surprise skeptics.
  • Aug 2 2011: I agree with Ken Stephens. I think we should use more nuclear and solar energy. We should reduce our food production and intake because we eat way too much while in other places on earth people are dying of hunger.
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      Aug 2 2011: GMO and now nucelear energy - whoaa, ideas from yesterday for progress? This thread has too much hidden corporatism.
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    Aug 1 2011: Perhaps not pushing too hard forward solutions that may not turn out as good as they are presented to be, such as electric cars, the dawbacks of which are massive and totally left aside in media and corporative communication. There will not be one solution, so instead of just thinking big, it might be better to think broad and varied, in a similar way to feeding our own bodies, not leaving out things like Guy Nègre's compressed air car.
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    Jul 31 2011: Adam, here a concept, on HOW to start small, "one mile at a time";

    ...The One Mile Backcasting 'Game'...

    I'd like to propose the idea of backcasting 9 mega city neighborhoods of a 1 mile radius from 2050 to 2015

    One Mile on each mega region;

    South America
    Middle America
    North America
    China
    India
    Europe
    Arabia
    Africa
    Oceania

    Pick on each a mile/ km2 in a mega city.

    Until 2050 more than 2 generations will grow up in non-regular regions. From outside we want to do something, from inside; how can people grow with the growth occasion?

    2030 Durable Survival Quest :
    act 1 : We can imagine 'durable survival' by 2030. How much water, food, energy, does a One Mile region need.
    act 2 : We can make a 'google map' showing where these resources come from, including the costs of getting to the One Mile in 2030.
    act 3 : We can calculate how many people in the one mile region need to have some kind of job to pay for mile-survival, support the people in this region.

    2040 Core Comfort Quest :
    act 4 : What would the local acceptable basic physical 'health' situation be, hygiene related.
    act 5 : What would the local acceptable basic mental 'health' situation be, fear related.
    act 6 : What would the local acceptable housing/furniture standard be.

    2050 Interdependence Quest :
    act 7 : Engage constants : How many people live there now, will live there still 2050?
    act 8 : Engage braindev : What and how should the children born now... now... now... learn from 2020 to have a great 50% 'solutionist' mindset in 2040?

    In 2030-2040 'fresh' minds can be locally present, ready to live the dream we 'design' for/with them ..

    Focussing on 9 miles;
    - possibly a 'butterfly effect' for other 'miles'. a continental seed, organic growth.
    - exchange wisdom on stopping the talk about fighting poverty, but start talking about collaborating for survival.
    - a world view on water, food, energy; if we can understand globally 9 miles in 2050, we can think bigger.

    Paul
    • Aug 1 2011: Two nice posts Paul and a great idea. In places like Mexico City in some areas, the "one mile" rule might take in non-regular, colonias poulares (popular neighborhoods generally upper lower class), and middle class areas. Re-inventing how that looks in 40 years could be fun.
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        Aug 1 2011: Hi Michael,

        So one mile Mexico City it is! 8 more to go. Simply communicating about the similarities and differences today can be very insightful ideas worth spreading.

        "Fun" is the word I needed to hear, than we have something possible going.

        Let's see where it goes to collect 9 miles. No plans/commitments yet on 9 weeks 9 hours 'googlefridays'.

        Anybody associated somehow with Mumbai non-regulars on this forum?
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    Jul 31 2011: The question is not 'what' is the future, but 'how' do we get there.

    Imagining the structure of a mega city comes with a perfect 'outsiders' view, while we should create a HOW to let locals grow with the growth occasion.

    Until 2050 it is about educating 2 generations, that is at least 2 billion people who have not even been born yet.

    Until 2040 it is about having the basics solved, core comfort so children can grow up healthy.

    Until 2030 it is about solving durable survival (water, earth, fire), for a whole interdependent mega city.

    These 3 pathways come together. And I believe the 'only' way to do that is imagining the life in a 2050 one mile region / neighborhood, and instead of forecasting, demonstrate backcasting to 2011. What is step by step needed to get to the 2050 we envision for a mile, slowly mapping the cause and effect.

    ...

    i've followed this thread, put my share of logic towards the question in, the writing and feedback brought me - and maybe you - forward in thinking! thank you all. 99% of TEDconversations close and have a life in search archives. I'd love to be involved and 'adopt' great collections of thoughts, though how to do it effectively...

    ...Beyond the Teahouse Talk...

    I wonder, what if 9 people put each 9 hours a week in for 9 weeks ( or 18 weeks long, each week on average 4.5 hours) what pragmatic solution for this HOW question can we get up with?

    After some months on tedc I am up for the experiment on a question like this.

    Starttng with optimism;
    - As Dag Hammarskjold once said; let us not discus discussions.
    - this thread is a starters cloud of wisdom, potentially to become more than a teahouse talk.
    - 9 weeks for 2050; what can be solved on this HOW question.
    - 9 hours a week; this is the amount of time I can squeeze between projects. See it as a 'google friday'. Promising less means no results, promising more interferes with 'normal' job.
    - 9 persons; I have a reason for that, see next post with concept
  • Jul 30 2011: Adam,
    I am encouraged by the intriguing conversation you started and applaud your courage in posting such a thought provoking question in this forum. I hope this conversation will have some specific positive results in the activities Shell and other O & G energy companies engage in.
    I am working with a small group of people from diverse backgrounds who are seeking to create new urban environments designed to be sustainable and extensible built from the initial economic engines of mining and O & G production. Using the O & G initial economic engine to attract a diverse and sustainable economy which will break the typical boom-to-bust cycle and result in a collective of communities which act as regional economic centers for scalable growth planned to blend the needs of economy, cultural identity, open governance and maintainable environmental support.
    Where megacities approach eventual collapse through an entropic cycle of ever faster and dense adaptation, our approach uses local environmental support as a governing factor to maximum size and impact and is used to spawn a new supporting center which eventually creates a balance of habitation to ecology and food production.
    Mr. West might have us believe that cities are optimized as megaliths of concentrated development and power, but if we look at past history, I think we find that great cities were magnets of power because the people drawn to them contributed to their success. And survive when they meet needs of a region and continue to support economic growth.
    We would invite Shell and the other multi-nationals to join with us to create scalable communities built around initial economic activity based on O & G production and the reformulation and technologies of Gas to Liquid processes at a local level so keep much of the economic value in the communities where the gas is produced and to be a partner in developing a scalable, repeatable urban growth process that benefits all of us.
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      Jul 31 2011: Hi Andrew, I'm interested to learn more details about your model for scalable self-sufficient growth. Are you proposing modular, highly decentralized energy production with size constrained by some ecological footprint analysis?
      • Aug 1 2011: Eric, our plans are to use existing technologies to scale up and then modify the physical environment as the economic picture changes. Our strategies include more than just energy, but all the other physical infrastructure elements as well as social components such as schools, government and cultural centers. Our strategy relies a lot on electronic connectivity and efficiencies of self-monitoring systems in the infrastructure to help community leaders take action when certain flagged event occur. This is an effort to transform community governance, community involvement and education / economic development. Pretty tall order stuff, but what we feel can, should, needs to be done.
  • Jul 29 2011: Adam,

    you refer to the work of Geoffrey West re the efficiencies of ever-larger cities. His work does however contain a very large catch. For the city to not die it requires an ever-accelerating pace of change. Fall behind and the city dies.

    So to follow this model we are betting the survival of millions of people on the ability for a huge, rapidly growing (and simultaneously aging) city with an immensely complex set of service-delivery hardware to change evr-more rapidly. I contend that is frankly a ludicrous proposition. Nothing can continue to get better and better faster and faster forever.

    Smaller, manageable locally and with far lower resource requirements is a far better model. Remember Cuba which reduced energy consumption by 90% overnight and found solutions that work and which continue to work.

    Geoffrey West's models do not reflect what happens when a radical paradigm change occurs, they only project evolutionary change from the current baseline.

    In sum, it is a radical re-imagining of how we live and manage our population that is needed. We cannot continue as we are and expect an endless exponential growth in the rate of change to save us.
    • Jul 29 2011: Ken, i am confused on Cuba fact - based on Reuters 2009 article they only reduced 12 percent overnight, based on measure affecting 90 percent of economy. Still - i agree with core of your argument - when people are under pressure they can do wonderful changes.

      So how do we create that sense of urgency about 2050 challenge now with regular citizens and consumers?

      Or are we implying that only central planning (cuba-style) measures can help today 2050 challenge?
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    Jul 28 2011: En premier lieu,nous devons nous concentrer sur une meilleure gestion des denrées alimentaires car nous produisons beaucoup plus que ce que nous consommons.Nous devons réduire le gaspillage de l'eau,de l'énergie et des produits alimentaires.
    Par rapport à l'énergie,c'est une combinaison de solutions que nous devons envisager en tenant compte des facteurs géographiques et climatiques des villes.L'utilisation de la biomasse,de la géothermie, de l'énergie solaire et éolienne, permettrait d'être autonome énergétiquement tout en respectant l'environnement.
    En ce qui concerne l'eau,il existe des techniques de captation comme les filets récupérateurs de nuages,la récupération d'eau de pluie et la désalinisation des mers.
    Pour la nourriture,l'hydroponie et la création de "fermes urbaines" sera une solution mais nous devrons changer nos habitudes alimentaires surtout si les changements climatiques perdurent.Peut-être devrions nous manger moins de viande,consommer des insectes ou des algues,mais réduire le gaspillage semble être une des prérogatives principale.
  • Jul 27 2011: We all are addicted to energie which should not be a problem. But we all, myself included, use to much energie from hydrocarbons. wheras other sources of engery are very .. very rarely sitimulated. Is this because the oil companies do not have a intrinsic interest in reducing their short term share holders value. Maximizing next quarter profits are more commently spoken about. And yes we speak about other subjects but is that not dressing up the show that needs to continue to get to the next share holders meeting. There is not a single petrol station which refuses to fill up a car that is not meeting the highest fuel economi ratings. Inconturary if you fill up for more that 25 or 50 liters you get a bonus. In the future these customers should get a penalty, which will be used to help the person to reduce his energy addition.

    Why can't I save money or collect bonusses to help making long term investments. Support investments in solar panels that is needed to make a jump start to cure our addiction for hydrocarbons.
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      Jul 28 2011: Carli

      A couple of comments in response to you if I may. First of all I think you are underestimating the extent of research and development in new and more efficient fuels and the increasing use of alternative liquid fuels derived from more sustainable sources of biomass - like sugar cane. Also firms are actively targeting driving behaviour to encourage motorists to get ever better performance out of their vehicle and our fuels.

      Similarly you see companies like ours increasingly making investments in natural gas which remains the cleanest fossil fuel and allows countries who produce and use it to produce far cleaner electricity than those which use coal for example.

      You are right, we don't turn drivers away for using non-efficient vehicles. We don't of course build those vehicles either and in that sense our products and services have to respond to what manufacturers build - such as more diesel cars, more efficient petrol engines, liquified and compressed natural gas fuels in some parts of the world.

      Our own estimates for the uptake of electric vehicles have increased as battery technologies have become more and more viable and we will see them becoming more common place - particularly in cities to begin with.

      It's worth noting that a new car taking to the roads today for the first time will still be running somewhere in 10-15 years. So the pace of transformation is gradual but nonetheless transformation will take place.

