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9169Fwd: The Human City

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    Jun 1, 2013
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      From: MD Kini <mdkini@...>

      *  The Human City

      By Parag Khanna

      The tangled web of international organizations that constitutes global
      governance has become so remote and ineffective that few count on it to
      deliver results anymore. Now, after decades of turf wars and
      self-marginalization, international organizations must rally around an
      increasingly pressing global priority: sustainable urbanization.

      The world is undergoing an unprecedented and irreversible wave of
      urbanization, with the share of the global population living in cities set
      to reach 60% by
      2030<http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/untaskteam_undf/pres_sustainable_habitat_mutizwa-mangiza.pdf>.
      But rapid urbanization is driving up industrial fossil-fuel consumption and
      household water consumption, and is increasing demand for food in areas
      where arable land is scarce. In short, the current urbanization trajectory
      is not sustainable.

      But existing efforts to alter the situation remain woefully inadequate.
      While the United Nations General Assembly has tasked its agency for human
      settlements, UN-HABITAT <http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=9>,
      with promoting sustainable urbanization, the agency lacks the influence to
      ensure that this vital issue makes it onto the global agenda.



      *Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Parag Khanna,
      click here <http://209.18.71.181/contributor/parag-khanna>.*



      Moreover, international development players – including UN agencies, NGOs,
      corporate citizenship programs, and other charitable organizations – rarely
      coordinate their activities, even though their interventions are
      increasingly concentrated in densely populated cities.Given that promoting
      sustainable urbanization and improving coordination would bolster progress
      in other priority areas (including women’s rights, climate change, youth
      unemployment, and literacy), sustainable urbanization must become a
      bureaucratic priority. And it must be complemented by a technological
      disruption, with investments channeled toward developing and distributing
      innovations that would make cities more livable, efficient, and sustainable.

      In fact, many useful innovations, such as energy-generating building
      materials and zero-emissions transportation, already exist; they simply
      need to be made accessible to those who need them most. Devices like
      small-scale water-filtration systems, portable heart monitors, and low-cost
      tablet computers are already dramatically improving the lives of the
      world’s poorest citizens and helping to level the economic playing field.

      The future impact of global governance rests on forging new alignments that
      facilitate the flow of vital knowledge and technologies from an
      increasingly diverse array of sources to urban populations worldwide. The
      tools needed to make urban life more sustainable are no longer flowing only
      from North to South and West to East. China has taken the lead in exporting
      solar photovoltaic cells, while clean-tech parks are arising even in the
      Arab world.

      Governments, companies, supply-chain managers, corporate-citizenship
      strategists, NGOs, and others should commit to reducing their carbon
      footprints and to leveraging their resources to contribute to sustainable
      urbanization. Opportunities to make such contributions are appearing
      constantly – and across all sectors.

      In construction, for example, contractors are forming partnerships with
      labs to test materials that better reflect heat while absorbing energy to
      power cooling systems, and utility companies are leveraging new software
      tools to deploy smart meters in homes and offices. Two US cities – New York
      and Seattle – have raised efficiency standards for new construction to
      record levels.

      Similarly, automobile manufacturers, mobility-services companies, and local
      governments are working together to advance sustainable transportation by
      providing incentives for efficient non-ownership of vehicles. As a result,
      carpooling is gaining prevalence in cities like Berlin.

      Furthermore, MIT has developed the foldable electric
      CityCar<http://cp.media.mit.edu/research/projects/54-citycar>,
      four of which can fit into a conventional parking space. At last year’s
      Rio+20 conference, the eight largest multilateral development banks pledged
      $175 billion<http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42287#.UZ09DrV0xZs>
      to
      develop sustainable transportation.

      Information technology can also reduce stress on the transportation system.
      For example, Singapore is harnessing its near-complete fiber-optic network
      to reduce urban congestion by introducing a spate of measures encouraging
      workers to telecommute. As these measures take effect, self-sufficient
      satellite towns will likely develop, reducing transportation-related energy
      consumption further, while fostering a more active civil society.

      Singapore is leading the way in another area as well: production and
      distribution of potable recycled water. Many cities worldwide are following
      its example, expanding their water catchment and treatment programs.

      Meanwhile, vertical farm experiments – which aim to augment urban food
      supplies by cultivating crops in skyscraper greenhouses – are proliferating
      from the American Midwest to Osaka, Japan. And India has become a leader in
      converting biomass and food waste into energy.

      Of course, the billions of farmers and villagers worldwide should not be
      forgotten. Interventions like rural electrification, the provision of
      drought-resistant seeds and agricultural technology, and the expansion of
      micro-insurance are vital not only to rural populations’ welfare, but also
      to catalyze a new “Green Revolution,” without which city dwellers will face
      severe food shortages.

      With new, innovative solutions appearing every day, the real challenge lies
      in bringing them to scale – and that requires international cooperation.
      But the “smartest” cities are not necessarily the most technologically
      advanced. Rather, they are the places where technology and public policy
      support citizens’ welfare and aspirations. This crucial fact will guide
      discussion at the New Cities
      Foundation’s<http://www.newcitiesfoundation.org/> second
      annual summit in June – the theme of which is “The Human City” – and should
      be at the heart of sustainable urbanization initiatives.

      Making sustainable urbanization a strategic priority might be the only way
      to overcome the interrelated crises of jobless growth, youth unemployment,
      and income inequality. While some factory jobs can be outsourced or
      automated, robots cannot yet retrofit buildings, install solar PV cells on
      rooftops, or construct vertical farms. Even the movement in some cities,
      such as Singapore and Tokyo, toward driverless subways or cars will demand
      substantial labor to build and manage the relevant systems. In the future,
      as in the past, the most labor-intensive jobs will involve building homes,
      production facilities, and, in turn, communities.

      *Read more from our "Visionary Voices" Focal
      Point.<http://www.project-syndicate.org/focal-points/visionary-voices-2013-01-28-10-31-01>
      *

      This article was published at NationofChange at:
      http://www.nationofchange.org/human-city-1369841145. All rights are
      reserved.