      Thanks
  • Jul 27 2011: Waste of Water. City's have very complex installations and systems to provide water for direct drinking to every house in the western hemisphere. For teh sake of the discussion we only use 2 liters of water every for actually drinking. The rest of our water comsumption is wasted for kooking / washing / gardening / cars / and in bathsrooms. How much energie / money is wasted to get rig of the last inperfections out of our drinking water. Lets safe energie to not do this. Provide houses with clean enough water and give away free drinking water te everybody. Rain water fallen on rooftops makes excellent soft washing water, requiring less detergents and much less energie. Why do governements do not support investments in innovative ways to save energie.
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      Jul 28 2011: You raise a good point on different source of water usage. It's clear that more can be done to creat sustainable water infrastrctures for cities and learn from countries like Singapore and even Cambodia who have achieved remarkable energy savings as a result of using water batter.

      The four national taps strategy in Singapore is a really good example of this.
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    Jul 26 2011: We need to harness our energies with the external energies like electricity through plants in a natural fusion to produce more oxygen as well as natural food output with better strength of sustainability, thereby enhancing the flora & fauna & eco balance, coz healthy bacterias are equally important creating immunities & longevities of lifecycles.
    IF JACK & THE BEANSTALK WAS A SKYSCRAPER THEN........ THEN WHY NOT NOW ??
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    Jul 24 2011: First of all, I applaud the question and the conversation here. Very pertinent in the times we live in.

    I see the answer to sustainability in shunning anything carbon. It may sound radical to begin with, I ascribe my confidence to the exponential times we live in. Much of it is attributed to the internet, however in many places adoption of the Mobile phone and replacement of plastic with alternatives, higher levels of recycling etc have proved that human habits can shift rapidly in response to the eco-system. It will be the job of aware citizens, responsible corporations to achieve this vision.

    I submit the following proposal:

    1. Large self sufficient multi-storey buildings, powered by Solar energy. Therefore, office areas are earmarked and smaller in proportion to living areas.

    2. Large public transport systems fully powered by solar energy generated on the roof of the street. MRTS travels on solar and stores solar in batteries for later use. The system should reach every major building system and collect people from every major residential place.

    3. Homes shall also be self sufficient and solar powered. In every case alternative solar power from a grid is available on demand if local power fails.

    4. To make the solar shift possible all carbon burning systems have to be stopped in 500 KM vicinity around the model city.

    5. Villages will similarly be powered by solar energy and this will tend to reduce the pressure on cities. Model towns (likes of the 6 Saudi Cities under construction) should be build to disperse pressure on land.

    6. Clear separation of water use will be possible in large buildings. Only recycled water be used for flushing and cleaning. More effective recycling methods will have to evolve. Sensors inside water systems that could distinguish between materials and recycle will be the most effective.

    These are my thoughts at the moment. Would be lovely to discuss more.
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    Jul 24 2011: If we do not propose any attractive intelligent Alternative concept and an actual place, nothing will stop people from coming to the cities by millions and millions.... Many of them will struggle, starve, create more slums, crime and illnesses.

    Are we talking about how to "help" these people afterwards, when it is too late,
    or we are thinking about how to give people a choice to live, and work more productively elsewhere?
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    Jul 24 2011: Hello Adam. Would your company be interested to sponsor designing and building a few futuristic sustainable LIVING models, based upon very Different concepts, including your own concept? Build a few fully functional models, so people would be able not only to look at them, but stay there for some time if they wish, and literally test different kinds of futuristic living. This way Shell will attract the general public, in a very positive exciting way.

    You will be surprised how many innovative individuals (beside crowds of international tourists), advanced educators and unique manufacturers will be interested in participating in building our future. This way Shell could be far ahead-of the rest of the oil companies.
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      Jul 24 2011: Simone thanks for the direct offer of involvement in this kind of work. Our purpose in running this conversation is first to assess where our own understanding and thinking is on urban development in relation to leading thinkers and policy makers and other businesses who, like ourselves, see the importance of getting future cities right.

      To that end we are currently engaged in a project in China looking at models for sustainable and replicable urban development. We hope that we will go some way towards the creatio of the types of model that you refer to. At a future time it is my hope and intention that we externally socialise that work for stree testing by the crowd.....

      More broadly the work of Shell's scenarios group over the past 40 years has been to advance thinking for our own business and external bodies with insights and interests in shaping a different future.
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        Jul 25 2011: Thanks for your meaningful reply, Adam. When we all live on the same planet we have to at least try to know and understand what other people think and do. I trust that awareness is the mother of intelligence.
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    Jul 22 2011: As I understand, Adam suggests to get to the core of the problems "generated" by the fast growing cities. The worst problems are rooted in our contemporary urban infrastructure.

    Having no Self-sufficient sustainability contemporary cities cannot survive on their own. They are extremely vulnerable, because they totally depend on monopolized energy, water or food suppliers. The city is paralyzed if some of these suppliers have serious problems. I see only one way to improve these gigantic urban infrastructures: re-construct every district in a way that every building would have something to offer to a local sustainability plan, such as a solar energy system on a roof, a greenhouse, a garden, along with an advanced waste management and innovative sewer and water systems.
    Energy, food and water major suppliers will be needed in any case, because it's still impossible to create real sustainability in any big city.

    However replacing conventional transportation with small gasless cars and bicycles within each district would help. Cities will need to re-do the existing infrastructure, and road systems, allowing only major streets for commercial delivery and public transportation. However this reconstruction and re-planning will take much longer than 50 or 60 years.

    I keep saying that developing small town-like communities would be like growing healthy cells in a deadly sick body. Eventually a new lifestyle, with a different rhythm and a little more wisdom will take over. Funny as it may seem some new fashion, say, new sporty little cars, beautiful architecture, can create a quick peaceful revolution in our minds and in our whole existence......
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      Jul 22 2011: Simone

      You have captured part of what I am saying. It is my-our contention that inefficient planning for the needs of a new-growing city, up front, you risk locking in a profile of consumption + energy, water, mobility, etc, which is higher than it would be if you found the mechanism to aggregate those things at the first stage of planning development....

      Some of your suggestions for the retrofitting existing cities have their place. Though I would arguethat an effective means of driving a change in perspective-behaviour amongst city-dwellers and citizens would need to happen and we all know - not least policy makers - that creating a change without doing very unpopular things to taxation and costs of living is a tall order.

      I think your vision of smaller, cell like developments, has a place in the fabric of existing, developing cities. However I think the utopian ideal of a world of small, sustainable towns, whilst desireable, is not a solution. As I have mentioned in other threads, the work of Geoffrey West at Santa Fe Institute is compelling on this point. When a city doubles in size its energy needs typically only increase by a factor of 0.8. There are energy economies of scale....

      So I return to the fundamental point of the conversation. An equivalent of a new city of 1 million people a week will be created over the next 30 years. Two-thirds of the infrastructure associated with that growth is yet to be developed. Therefore we have an opportunity to get that development right in places like China, India and rapidly emerging economies.
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        Jul 22 2011: Adam, I think you are spot on with importance of early integrative planning, and the problem of locking into a profile of consumption. A classic example of this problem is Los Angeles which is now so far down the path of Freeway Hell that it is extremely difficult to undo. Given these constraints, one critical goal of early planning should be creative ideas for NOT HAVING TO lock into a profile - In other words, the planning should actively enable diverse, low infrastructure, bottom-up innovation that is inherently adaptive. This type of thinking is emerging in the business world as they try low cost experiments that enable 'external R&D' so that failures happen early and successes to emerge from the pile.

        One model for systemic urban planning that enables bottom up innovation may be natural ecosystems. To quote Gil Friend, we can learn from 3.8 billion years of open source R&D in the natural world for systems-level innovations -- not just design lessons from individual organisms that produce, for example, the best waterproof glue in the world, but lessons from complex adaptive systems that don’t know the meaning of waste.

        On the point of small sustainable towns - one huge issue to deal with there is that lower density living creates potential conflict of land use for food production and protected ecosystems.
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          Jul 22 2011: Thanks Eric and welcome the the conversation.

          I keep reflecting back to earlier thoughts shared in the conversation about the part that city slums play in driving growth of cities. They are, by their nature, relatively unplanned and the types of solutions to the challenges of living in the compact urban environment are unquestionably creative and often lack a complex infrastructure that is hard to unpick as you say....

          How do you think we can achieve the things about slums that we want to capture - density, high levels of economic activity and conscientious conservation, recycling, etc - without the things which clearly make living there undesirable to people once they reach a certain wealth threshold - poor sanitation, associated issues with health, access to power/ water, etc....

          How do you unravel the complexity of these organic settlements?
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        Jul 25 2011: Absolutely, this dynamic balance between integrated planning/infrastructure and decentralized, bottom-up, solutions to local problems is embodied in the slums vs planned eco-cities discussion. There are many urban designers who are exploring what we can learn from slums and favelas for sustainable design, and what elements require more planned infrastructure. Mitchell Joachim, also a TED Fellow, would be a great one to talk with. (check out his 'Urbaneering Brooklyn" project). I'm no expert on this, but I think historically one reason urban planners looked to slums for inspiration is that the over-planned cities risk feeling sterile. So any planning that is explicitly designed to facilitate and encourage organic evolution of locally specific idiosyncratic character will likely also create a more adaptive, resilient, and comlplex sustiainable eco-cities. win-win!

        Unraveling this complexity of organic settlements I think could be achieved by: a) engaging urban designers who specialize in how to make things NOT FEEL planned, and b) systematically mapping the landscape of moving parts to find keystone nuggets of planned "unplanning". I touch on this briefly in my comment below about complexity.

        I'm curious if anyone in this discussion has experience with "planned unplanning"?
        • Jul 25 2011: Eric (Adam), dear discussion colleagues,

          Your question on ,planned unplanning, triggers memory of a saying by Japanese poet.

          "when you do not know the river, you have to cross the river by touching the stones". For me that means - You discover as you go, and learn from each discovery.

          Geoffrey West of Santa Fe ( earlier mentioned by Adam; lectures available via you tube) suggests in one of his lectures that we might want to learn from nature on how to develop ,seemingly, spontaneously the cities we need.

          You suggested earlier in conversation, we need to find area for further research with most impact. Intuitively the suggestion of Geoffrey West to try understand optimum design of nature , eg forest, as a blueprint to a city, seems very promising.

          Thinking through that metaphore i see that eg trees optimise their structure around resources (water, sunlight). A city design should do that as well. Slums do that.

          More thoughts on what we can learn for cities from nature processes on planned unplanning?
        • Jul 26 2011: Eric
          I have not had direct planning experience, just experience with the people who live in those non-regular areas. They could care less about their carbon footprint or ways to make sustainability possible. However, they are creative. They do work hard. They are the ones living on the edge of the chaotic system. They are the ones who will experiment with all kinds of ways to get water, electricity and shelter. Yes, we can learn from them. I do believe though that they need to be helped in very specific ways to be able to obtain that food, water, and shelter.

          Eric R. thanks for the note about West on Youtube. I do want to go see those.
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        Jul 25 2011: Hey, Adam. A New Sustainable Small town is not about small thinking, or small deeds. I'm talking about Slowing Down fast growing cities, by giving people more choices to live and work elsewhere. Moreover, lets do not forget that the old small Florence once produced art, architecture, poetry, science and innovation that feeds our postmodern culture as one of the most powerful and influential sources.
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    Jul 22 2011: hi inthegarden beyondthecave ! Thank you for thinking along. As we're blogging now I trust you're right about an Internet great tool for interacting. Though I do not agree with this economist, T.Harford. In old times it was possible to meet someone "important" in the big city at the party, through friends, or even when they walked down the street. Not any longer. "Important people" are usually hiding behind their security guards.

    And here is another reason why a big city is not a place for creating truly great ideas. The more refined your music, or art, or literature, or philosophy, or scientific work is, the greater you suffer from the stuffy air, big noise and frustration of fighting for every step you make in the city. I lived in NY, downtown, for a few years. Must say that I did not know anyone who's music or art was so noticed by very "important" people, as my work was. I was more than just lucky, but couldn't breathe, barely saw a tiny patch of the skies from my windows....I was so depressed that couldn't use these rare opportunities I was given.

    I live in big cities all my life, and I think these are just perfect for politicians, media, sales, pop-music, loud shows, and loud crowds. The cities are good for Promotion but not for Creating.

    "A man can be himself only so long as he is alone."
    "Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude." wrote a great Arthur Schopenhauer.

    SMALL SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES!! are superb for great, as well as for small but meaningful ideas and innovation, only while we can closely sense the heartbeat of the nature, open skies above, and feel ourselves in it.
    • Jul 24 2011: Hi Simone, I could not have said it any better and agree on much of what you shared pertaining to small rural communities. TED talks have promoted building environmentally green urban areas in China by architects from the U.S. I think more of same must be applied here in the U.S.

      I'm currently conducting an ethnographic research study in Weldon, NC which is a small rural town and I'd love for you to share your thoughts at my blog: Rural Ethnography by Michael Smith at: http;//wndrwhoblogspot.com
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    Jul 21 2011: I appreciate the focus on cities as a lens to view the problem. Megacities are a microcosm of a complex problem. If we can tackle the megacity we can make progress on the small ones too.

    Many interesting points have been covered here, but I wanted to add a bit about Complexity:

    Even though everything is interconnected, NOT everything is equally important. There are many issues on the table for sustainable cities, but ideally a systemic analysis of the problem can help reveal the SUBSET of issues that have the most impact and are actionable.

    Complex systems require experimentation and adaptation – so while we may define the core issues, the most effective strategies will be dynamic experimentation around those issues. Policy is critical for integration and infrastructure, but it must leave space for decentralized, adaptive, locally-appropriate solutions from the bottom up.

    Finally, Urban Complexity can be our ally. The greater the diversity of local skills and resources that comes with high density urban living, the more complex is the local economy, and the more innovative and resilient it can be (see some nice work by Cesar Hidalgo and others).

    “Sustainable Cities” are “Knowledge-Intensive Cities”. I agree with Adam and others who argue that highly integrative planning is critical early on to lock in advantages. If done well, what follows may not be so costly if planning actively enables low-cost experimentation and decentralized open source innovation. Planning must nurture economic complexity that is the backbone of a resilient and adaptive system. This depends on a diverse, educated, and creative population – I propose that the biggest bang for our buck in creating Knowledge Intensive Cities is massive investment in Creative Capacity – Art and Design education in addition to the Sciences and Engineering. This is not just technical problem solving, it’s about asking the right questions and creative mapping of solutions from one domain to another.
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    Jul 20 2011: I just love this, Paul, "too many 'specialists' involved' - we need a new generation of experts.
    Why small communities, and why The Nova Town model should be built in an area outside any city's vicinity? It cannot be built inside any existing development that restricts Sustainable infrastructure and design. (Nova Town's idea of sustainability will be killed if it is forced to use municipal water, electricity and other utilities.)

    There is a great number of superb benefits that small independent sustainable communities/towns have, compared with most existing urban communities.

    Less crime.
    Less traffic and road accidents.
    Diversity of meaningful jobs and businesses, serving real consumers, and their actual needs.
    Better education and more personal attention to students.
    Better healthcare and more attention to patients.
    Fresh organic produce grown on premises.
    Less pollution, and much more...

    When small communities interact among themselves, developed as constellations, they learn to support one another, exchange knowledge, skills and some productions or services.

    When a small community/society has been built based upon very strict political, religious, or any other kind of extreme beliefs and social practicing, they shall respect basic law prohibiting any force applied toward any other communities, or their members.

    Are we against big industries or systems? The answer is No. If such industries and systems provide helpful public services, excluding dictating and manipulating market demand, and if they remain flexible and adjustable within our non-stop changing environment, they can be very supportive in many ways, especially during an emergency or crisis.
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      Jul 21 2011: I have recently read in The Logic of Life (Tim Harford) that the majority of inovative ideas and methods have emerged from large cities because there are a lot more people talking to each other sharing ideas, cross polinating ideas across different disciplines and industries.

      One question is whether the internet can enable people in small communities to overcome their intellectual, social, artistic, and practical isolation to a degree that it would make larger cities less necessary.
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        Jul 22 2011: I agree with You saying " the internet can enable people in small communities to overcome their intellectual, social, artistic, and practical isolation to a degree that it would make larger cities less necessary."

        But do disagree with Tim Harford. Please read my comment above! Thank you.
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        Jul 22 2011: Certainly internet and mobile communications are an enabler of flexible living and working.

        You might be interested in Edward Glaesers book - The Triumph of the City. On the particular point you make about the value of technology, Glaeser contends that the internet has made the spectacular growth of cities like Bangalore possible. But his key point here is that the city becomes more effective as a result of those technologies, but they do not substitute for effective proximity that drives innovation in cities.....

        Today I am working from a small ,300 year old cottage in rural Devon, England. Its enabling me to sustain this conversation and keep track of the other aspects of my job. I would question my ability to sustain effective, productive work on the range of complex issues and challenges associated with my job without the ability to work in and travel to cities.... I make the point only by means of an illustration that technology enables that which we already do - maybe enhances it. But it does not substitute face to face engagement and communications.....
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          Jul 22 2011: Adam, this is a great point. One good example is the geographic concentration of internet and tech giants in the Silicon Valley. It's not just about sharing ideas, but also people working in one company, then splitting off to start something new, and gathering other people they know in the area. And in this case, in theory it all could happen online since many of the products are digital services, but it doesn't.
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          Jul 23 2011: The internet has made it possible for me to work from home quite a bit. But my work does not require a lot of interaction of physical presence at the job site. I was working at home about 4 days per week, but I still needed to go in to the ofiice about once a week to complete work that needed to be done at the office. Now, that I have an intern, I am going to the office almost every day in order to interact with my intern. So, it seems that even a job like mine that allows one to avoid commuting most of the time still ties me to the city.

          I think people congregate in cities because that is where the most work is. In a two income family, it becomes even more difficult to break the ties with a particular city. When we retire, we may have more flexibility, but only if we are willing to move away from our children who will then be tied to the city by their work.

          I like Simone's idea of better planned communities, but I wonder about whether it is plausible to really separate them from cities rather than incorporate them into cities and suburbs. I also am leary of isolating communities to the extent that they become separate tribes unto themselves. The city has helped us to expand empathy. That is one value we should cherish.
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          Jul 23 2011: It could be, but just with the data exchange, not for real job with the hands on the material...maybe its possible that new technologies improve some aspects from the day to day work,
    • Jul 24 2011: Urbanization also concentrates the impact of humans, making a smaller footprint possible, and makes some economies of scale and proximity possible - such as mass transit.
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    Jul 18 2011: PLANNING seems to be a very important consideration. It can have a big impact on the ability of a city to meet the needs of its populace. Some examples:
    - orienting buildings to best capture light and warmth/stay cool (thereby saving energy and increasing comfort) starts with well planned lots which allow buildings to be correctly oriented
    - denser living reduces the average energy use of inhabitants of cities (see the work of Geoffrey West)
    - less dense cities make housing affordability difficult due to shortages of accommodation within a reasonable distance of a city centre (eg London)
    - recycling water through reed beds in waterways has proven effective at cleansing water - and yet is strongly opposed by council planners in most jurisdictions, increasing our reliance on energy intensive water infrastructure

    Consider the wonderful Village Homes in Davis California, where its designers fought doggedly with city planners to develop an outstanding example of low impact, community living - where prices of houses are more than 10% higher than in neighbouring suburbs.

    How can we improve the standard of our town planners - both those assisting developers and those working for municipalities approving developments?
  • Jul 18 2011: Let’s have as much R & D as possible to find most of the sources of energy production which is feasible for every city of the earth.

    Otherwise, you give me energy, I give you food.
  • Jul 17 2011: Dear Adam, dear discussion colleagues,

    May i ask some counterquestions? Is it plausible we are at crossroads - we have technology, but it does not arrive to the people who are now unknowingly building the future megacities?

    And does it mean that out of 660 future megacities of 10 million people only few ,winners, like Singapore or Portland, oregon will arise? The ,winners, who will succesfully manage triangle of energy, water and food needs of their citizens.

    Or does it mean we should rather envision future of ,smaller but beautiful, towns...66.000 communities of 100.000 people? Can only smaller communities sustainably deliver food, water and energy?

    Will winner communities - if i may call them so - be determined by geography, water and fruitfull land access, education, number of interwoven institutions, current economic wealth and high tech knowhow? How does one ensure each community on every continent knows where and how to get access to ingredients to ,best practice, city/town of the future?

    My final, most burning question, how to influence the ,slum, leaders in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Arabic and other communities? They - unknowingly - might in fact be the designers of future, most populated, cities? Do we give them an iphone with access to ,best practice, database, how do we somehow just educate them?

    Forgive me many questions, i hope to learn from you. Just pick the one you think is most urgent or sensible.

    Good dreams to everyone.
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      Jul 18 2011: Erik

      These are important questions.

      The technologies that delivered food, energy and water resources that saw a global population growth for 3-6 billion people will be come under immense pressure to manage the rise to 9 billion.

      Whilst I take the point regarding megacity sustainability vs mid-size towns and small cities the evidence points to a somewhat different picture of consumption in cities as they grow.

      You might be interested In the work of Geoffrey West at Santa Fe who suggests that a city which doubles in size consumes less proportionately than a smaller connurbation.

      I can't see his speech from TED. Global last week but it is a compelling point.

      The question, assuming his analysis is correct, is how you manage that growth to ensure sustainability and in our view early intervention is key to integrate the underlying infrastructure of a city and it's energy, mobility, communications and water needs.

      We don't really do this currently. So how can we?
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        Jul 18 2011: QUOTING Adam "We don't really do this currently. So how can we?"

        I'd say let's start with a better metaphor!

        Bear with me, here a throw :) ;

        A MINDSET PROPOSAL :

        Idea;
        Let's think of a city as a Mango;

        Why?
        Some city developers see a city as an onion with layers... Not very tasteful, ugly and countless layers metaphor. Result of this vision; city development is 1.000 parallel and crossing processes, nobody oversees, costs 'always' skyrocket. City is onion : The cities 'smell', lot's of people crying in (future) slums.

        Some city developers see a city as a piece of rock out of which by hammering and carving a beautiful Michelangelo statue can appear. Although it opened my mind on looking at city development as an art, not a very flexible metaphor; When you hit hard on a rock it breaks, so everybody is carving with a toothbrush, the city won't get anywhere.

        So I propose a Mango, better suggestions welcome!

        HOW :
        In previous post I said I am 'obsessed' with adding a simple duality in development; SURVIVAL and LUXURY.

        Than Adam used the word 'core needs'. I think this is the era where survival and luxury overlap.

        So a TRIOLOGY :

        1. Survival
        2. Core
        3. Luxury

        1. A tough skin; created and maintained by the 4 elements for the peoples and cities physical survival as a whole.
        2. The core, the big pit; People have core needs, these are high end innovations bundled together with the sole purpose to save you time. We can't choose minimalist water and energy use meaning we have manual labor for washing clothes, having to walk by foot everywhere and have no electricity from 8 pm.

        3. Once the skin and the pit are clear, we can think of the edible juicy fruit in between. This is luxury. All the flavors, all the freedom we can imagine.

        To the Mango it does not matter what happens with the edible part. The mango plant is wired for continuity, generational survival through having a tough skin and a core which makes it possible for healthy 'babies' to be born
        • Jul 18 2011: I love mangos. I like your analogy. The "non-regular" communities in Latin America I am familiar with function on the survival level as crazy as it sounds. What we need to do is find the pieces to the puzzle that move them to the core level. Some I have seen in Mexico City get there, but it takes years. So here is my modest type proposal to get to the core:

          1. Housing: provide a way for people to make their own cinderblock. Most of the houses in Mexico City end up there, help them get there.
          2. Water: This is probably the single biggest concern for the future. Perhaps some simple catch-water cisterns, plus the government easing up and providing at least access to public water at the "entrance" to the area.
          3. Food: local tianguis, traveling markets are everywhere in Mexican cities. Can we find a way to let them prosper (sponsors small business people) and allow residents to buy subsidized food on a sliding scale.
          4. Health: Preventative medicine available in a local home. More children die of amoebic dysentery than starvation.

          Can you pass another mango please?
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        Jul 18 2011: to Michael M. Yes! the first mango lover is in.

        'non-regular' that sounds interesting. It sounds something anew can be born there. Not regulated, enslaved, a general public willing to collaborate to get 'survival' organized sustainably.

        Great you proposed, are you seriously interested to get something going in the era you live?

        As a starter;
        1. Housing; make their own cinderblock. a. they need some money to buy resources. Do the slums have a lot of asbestos? Than this is an idea worth looking at; http://www.openideo.com/open/how-might-we-improve-health-care-through-social-business-in-low-income-communities/concepting/asbestos-conversion-plant/ don't know the details but it sure sounds like a great social business.

        In general this OpenIDEO social business challenge in Caldas is worth looking at for Latin America. ; For water, food and health you can catch some great idea's there.
        • Jul 20 2011: Paul
          I lived in Mexico City for almost 20 years. I do not live there now, bu twould love to go back some day.
          There is not much asbestos in the way they construct houses. The construction runs like this (it might take one individual years to get to the finish however)
          Cardboard/wood/tin/anything
          Buy laminated fiberglass for the roof
          Build a concrete foundation with steel rebar on the corners(still perhaps covered with whatever)
          Buy cinderblock and stack it (most time without mortar at first) for walls. This where helping people make their own cinderblock could shorten the construction time. It would also help with other costs. It could get people down the list more quickly.
          Put mortar between the cinderblock reinforced by the rebar.
          Put in a permanent roof
          Put in Windows (maybe even with glass)

          The asbestos recycling though sounds great.

          I will look at the OpenIDEO site.

          "Slum" neighborhoods are called different things in different countries. Some call them asentamientos, some paracaidistas (lit. parachutists), the governments and their agencies dance with them for years, somtimes moving them out, but often times not. Many times they are eventually recognized and given infrastructure support. I like the term, "non-regular" rather than some pejorative term. They do seem to drop in almost overnight in some places.

          As you point at, getting to the core stuff is the single most important move.
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        Jul 28 2011: Michael, if you would look at about 1 km2 of non-regular to become regular as a possible butterfly effect example. What would be the googlemaps zoomed in link? Would be happy if you could post it here :)
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        Jul 31 2011: Just to follow up on the recent comments about West's talk on scaling theory of cities – the lines are interesting, but the scatter is REALLY interesting.

        1. Economies of Scale – the data are pretty solid that there are economies of scale in the ‘metabolism’ of cities: the bigger the city, the less energy use per capita. Metabolic theory in ecology posits that this ‘sub-linear’ ¾ scaling arises out of the fractal nature of the distribution network that delivers energy and resources most efficiently. The key thing to consider is even on those log-log plots which fit the theory nicely, there is still some scatter around the line. And considering these are log-log plots, an apparently small deviation from the line can be quite large in absolute terms. So the scaling theory of cities is useful not for the overall trend (economies of scale) but for identifying the weird outlier cities that are *unusually* efficient, whether they be large or small.

        2. Acceleration of innovation/creativity – the ‘super-linear’ scaling of creativity is very much related to work by Cesar Hidalgo and others on economic complexity. Key here is the modularity of skills/tools/ideas that allow for rapid adaptation in response to unforeseen opportunities or stresses. Again, here where we should be looking is at points that deviate from the line – what is it about those cities that are *unusually* creative and innovative relative to the rest, large or small?

        3. Small or Large cities: There are and will be both, so we should plan for both, and by looking at deviations from the line we can explore whether the same mechanisms are responsible for the unusually efficient small cities as for the large ones (points below the line). If so, then advances in urban planning for small cities can apply to large ones too. If not, where is the break in scale where different mechanisms apply?
    • Jul 18 2011: Whether big or small the key is long-term planning and not just allow the cities and slums to grow haphazardly. This causes inefficient resource allocation, water and sanitary concerns, and ultimately electrication issues. Decision makers must understand and appreciate long-term demographic trends i.e. set forth regulations and enforcement to go with the planning.

      Key evolution of a mega city is how to get from the slums to a sustainable city environment. Are the slums going to be collapsed inward towards the city or simply be improved i.e. do we engage in large scale relocation or improve the slums in situ?
      • Jul 20 2011: Richard
        My own opinion is you help them where they are. They are there, like it or not. See my thoughts above about Paul's "mango" posts. Governments pass all sorts of regulations and sometimes try enforcement. Eventually they help with infrastructure in many cases. Getting the non-regular areas to a place of sound livability concentrating on shelter, water, food, and health concerns is the key I think.
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    Jul 17 2011: I enjoy reading all your comments, it shows that eventually people can contribute their best thoughts into something workable and meaningful. It is what we do at Nova Town - BUILDING AN INTELLIGENT FUTURE OUTSIDE EXISTING INSTITUTIONS. What do you think, How scholars, experts, inventors, innovative artists and laymen can Practically contribute to a newborn daring development of a futuristic society/town?
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      Jul 17 2011: We need some experts. But mostly (young) families and (young) firms planning already to make a lifetime investment in a house or company location.

      My mind opened a bit on the pragmatics of happy hippy dreaming to actually designing the 'perfect city' when I read this; The internet and the tools we have are so powerful that a collective of wannabe homeowners can design together a residential era online, offer it to cities/counties, let them compete for the best Soil and Services offer...

      I believe now designing such a virtual residential era has many advantages for bulk buy and bulk contracts even with the greenest material and energy suppliers.

      It is only time in sparetime to start doing the math and involve wannabees.

      For that you need a few experts, though mostly citizens who plan to buy/build a house or firm anyways.
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        Jul 18 2011: Thank you for your comment, Paul. And thank you for "opening a bit on the pragmatics of happy hippy dreaming to actually designing the 'perfect city' when I read this".

        I's extremely important for us to bring some clarity here -- ( my fault, I have not done it in my previous comments.)

        NOVA TOWN IS NOT UTOPIA. It is ready to become an actual developer, and to face conventional rules and regulations. The permits for most of the innovative technology which we are going to incorporate into our town-model, are already available.

        My comment about "homeowners can design together a residential era online, offer it to cities/counties, let them compete for the best Soil and Services offer..."
        As we all know, even a typical cookie-cutter housing developer, builds a few model-homes first, for letting potential buyers see these actual models, and then choose what they like. Commonly no home buyers can realistically design their homes, especially by using an Internet...

        Unlike housing developers Nova Town designs and builds not just a few futuristic home-models, but a whole interconnected small community, within its innovative infrastructure, road system, services, energy sources, businesses and transportation. It is a Sustainable community within mixed-use zoning.

        I trust, when this one-of-a-kind project is completed, it will become a great inspiration for intelligent housing developers to catch-up.

        Nova Town is a public nonprofit, and therefore we would like to hear from individuals with thoughtful ideas and open minds.

        Nova Town is a living and breathing project.

        Welcome to think with us!
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          Jul 18 2011: Hi Simone,

          ofcourse Nova Town is alive and kicking!

          It's just that in recent 3 years I have been with one toe in residential era development in the Netherlands, and the situation is 'normal' region development is way to complicated due to, in my opinion, to many 'specialists' involved.

          At the same time there are extreem liberal city developments like 30 km from Amsterdam "here is piece of land, do what you want with it, houses, firms, shops, just do it.

          Also a finished project in Utrecht, which was meant to be the state-of-the-art in energy and water supply/management. 10 years later a lot has been replaced with conventional methods.

          I am not skeptical! :) We just have approached the time to not only apply revolutionary thinking, but also to find the most robust ways to do so, so best practice can spread around the world.
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        Jul 20 2011: I just love this, Paul, "too many 'specialists' involved' ! we need a whole new generation of open-minded specialists.
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      Jul 18 2011: I am grateful and glad that this issue is driving a really deep and thoughtful conversation amongst TED followers. I think it reflects the picture that we have been beginning to see in the last few years that cities really will be a place where much resource needs aggregates in the coming decades.

      I think it's clear, not least from Paul's comments immediately above that the extraordinary combination of individual behaviour and society's ability to create a new and potent type of collaboration between policy, business and community groups to prioritise better planning and design.

      Followers of the conversation might enjoy the work which the WWF and Booz undertook on reinventing cities as it points to exactly this issue.

      If analysis on urban infrastructure development is credible, the scale of investment required will amount to several times current global GDP - a figure of $300 trillion is cited for building and running cities in the next 30 years...

      More details are available at http://www.strategy-business.com/search?q=Reinventing+cities&search_query__submit.x=0&search_query__submit.y=0&client=sb&output=xml_no_dtd&proxystylesheet=sb&getfields=date.author.title&site=default_collection&filter=0
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    Jul 17 2011: Our global strategy for energy, water and food are all interconnected with our geopolitics, our global home, hence I think we need to address these issues on a global scale and accelerate our solution strategies.

    Trusting our leaders today with our complex problems also requires an organized information and social network systems that reinforces our democratic principles of justice (accountability) and truth (transparency). We attack our problems in all fronts: (1) Put out crises and avoid devastating risks (2) leaders formulate and implement a just political and economic system (3) leaders transform our industries (4) we the people participate and make our governments work and (5) we directly participate in our individual or collective capacities in transforming our world.

    Technically, on energy, Michio Kaku has talked about the possibility of hot fusion energy in 20 years as is now spearheaded by our international cooperation. People have talked also about wind and ocean energy but I'm not sure if our current science is enough to guarantee that we'll also keep the balance of our ecology. Nuclear energy is not even cost efficient if we include all the costs of maintaining it as Lester Brown estimated.

    That may leave us solar energy and efficient energy storage technologies. Maybe we can develop solar grids in parts of the world that are most exposed to the sun, replace all rooftops and install new rooftops with solar cells that can possibly aggregate a net power contribution to the grid with carbon based power used only as a backup.
  • Jul 16 2011: Hey, shell already has self contained cities called oil rigs. The same design principle for oil rigs can be used to build cities. Shell should build a city around farming. One that recycle wastes from the cities directly into nutrients for plants. A city designed to grow a forest around itself and a farming center on top. A city that will harvest excess raw plant materials and change it into organic molecules for industrial use. A pilot city wouldn't be too expensive. Maybe an old oil rig could be towed to land where it could be recycle into a model city.
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      Jul 17 2011: I think you have hit on something and it could be a really neat idea. And of course in parts of the world there are land rigs of scale that similarly integrate energy/water support systems. This is something we should definitely look into....

      Thanks for the contribution.
      • Jul 17 2011: Didn't know about land rigs. Hmm, what usually happens to these rigs when they get too old for service?
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    Jul 15 2011: Well I'm going to begin with a non constructive comments. a) "who killed the electric car?" b)what's happening in Nigeria is a disaster no one is talking about. Sure you can blame 70% of the spills on terrorists and thieves, but it's still your oil. c) Your nitrogen rich gas is pretty awesome marketing (even my gps had some pre-installed advertisement for it) and your decision in march 2009 to suspend your solar and wind research indefinably made me say hmmmm, BUT kudos to developing a diverse portfolio of alt. fuels.
    .........

    There have been thousands of plans/ schemes for sustainable urban environments, but the reality is that people want clean energy and fuel while investing as little capital as possible. The only way to truly have ACCESSIBLE sustainability is to bring the prohibitive cost down. The issue isn't the places like NYC,LA, Chicago, or some other metropolis in a 1st world country. The issue is in the 2nd and 3rd world countries where the only way people can survive is if it is cheap. They are the multitude that needs the cleaner air and cleaner water. They are the ones that have the empty stomachs and the ones who are in short supply of fresh produce. They are the ones who have their land and other resources exploited to make life in the 1st world countries possible. NYC has enough talent and a pool of resources to be 100% green, but if we enabled poorer cities and sought out solutions in lesser developed areas, i feel that would be more in tune with the "think global, act local" philosophy. A philosophy which can be applied to all levels and stages of cities and environments.

    I'm not a crusader and I like cheap t-shirts like everyone else, and, sure, the 1st world countries have the capabilities to make anything possible, but, if we can do more with less, everyone benefits.

    There's my 2cents to the multi-billion dollar company.
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    Jul 15 2011: Cities should start to talk in terms of SURVIVAL and LUXURY, for all 6.6 billion.

    As 'simple' as that. It is the beginning of a whole new relation with energy/water harvesting, distribution, usage.

    Why?
    If governments just keep on making energy and water statistics/projections, the only thing we do is discuss how to get to the amounts we assume we need. It is the same as giving a company or government department their annual 'allowance'; In the end they spend it all and even spend more to go for the year after for more budget. This counts for energy and water as well.

    This sounds maybe weird, idealistic, and is not yet the golden egg, though I believe thinking dual on SURVIVAL vs LUXURY it is the only way not to let the energy supply and demand demand market run out of control. The same counts for drinking water.


    A city/region/nation/continent simply does not know what the basic survival need is. If demand overwrites tenfold the supply the whole system collapses.

    The price of energy and drinking water will go up, and has the same effect on the poor like wheat for bread; the rich part does not feel it in their wallet as it is a 1% spending raise. For the slums/poor, it was/is a 30%+ spending raise.


    Direct solution :

    Governance, and shell etc should ask themselves;

    1. What is the basic survival need/grid a suburb/city/region/continent/slum needs? What is luxury?
    2. How can modern technologies/innovations make the basic survival need even lower.

    It's adding a simple duality in a until now monotone energy/water dialogue.

    If we start now, by 2050 it will be common sense for the common good for 2 generations already, so by that time we look different at central-suburb-slum supply and demand.

    I believe this simple up front duality has various other humanitarian, civil right, economic, political and global finance flow advantages...
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      Jul 15 2011: You're right to link the supply demand dynamics for energy with water and other resources. It won't surprise anyone that the typical picture for countries with high per capita energy use is high water use.

      In behavioural terms it follows that by moderating demand for one thing you can instil a sense of conservation for other things in the process.

      A couple of people have raised Singapore and it certainly sticks out as one place where the integrated thinking on water and energy has had a major impact.

      But there's promising work in other prices. I was surprised in reading about work in Phenom Penh to discover that the concerted efforts of one civic administration and a particularly belligerent mayor managed to turn a decaying and inefficient water system into something that would rival if not better many European countries....

      I think you are also right to raise the challenge of differentiating core need and 'luxury'. We are not used to being denied universal and unlimited access to water and electricity and take for granted their availability.
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        Jul 16 2011: Adam, thank you for confirming,

        I honestly believe we need to rethink our bindings with the 4 elements;

        fire (energy)
        water (drinking)
        earth (nutrition)
        air (health)

        Thanks for pointing me to Phenom Penh, good to see this extreme best practice. This helps me to further workout the water part in 'survival/core' vs luxury'.
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          Jul 17 2011: Great pleasure Paul...

          I think your taxonomy is spot on.
  • Comment deleted

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      Jul 15 2011: I think you are spot on. Many products that we treat as disposable now are laden with materials which are increasingly scarce. Anything with a battery for starters. I counted four decommissioned cell phones in my store cupboard. I am not incentivised to do anything with them. And the ease/cost implications of replacing them do not I fear encourage me to try hard to keep them in good working order for. Any length of time.
      • Jul 15 2011: Hi Adam,

        The elephant in the room when it comes to third world nations, and, in developed nations around the world as well, is corruption. When a local store owner has to bribe an official to get a license, or a shop owner in New York has to pay for protection, this is a "tax" on the goods and services provided. When you look at Afghanistan with massive, systemic corruption, what economic model of development can exist there without quantifying the hidden "tax" of corruption?

        What role do you see in the role of ethics when it comes to determining an economic model for cities? It seems that any economic model that doesn't factor in the hidden costs of corruption, expecially in some third world countries is, in effect, omitting, a huge drain on any fact-driven model that marginalizes the role corruption plays in "taxation". Have you ever seen quantification of corruption as a tax in any economic model?
  • Jul 15 2011: Hi Adam,

    With the probable growth of category 3-5 hurricanes impacting coastal regions, it would be desirable to investigate the feasibility of weather modification. According to Peter Graneau, 2007, "Hydrogen Bond Energy Drives Hurricanes," Infinite Energy, 13, 74, 7-10 when the winds of the inner wall of the hurricane reach a critical velocity they begin to rip droplets of water off the surface. This releases the hydrogen bonds BETWEEN water molecules, about 10% of the bonding energy between hydrogen and oxygen. This needs to be confirmed on a theoretical level and tested in the field.

    With aggressive cloud seeding of tropical storms to try to get them to "rain out" and the use of non-toxic polymers with a strong affinity to water but mutually repulsive could be spread in advance of hurricanes and form a thin film that might interfere with the uptake of hydrogen bond energy and slow the rate of intensification of storms.
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    Jul 15 2011: Hi Adam,

    I have read the scenarios document. I have to wonder whether both scenarios do not presuppose a rather rosey picture of what will be happening to climate during this period. What will happen as the ice caps are depleted? Take the ice out of a glass of water and it starts warming up much faster. Once the oceans begin to warm more quicly, the atmosphere is sure to follow. I have doubts as to whether we have the luxury of being as lax as eiher scenario allows us to be.

    I notice that twice in the blueprints scenario you indicate that the scenario is not driven by a new global altruism. I doubt that any scenario that can preserve our species can get by without a growing global compassion, for without that, we simply will not act to preserve a future for our species. So long as we do not care for each other, why would we care for future generations? Markets may, to some extent, include an "invisible hand" that spreads economic benefits among those who currently exist, But, the invisible hand simply will not reach down and save thbe future from our unwillingness to do what is necessary.

    I think one aspect of any scenario that will work must include a strong component of developing greater compassion for each other and our decendants.
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      Jul 15 2011: Thanks for your intervention on the Shell Energy Scenarios.

      In addressing human behavioural aspects of change - whether they are related to energy use or more broadly - we've tried to capture two modes, both of which we consider plausible based on historical trends of development.

      You refer to Blueprints - one of those archetypes, and the implicit assumption that change is not driven by altruism. Indeed we would argue that change does not have to be driven purely by the belief that we should do better by one another. Actually the modes of collaboration that come from a Blueprints type world can come from a range of starting points. Care for the environment, a desire to leave a better legacy for later generations being just two. But it also includes the belief that organisations - whether business or government or social groups - will find common cause and work together where it makes sense to do so. In the case of business it could simply be because it makes commercial sense to do so. Typically these collaborations start small and local and become mainstream over time - much like a social activism model would.

      Thinking about a group like the C40 cities movement. This was born out of a small and ever growing group of civic leaders who recognised the value of capturing and sharing best practice to improve the sustainability of their cities. Today that expanded group contains a diverse mix of developed and developing world cities who share common cause.
  • Jul 14 2011: Slum residents must enclose space cheaply. Mass-produced prefab fire-retardant light construction should have built in insulation, aluminum wiring + junction box with suitable outlets built into the walls along with plastic piping for water and sewer; these can be hooked up once electricity, water and sewer become available.
    Until then use light-weight easily-assembled cisterns with plastic gutters built into the roof line and attached to the cistern. Use river water to wash clothes; dispose of grey water separately from human and food wastes. Use water from the cistern to drink, wash fruits, vegetables and dishes.
    Until sewers are available use dry toilets for human waste and food scraps. The receptacle base should be on tracks, slide out and easily attached to an ergonomic backpack. This can then be carried to a sand-lined covered communal pit where methane recovery may be possible. The partially dried waste can then be mixed with coal, burned and used to generate electricity.
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      Jul 15 2011: Richard - can I thank you for this contribution. I think it shows the sort of joined up thinking which is needed and we are trying to get to with this discussion.

      I am intrigued by slums as their prevelance will only increase over time. It is incumbent on us to rethink how we engage with these enormous communities that develop and to some extent thrive (albeit in ways that we judge sub-optimal from a development point of view)

      Some really interesting work, particularly in parts of Latin America, to harness the power of the slums from an economic development perspective is ongoing. And it begins with a shift in attitude on the part of policy makers towards the slums which are too often seen as noxious appendages of cities.

      On an issue like waste management and the potential for creating more energy from the waste of cities I think slums represent a very important set of behaviours that we really haven't yet assimilated into mainstream thinking. To a large extent the 'wealth' in many slums comes from the struggle to utilise and recycle as much as possible and find ever more creative ways of extracting value frmo that which many of us all too readily consider to be disposable.
      • Jul 15 2011: Adam
        There is certainly the making do that is a part of that life in most non-regular communities. What many people do not understand however, is how hard many of those people work to improve their condition bit by bit. The cardboard roof becomes lamina, the makeshift walls are replaced by stacked cinder blocks, oftentimes at first without mortar. All of this as they try to improve their own living conditions.

        What we have to do to help harness that power is find ways to facilitate that "makeshiftedness" into a quality of life. Their "economic development" might be sub-optimal from our perspective, but many of these people, old subsistence farmers, have 3-4 times more cash a month than many did in a year on the ejido.

        If there are ways to get the water, food, health care and energy to them, and whatever governments entities can also learn to recognize the real wealth that is there, we can make those communities something very different.
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    Jul 14 2011: Want to add - commercial airports, thoughtful interstate road systems, emergency hospitals, some chain-stores and auto serves located down major interstate commutes (not within small town-communities) are still extremely important, especially in cases of emergency or crisis. We still need them.

    www.novatownsite.org
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    Jul 14 2011: Your question is crucially important, Adam.

    This is obvious for all of us that in spite of the time we spend on driving to different places due to insufficient, confusing urban infrastructures, and in spite of that this driving takes away a lot from our productive life, people drive more, and more! There are many explanations why it is happening. Here is one of them. We often see ghostlike new housing developments all over the USA which are built for residential purposes only. No local restaurants, bakeries, small stores, galleries or schools are allowed. Residents are forced to drive for miles to get to work or to get to some cookie-cutter-shopping-malls.

    Our Nova Town non-profit works on innovative designs to build an actual “First Futuristic Town in America”. In the first place, its infrastructure is to serve its own denizens, therefore its streets are mainly designed for pedestrians, and slow noncommercial, non-fossil, very compact vehicles and bicycles.

    Located at the outer skirt of the town is the town’s public garage facility for some commercial delivery transportation and for the towners and visitors private cars. Without disturbing the town this public garage exits to a nearby commercial road.

    If we restore the charm and cultural originality as well as sound traditions of a small old town rooted in meaningful local lifestyle, and empower its micro-systems with advanced technology and innovation supporting its sustainability, such as maintaining clean water, providing advanced waste and sewage systems...etc., we have a true breakthrough in our hands.

    When small town-like communities become sustainable the need in this intense everyday-driving will be noticeably reduced.

    This American model-town can be a great inspiration for developing new sustainable communities around the globe, encouraging true innovation and cultural diversity, local production, new diverse financial and educational systems.
    • Jul 14 2011: Simone
      I do not want to seem hostile, and I'm not really, but I do want to hear how do you translate what you are doing to rural Mexico or Guatemala? How does that sort of lifestyle translate to any less developed country? All of those things have some sort of relevance for some people in the US and Europe perhaps, but does it solve the problems of other countries? Or even, does it solve problems of small US communities being encroached on by bigger urban centers?
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        Jul 14 2011: Our overpopulated industrial cities have specific problems that are very different from the problems from which a poor rural population suffers. To believe that a poor hungry part of the world shall follow our over 100-years-old industrial revolution is a no-go idea.

        Again, creating small sustainable micro-economy based on natural, local resources and innovation within any climate and cultural roots, brings an outstanding solution to major economic and environment problems.

        People will have a great opportunity to support themselves within their own environment and culture.

        The whole point is that this model can work within any country, with practically any culture, because its small systems are flexible and adjustable.

        Creating diverse Micro-systems is the key to revive sound local production, micro financing, better education, and even healthcare.

        Thanks for your question, Michael.
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          Jul 18 2011: My understanding is that this model is meant for new construction. What about the existing cities? you can't just demolish what doesn't work (not that you suggested that) and you can't just poo-poo them away.
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        Jul 15 2011: I agree with much of what Michael is saying above. In fact, I think it is our own ethnocentricity that gets in the way of solving such problems. We should be looking at the countries that are actually dealing with these issues, China and India for example to see the ways that they are sorting the problems out, rather than attempting to impose our ideas. We should be looking at countries with greater population densiities for their trial and error solutions and just as importantly, the ways that they have failed so that we do not repeat the errors and maximize our chances of better outcomes.
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          Jul 17 2011: Hi Debra,

          you are absolutely right. I am following a bit the energy and other resources challenges in India/Pakistan.

          I was recently told that if 'we' can balance out India in terms of energy supply and demand, we solved it for the world. India, because in many ways it is a massive continent dealing with a lot of things internally, like on an island.
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      Jul 15 2011: Simone

      The Nova town project sounds really interesting. Is the somewhere I can go to read more on it?

      In the portrait you paint I was particularly struck on the points relating to efforts to aggregate commercial vehicle activities in the outer reaches of the settlements. We are seeing an increasing trend towards these types of activities. In China Shell is in involved in one such project which aims to cut dramatically the presence of heavy goods vehicles on the city streets and target reductions in local emissions as well as reduce vehicle congestion, improve road safety and save drivers some of the fuel costs of delivering to the city centre (often in trucks that are only fractionally full)

      I would be keen to hear more about any other projects of this kind if people know about them.

      Thanks
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        Jul 17 2011: I'm grateful for your interest, Adam. I'm the founder of the Nova Town non-profit organization, 501(c)3. Nova Town's main goal is to reinvent a concept of the notorious urban infrastructure, in which we are trapped not only economically, but physically and psychologically.
        We are aimed to build a futuristic town model that will serve as an inspiration and possible standard for other communities around the world. I'd like to see that Nova Town will become known as the home of unique solutions to global economic, environmental, educational, health and ethical problems, based on a peaceful international collaboration. Nova Town enchanting, village-like community, and its advanced lifestyle will be developed based upon practicing the most inspirational sound ideas and wisdom, from antiquity to postmodern time. You are welcome
        to visit our website: WWW.NOVATOWNSITE.ORG/NOVA-TOWN (Click "NOVA TOWN" navigation button)
        e-mail: info@novatownsite.org

        Best Regards from Nova Town,
        Vera Nova /Simone/

        P.S. When I first introduced my project to my future directors and volunteers they named it "Nova Town" - "Nova" does not mean my name.
  • Jul 14 2011: Re. the second question on how can better urban infrastructure be achieved, an earlier WWF report on 'Re-inventing the City' highlighted the importance of good upfront design. The vast bulk of capital spend in cities happens in the early infrastructure build out, and then locks in less efficient/more polluting infrastructure (e.g. power production) for many years. The key therefore is to design right 'first time'.

    The challenge is that many of the future growth cities are at the smaller end of the size spectrum right now, with correspondingly less resources to spend on good design.

    What examples have people commenting on this conversation seen re. good design approaches/collaboration models etc. to help those smaller cities design right first time?
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    Jul 14 2011: Firstly I too must give due praise to Adam and Shell for showing a different side of Big Oil than I'm used to.

    Secondly we need to harness only approximately 1% of the sunlight that falls on our planet to serve all our energy needs. Oil is running out, the sun will be around for quite some time still. With information technology improving at an exponential rate we could see solar power being more cost effective than oil in 8 years according to futurist Ray Kurzweil. If you have not read his book "The singularity is near" I highly recommend it.
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      Jul 14 2011: You're right to point out the good progress on solar pv energy. When we look at how the renewables have performed based on expectations it's much better news for solar than all of the others.

      Even so there is still the issue of where the sun shines and how you can effectively transport that generated power over distances without huge losses and inefficiencies.

      The progress will inevitably mean th costs will become more favourable over time.

      We've met and talked to some fascinating scientists and seen new technologies on show at Ted. There's no shortage of people looking at this.

      It's interesting to consider how effectively a business could operate in cities with an integrated network of rooftop solar cells on buildings and homes. Already we are seeing active procurement of access to roves in favourable urban locations.

      Thanks for the comments and keep in touch
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    Jul 14 2011: I feel happy to see big business involving the community though the internet; I am keen to give my 2 cents to Adam so here goes...
    @Sustainable Energy
    Bloom Energy have created a Bloom Box which Ebay, Google, FedEx and over 15 other companies
    (http://bloomenergy.com/customers/) (reference.)
    have been testing for, i think over a year now. These boxes turn oxygen into energy; are made from SAND and hopes to have one power a home for less than $3000 in the next 10 years.
    @Clean water
    I hope humanity can care enough to give this to us all; clean water is for everyone and all life on the planet. I am glad i drink clean water.
    @cities
    Are you so sure we will all live in cities? wouldn't more towns less cities be more functional; brings a sense of community for the individual
  • Jul 14 2011: We need new units of energy to really understand what constitutes "green" technology. Using Q for heat the first unit would be Q1. This is the amount of energy in kilocalories to transport one kilogram of mass one kilometer along a level track against known resistance. Q2 is the amount of carbon in moles to transport one kilogram one kilometer along a level surface with known resistance. Q3 is the amount of energy it takes to transport one kilocalorie of energy/kilometer. Q4 is the cost of transportation of one kilocalorie/kilometer. This allows a direct comparison of shipping oil or liquid hydrogen by pipeline, coal by barge and natural gas by tanker.

    The most important number of all is E*. This stands for the holistic carbon cost/kilometer in Euros. We need this to be able to compare a Prius to a Volt to a Saturn; my Saturn which gets close to 40 miles to the gallon. Now compare this to Volt. 70% of our electricity today is by coal or natural gas. By 2035 it will be 60%. Thermal plants are 40% efficient. Line losses account for several more percent. Lithium-ion batteries have known efficiency and recharge issues. Converting electricity to the drive train adds more loss.

    Next follow the cars from mining the raw materials to ultimate disposal of the carcass. Add these together and you get E*. This can be used to compare apples to apples so that you know the true carbon footprint and cost of every vehicle.
  • Jul 14 2011: I think,
    1. considerate awareness;
    2. conscientiousness and
    3. conscious living
    can shape a better future for the world.
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    Jul 14 2011: .
    I don't really have a contribution to make, just an observation and an affirmation of the importance of this highly complex topic.

    I live and work in Kinshasa, Africa's second biggest city, with 10 million inhabitants, and growing in a stellar way. An image of a megacity of the future?

    This city has no planning whatsoever. 90% of it consists of slums. Not even an architecture to speak of. But still, it's a city - organically grown, at that.

    The points raised by Mr Newton and Shell are too important. I cannot begin to imagine how a city like Kinshasa can ever become green or sustainable (at the time of the Belgians, this city was called "Kin la belle" (Kin the beautiful), today it's known as "Kin la poubelle" (Kin the dirtbin), because everything is "dirty" (infrastructures, from roads to water to housing to services).

    One advantage of a slum-megacity like Kinshasa is that the ecological footprint of its inhabitants is very low. And almost all interventions are welcomed (e.g. better housing, better infrastructure, access to water, etc...). So this opens scope for radical planning and action, without too much resistance from the Kinois.

    But who's going to do this? Where's the money? Who wants to plan together with poor Congolese people who have few industrial, technical and scientific capacities?

    Congo has oil. Perhaps it should create an Oil Fund, like Norway did, to secure and invest in a sustainable urban future?
  • Jul 14 2011: There is incredible technology "below" the radar. Just check out the firestorm spark plug---using a unique spark plug design Robert Krupa has discovered a way to achieve a unique plasma in the engines of cars that greatly increases horsepower, allows automotive engineers to "lean" out the mixture to 22:1 instead of 14:1 without knocking, idle at 250 rpm, last forever, and eliminate the need for the catalytic converter, smog pump, etc. all the while greatly increasing gas mileage of cars.
  • Jul 14 2011: Get politicians who can see beyond the next election cycle. Governor Rockefeller had real vision; you may not like condemning properties for the greater good, but destroying the Albany Country Club to create State University of New York Albany created an intellectual dynamo. Also Rockefeller displaced residents in Albany to create the South Mall, site of the New York State Museum, great cultural events and enjoyment of countless visitors.

    I watched as a $1 billion dollar pumped storage project was held up and then shut down because environmentalists were able to couch the argument as the environment versus the economy. In actually this was the most environmentally benign project ever built with far more benefits to the environment than detriments to the environment.

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA---1969) must be modified. Congress never intended NEPA to be used as a club to shut down every major project impacting on the environment. It's all about balance. Watch what happens to NEPA when the first Obama infrastructure project is held up because of it.
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      Jul 14 2011: In the drive to moderate energy consumption in cities, the way we retrofit or replace existing building stock is of course something that causes controversy. The lobby that resists change on cultural/heritage grounds or cites environmental blockers to transformation can be very vocal.

      I have made the point about better integrating planning and design and you do see some remarkable projects undertaken to preserve the best whilst modernising and updating infrastructure for the needs of modern city life... Look at something like the massive regeneration of an area like Kings Cross in London linking the needs of the built environment with transit infrastructure. In this case it's linked to the international rail hub and of course the London 2012 Olympic development. That's just one example I am famliar with and others will know of their own.
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        Jul 14 2011: Richard, you raise a good point. For cities especially, amenity is important. Our research shows that to retain the talent that a city needs to keep innovative and vibrant (as well as economically healthy), the amenity of a city needs to be maintained and improved. This includes infrastructure such as transport links (we all hate it when the train is crowded) as well as parks, gardens and the natural environment. So in a city context development vs environment is a constant balancing act. We have all seen cities decline when they become an awful place to live; at some point the benefits of living there are outweighed by the conditions.
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    Jul 14 2011: As far as the energy goes, nuclear has to be in place, at least for a long time now. Though it is expensive to build a plant and dispose of the material, nuclear needs to provide the minimal usage of energy for the city so there are no black outs. Also a plus is that it nuclear directly does not have carbon emissions, the mining for the uranium ore is what causes the carbon emissions.
    Wind energy and solar energy is at the grace of the weather, aka it isn't dispatchable. The key to harnessing these energy sources is to store it. Storages systems include hydro-pump reservoirs, thermal storage, pressure reservoirs, etc.
    With the coming dominance of wind, solar, and hydro electricity (green energies), the implementation of these storage systems will have to required by every infrastructure. Also cities will have to create large storage systems to provide to the whole grid.
    As technology evolves, becomes more efficient, and more reliable, these could potentially take over nuclear and coal. As this point, we will be a society that runs on pure green clean electricity.
    So I say invest in electricity storage systems, and try to figure out how to make them more efficient, more dispatchable, higher capacity, and of course cheaper. This will be the key to becoming a society that runs on 100 percent green energy sources.
    As far as everything else goes, that is at the prejudice of the bureaucrats.
  • Jul 14 2011: Clearly the design of the city is critical to its sustainability. Monolithic cities ringed by large coal-burning power stations is probably not what we want but what we will have if there isn't effective design.

    Satellite cities with local infrastructure is probably a better model with multi-modal supply including as much sustainable energy as can be generated in the locale.

    Is it possible to move entirely to rooftop thermal solar and block-level wind if the design is done properly? Can building-level thermal storage replace the need for a base load in such a scenario? If you can design that you can free us from both coal and nuclear. How about it?
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      Jul 14 2011: I think you are right to raise integrated design as a key issue. What we have seen is the evolution of cities in the industrial era. What we're looking at now is a 40 year revolution in urban development... Just look at the Chinese commitment to create almost 50 million new low cost city homes in the next 5 years.

      Daunting....! But looked at a different way, if you do find the right collaborations, supported with policy, what's to say that a ground up SIM-city approach to rapid urban development is so far fetched.

      On smaller, distributed generation, of course you'd expect them to play a part. Our view is that modern gas fired power generation alongside that will address real concerns over supply intermittency.

      We also have to innovate in the combined heat and power technologies and district heating to combat the hues energy losses we see today....
      • Jul 14 2011: Adam,

        thanks for your reply.

        Gas still ties us to a non-renewable resource. How long will the reserves last at the forecast rates of growth? It's also a carbon emitter. How do you 'green' it?
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    Jul 14 2011: Creating/developing new sustainable Small communities, supported by small divers sound businesses such as local bakeries, restaurants, theaters, organic farming, local healthcare and small schools ----- IS the answer.

    Major road systems with emergency services and commercial shopping will serve as a supportive and interconnecting system. (If we will Keep developing urban Monstrosity after the outdated "modern" concepts established by major cities, we will lead our society backwards, not into the future, but into our past with recycling disasters.) Our society desperately needs to change our crazy lifestyle and recycling mentality for the better.

    Nova Town is a unique futuristic model town to inspire soundly thinking people to collaborate on designing this outstanding project. We welcome people with creative workable ideas to join us. www.novatownsite.org
    Can you picture your future in its best possible way?
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      Jul 14 2011: The picture you paint is an attractive one. I guess my only challenge is how you constrain personal behaviours to the extent that this approach really is new and transformative. I would be concerned that the model you outline risked exacerbating a problem seen acutely in the Us today which is that even with local services in smaller nuclear settlements, the aspiration for mobility is realised through dominance of the car...

      How do you avoid that?
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    Jul 14 2011: Here are some of the ideas that I thought had potential when looking to reduce my utility bills.

    Phase change materials: Think of how making ice is a way of storing cool temperature. The ice does not let the surrounding area warm up until the ice is melted. The temperature storage actually works at each phase change, and since different materials change phases at different temperatures, there are a wide variety of materials that have been developed for purposes of energy (heat) storage (or cold storage). When these are combined with solar heat collection (or night time coolness collection) they provide a means for storage of energy from renewable sources.

    Hybrid photovoltaic and solar heat collection systems: There are a small numer of systems that combine photovoltaic panels with heat collectors that collect the heat which the solar panels need to have flushed away anyway and then uses that heat for solar hot water heating and space heating. ("Solar Drums" are an example). While solar panels alone only reach around 20% efficiency, the hybrid systems reportedly have over 50% efficiency.

    Combining solar water heating with phase change materials in something like a Rotex water tank: The Rotex tank is filled with water that has been heated in solar heat collectors. Then the household water is heated as it runs through a coil emersed in the solar heated water. Phase change materials manufacturers suggest putting phase change materials into the solar heated water to greatly increase the tank's heat storage capacity. In a Rotex type tank, the household water would not be exposed to the phase change materials.

    Geothermal heat pump systems.

    Smart insulating window coverings (and even windows) which would be automatically controlled to open and close whenever doing so would reduce use of heating and cooling systems.

    Drain heat recovery systems: unfortunately, the price is too high. But they probably could be sold at a much more reasonable price.

    Passive solar constr.
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    Jul 14 2011: Adam,
    I can see from your "areas of expertise" that you're skilled in "Scenario Planning, Reputation Management, Politics (better than any idiot in parliament)". Now, I think it's great that you are involved in politics and know how to Maintain a Reputation and I think this initiative that Shell has taken to make a better world is a great one...

    Now I'm wondering, is there any link to Shell that you could share that's maybe a bit more elaborate then the mere 2000 character limit we have here on TED? Any additional info would be great!

    Thank you for being you!
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      Jul 14 2011: There's lots of information about the work of the Shell Scenario team on the main company website www.shell.com/scenarios.

      This includes links through to the most recent publication - Signals and Signposts - which considers a range of impacts stemming from the financial crisis and leading to a state we term the era of volatile transition.....

      I am more than happy to answer any other questions relating to this or indeed create other conversations covering points of interest to the TED community.
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      Jul 14 2011: Thanks Ed, we'll be sure to check this out. Good luck with the contract.
  • Jul 13 2011: Adam,

    Re. your last question on which governance mechanisms might effectively support city development, our research suggests that the most successful cities share a number of common characteristics:
    1. Stable & consistent governments: e.g. consistent leaders/parties with established authority in one or few leaders
    2. Access to budget & capital: where the city government have direct control of large budgets or access to capital
    3. Well established urban planning organisations to co-ordinate and oversee city development

    Interesting to note that Portland, Oregon is often highlighted in the literature as a leading city example in this space and is one of the few US cities which still has a commission-based form of city government.

    What do others think? Is this completely wrong? Are there good counter examples out there?
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    Jul 13 2011: It occurs to me that right now cities are not very efficient - and in some cases downright user unfriendly. Why don't cities plant food trees? Why do cities plant plane trees that trigger hayfever and asthma? Why are fossil fuel powered mowers driven by expensive labour used to mow lawns when sheep can do it - providing wool, milk (and meat!)? Why is the fastest way to get across London on a bicycle?

    Imagine if we could think about multi-system optimisation in a city. eg using waste heat from a factory for district heating or cooling.

    This thinking is only beginning to be explored and has a long way to go. In many ways we can learn from the past. But we also need to look to the future where we can employ new technologies like the internet and concepts like Janine Benyus' biomimicry to create better cities. Citycar and similar car sharing schemes are one example. Transport for London's Journey Planner has all transport modes linked up to tell you the quickest way to get to your destination. Such ideas present opportunities for investors and convenience/$ savings for the rest of us.
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      Jul 14 2011: Food for though Greg - thanks for the contributions....

      On your multiple-system optimisation point, what evidence is there of the savings, both $$$$$ and environmental, that can be realised in taking such an approach?
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        Jul 14 2011: Adam

        We have been helping clients around the world with just this issue - "showing them the money". With energy prices rising quickly due to supply issues and the internalisation of the cost of carbon, this gets easier every week.

        For example, for one of our clients we did an analysis of their petrochemicals plant and identified a saving of 10% of their energy bills (NPV $150M and IRR15%) through site-wide cascading of heat. This is also a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions - 1Mt CO2 per annum.

        As a second example, we have recently helped a Middle Eastern city to calculate the financial case for district cooling using waste heat. This has economic and environmental benefits.

        Interestingly, the difficult part is not identifying the savings. You get a feel for it pretty quickly and many of the ideas are not new. The hard part is calculating the financial savings, which is where we have developed some strong expertise.
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          Jul 14 2011: And creating the mechanisms for financing one imagines?
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        Jul 14 2011: Yes Adam you are right although there are different triggers needed for different types of hidden value.

        Some of them just require the business case to be developed and the investment can follow. As noted above, building this business case can be tricky. Please see some thoughts on how to express the economics in a compelling way here: http://drgreglavery.wordpress.com/erics-replacing-maccs/

        Other opportunities need some fundamental regulatory change - which, for example, the UK government is aiming to do regarding emissions through Electricity Market Reform (white paper released on Tuesday). See: http://drgreglavery.wordpress.com/electricity-market-reform-white-paper-demonstrates-good-progress/

        And, as you say, others require new business models including innovative financing, such as the PACE funding proposed by the UK's Green Deal.

        Certainly it is an exciting space right now with a lot of innovation occurring and some surprisingly good investment opportunities emerging.
  • Jul 13 2011: Adam, co-discussion colleagues,

    Part of the answer to ensuring ,energy wise cities, might be having a critical number of interwoven institutions, in which cities citizens network with each other and get influenced on what they will do for and with their cities. A simple example could be instituting Facebook/Google plus kind of ,city circles, to exchange ideas on wisening your city.

    If the sufficientnnumber of cities people have the right mental frame, they will decide earlier and more wisely on future city design, from their area of expertise.

    The idea that having interwoven institutions is critical for economic success is not new. I recommend reading John Kays ,Culture and Prosperity: The Truth About Markets - Why Some Nations Are Rich but Most Remain Poor,.
    • Jul 13 2011: Erik,

      This resonates very strongly with some of our research findings in the cities space. As the briefing note showed, much of the growth in population will come from cities in developing economies, including smaller cities -- these cities face an interesting conundrum in that they are the prime place to ensure that good urban design is put in place (esp. given technology lock-in effects), whilst at the same time often being the least able to afford it.

      Shared institutions around urban design, for different city types could be a major difference maker
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      Jul 14 2011: Erik. I think you hit on a key point here... It's interesting the extent to which we assume that social networking predominantly serves to narrow the distance between ourselves and our network. Actually the way in which sites like Facebook and Twitter reinforce the relationships and associations that we forge in the real world and help facilitate those interactions might be underplayed.
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    Jul 13 2011: Building Small communities as futuristic Sustainable societies, within innovative infrastructure and diverse sources of energy to serve our revised needs, is what we are aiming to realize.

    WWW.NOVATOWNSITE.ORG non-profit organization
    is to reinvent the old concept of the "futuristic world" based on outdated robotic "Neopolis" ideas that are already over 100 years old.

    However we believe that relatively independent small communities will need to interact with major road systems that would serve as an important supportive commute. Re-designing major road systems will be unavoidable.

    Would such new sustainable communities be able to provide our society with meaningful services and new and traditional occupations, advanced education and great ideas, as we strive to understand and discover modern and ancient wisdom about our existence in whole?

    Anyway, yes, large industries which are not very flexible adjusting to non-stop world changes and new market demand, have to find some effective ways to re-invent themselves. Not fights but creative collaboration is the key.
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    Jul 13 2011: Adam, thank you for pointing out the traits that ALL cities share. Do you think all cities have in common some aspect of energy infrastructure? If so that would be a terrific place to start.

    I think another issue being overlooked is that there is no common agreement on what differentiates a city from a town.
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      Jul 13 2011: They share a tendency to use more energy as wealth increases...

      As for common infrastructure that's more complicated as you don't begin at a common starting point. Some cities have antiquated energy systems and try to retro-fit with new kit.

      Of course another point is that whether you are talking about traditional energy forms or renewables resources between places differ. Typically cities reflect the energy mix of their country. If coal is available they use coal.

      Countries without their own resources look to import or develop technologies like nuclear or renewables more rapidly.

      It's a mixed picture.

      BUT a KEY point. energy Infrastructure lasts, maybe 20- 30 years on average. So if you invest in coal fired generation now, you're still going to be burning coal in 2040.....
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        Jul 13 2011: So do you think it will be possible to create a future where every city has reliable energy, clean water and enough to eat until there is some universal energy source (or resource)?
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          Jul 13 2011: So I think the key is how you creat consortiums of people who do different bits of city development and find a way to fund them and make it work so early and integrate development can work. Particularly in countries which are experiencing rapid urban development and economic growth - China and India but lots of other parts of Asia, Sub Saharan Africa and Latin America too
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        Jul 13 2011: You could create a platform for community initiatives through Shell. Sponsor thinktanks, fund great ideas, ect. These could be organized in a similar way to TEDx events. I'm not doing a very good job explaining this the way it is in my head.

        Think ShellxMumbai, ShellxDakar. Let the people be accountable for ideas about energy in their city, and let Shell help them bridge certain obstacles (being heard, being funded, ect.)

        Ugh, I just can't get this out how I want it to sound.
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    Jul 13 2011: Shell should first try to create a partnership with Bio Fuel System and sends the CO2 emissions from it's refineries to feed the micro-seaweed used in the generation of Blue Petroleum. This could be done by pipelines and the installations of BFS can be placed nearby any factory that emits large proportion of CO2.

    About the cities of the future, you're right it's about compact cities with high population density. Cities of today or not efficient because they are not compacted enough. Architects are going to have to find ways to built 1 main building or many kilometers long and large, up to 3 to 5 kilometers high, enough to inhabit 10 millions or so of population in a very small zone, so buildings have to be higher, and major cities that spreads on many many miles squares have to go, and be replaced by massive buildings that contains all the commodity a city possess, homes, restaurants, hospitals, schools, shops, interior entertainments, and outside the cities there would be zones or exterior entertainments, parks and farther we would find the agricultural zones, wilds, and industrial zones coupled with BFS Blue Petroleum factories.

    Cities would look like the X Seed City project, but even this project isn't efficient enough, it doesn't contain enough population for it's size, but building cities won't look like the squarish sky scrapers we have today, they would have to be more futuristic looking and very luxurious. And they might cost many hundreds of billions of dollar each to build. If they contain only 10 million population each, we would need 700 building cities for 7 billions of world population. 700 cities total of maybe 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers by 4 kilometers high.

    Let's say they would cost 400 billions to build, that would cost 280 trillions to build. Still a problem remain, we lack the international cooperation to build all this, the investors and about half through, need more synthetic biology, more AI robots, more nanotech, we're not there yet.
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    Jul 13 2011: Hi Adam, In my MBA which I completed a couple of years ago, I became familar with the Shell future scenarios. They really are one of the most amazing business tools and planning techniques I have ever encountered. Are you hoping that TEDsters will provide more insights than you normally get around the company table? It certainly is a great community from which to draw ideas.
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      Jul 13 2011: Hi Debra.... The Shell scenarios really have become the bedrock of the MBA strategy module :)

      A huge part of developing new insights and future assessments of how the world looks - whether that's in energy, economic, political or behavioural fields - involves taking our ideas to people in the outside world. We have a network of several hundred folks around the world.

      As for TED, the richness of the discussions and the kinds of ideas that gather at places like TED is proving really powerful. We've engaged with fascinating people like Johan Rockstrum from Stockholm Resilience on his planetary boundaries work and Eric Berlow from Berkley on using systems modelling to handle complexity around the relationships between energy, food and water.

      And now on cities, it's clear that all the strategist, planners, designers and visionaries that come to TED (we are in Edinburgh this week at TED Global) have lots of ideas on how to manage city development in a more sustainable way....

      So yes - we are engaging and really loving it.......

      More information on www.shell.com/TED or www.shell.com/scenarios
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        Jul 13 2011: Thanks for the information Adam. I think that expanding the thinking to include a wider range of opinions would be very valuable. I am concerned about the use of biofuels and the way they are driving up food prices world wide. I wonder how I might get a chance to have some real input and get a chance to be part of the Shell discussions?
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          Jul 13 2011: Feel free to drop a line to me. Adam.Newton@shell.com
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        Jul 13 2011: Thanks! I will.
      • Jul 13 2011: One of the critical improvements in the new cities is to keep storm sewers and waste lines separate. Keeping the sewage out of the drinking water for the slums is Civil Engineering 101.
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          Jul 14 2011: A really excellent point. I recently visited Singapore and the four national taps strategy for their water management plays heavily on exactly this point so thank for raising.
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    Jul 13 2011: The only way for you to find that out is to send people down there, in the trenches, and determine what is wrong with each city. There is no universal formula for reliable energy, clean water and enough to eat because of countless variables. If you think the same plan can be applied to Dehli and Addis Ababa you're off your rocker.

    Get out there and see for yourself what needs to happen, and make it happen. Because you are one of the few people out there with the power to make a difference. Recognize that, and be so grateful.
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      Jul 13 2011: Thanks for your comments.... It's an interesting challenge for big business whose business models are typically built around economies of scale that come from the notion of designing one and building many.... But what about the things that are common to all cities... On energy denser cities are more energy efficient by and large. But the wealthier people get the less they appear to want to live in dense urban environments....
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        Jul 13 2011: Interesting point. Does EVERY city on Earth really have a common denominator though? Of course the model of "designing one and building many" is more cost-effective but if your philanthropic efforts are fueled by anything other than a genuine desire to do good you will crash and burn. Like I said, there is no universal model to transform every city on Earth into a healthy one.
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          Jul 13 2011: Well all cities share a few common features. They exist because there is an economic driver or set of drivers (close to the sea, surrounded by hills to protect it, or such like) cities grow when people recognise the advantage and invest and that brings in the workforce to support economic growth and that cycle continues repeating over and over....
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          Jul 13 2011: On your point about philanthropy...

          6.5 billion of us will live in cities in 2050 and they will account for over 80% of the emissions produced. They will transform the world. And how we manage the way those cities are built will determine whether cities add to already tough challenges for the planet or are a part of the solution.

          We don't have the answers yet.... And we are keen to understand what TED and others think.
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        Jul 14 2011: And I think that's great to see. Keep up the good work!
    • Jul 13 2011: Some great ideas here -- reality probably sits somewhere in the middle.

      In some of our work with WWF, one of the key factors that came out was that cities that seem to be successful at addressing energy usage/CO2 emissions issues ensure that their approaches are adapted to local situations and available resources.

      On the other hand, the briefing note that Shell presented mentions six city archetypes with common characteristics re. energy usage.

      Local adaptation will likely be required, but off the back of a small number of starting points for discussion.
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        Jul 14 2011: Nick, at our roundtable discussion yesterday, the human/psychological dynamics of city living were a really strong focus. We also heard from Geoffrey West from Santa Fe whose work on cities appeared to consider the dynamics related to urban growth to be more along to living organisms, how they grow and use resources...

        Is there a danger in your view of over simplifying the picture through trying to create types or rules? A lot of comments here point to the utter uniqueness of individual cities and the need to treat as individuals accordingly?
        • Jul 14 2011: Adam, a good question which gets to the heart of how to prioritise activity for maximum impact. One extreme hypothesis would be that every city is different in its location, infrastructure, local natural resources and therefore requires a unique solution.

          Geoffrey West's work shows that there are some underlying power law relationships between city size and the nature of resource usage and other factors within the city; Carvalho and others have shown that city infrastructure and layout scales in a limited number of patterns. If the extreme hypothesis above were true, we would not be seeing these relationships emerging.

          Which leads back to a view that there are limited number of types of city re. resource usage and a limited number of ways that they develop over time that provide good starting points for adaptation to local conditions.

          Hope that wasn't too esoteric an answer!
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    Jul 13 2011: -develop newer sources of energy (this is not that hard, we have millions of inventions every year
    -removing borders
    -cooperation, collaboration of all countries to become interdependent
    -the whole world has enough resources from the planet
    but what would we say about money and commerce, that keep resources limited to the people who have the money
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      Jul 13 2011: It sounds like you mean that cities will benefit if national borders are removed.what leads you to think that. You raise an interesting point about cities that create cross border relationships that ultimately benefit two city economies in different countries. Malmo in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark are a good example of this. Are there other good examples of this trend - particularly in the developing world?
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          Jul 13 2011: While I agree with you to some degree, Shell is here, asking us what to do. I think it's best to be constructive rather than to berate them.
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    Jul 13 2011: City slums caused quite a bit of debate.... They are dense and they are relatively low in energy use despite being the focus of intense economic activity. Do policymakers do enough to harness the power and influence of slums?
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    Jul 13 2011: A great Incubator lunch at TED Global to launch the conversation. A real split between whether cities will be the heroes or the villains of the coming decade. We know that urbanisation will challenge the planet. But what can we do to manage it?