One of the things that I’ve noticed when it comes to green building, alternative energy, and urban planning is that the work being done to develop these areas are almost exactly contrary to how things have been done in the past. This sounds a bit simplistic, maybe.
But what I’m talking about specifically is that the fact that these efforts to improve energy efficiency and make the most out of sustainable resources are, by nature, cross-disciplinary. These efforts require experts in every field, who called upon to share what they’ve learned for the betterment of all.
There is no room for hoarding information or well-kept trade secrets in this new paradigm.
But, how does this work on a practical level in looking at how cities must be reviewed, and reformed for a century where dwindling resources and unstable climates are very real concerns?
I recently watched a podcast supplement on an episode of the PBS program E2, which is about the ongoing development of global sustainability and how it affects global economies. The episode in question was centered around the trends in London, England (an old stomping ground of mine!) vis-a-vis urban populations, traffic management, and carbon emissions.
You can watch the podcast episode (narrated by Brad Pitt) called London: the Price of Traffic along with some of the others in the series.
This episode deals with the efforts that London, and cities on par to London, are undertaking to examine how to curtail the negative effects of large carbon footprints, and to boost global economies by consolidating massive purchasing power toward green building, and long-term sustainability. And it is the point about breaking down the ‘silo’ model that stands out for me the most, by turning a municipal issue into a global one, and by the idea that sharing information and ideas is the best approach to solving the problem of global climate change, and global economic crises as well.
Astronomical technological advancements, major shifts in population into urban environments, and unchecked consumer culture are the things which marked the 20th century. I think perhaps the elements which will mark our 21st century are the ideas of community, and the importance of holistic thinking when it comes to global issues. The way these issues are being tackled on a practical level is by the promise of win-win situations for everyone involved. Upfront costs are absorbed in long-term savings, and (as now-former Deputy Mayor of London Nicky Gavron suggests in the episode) that banks will underwrite, then investments are better protected. When global economics, and global sustainability come together, at least in theory, I think that this is very encouraging.
Also encouraging is the idea that life in cities is being acknowledged not as a hard-coded detriment to our life as a species on our planet. Rather, that city living is potentially the most sustainable model there is in terms of lifestyles, especially when populations are shifting to cities more and more in any case. And further, that solving the problem in cities and improving the quality of living there has a knock-on effect all over the globe.
The concept of community has still got a few leftover 20th century associations; it’s sort of touchy-feely, and not about the competitive nature of world markets. But, when the concepts of community, concerted expertise, and integrated leadership are applied to the goals of sustainable economies in which everyone is making more money with less, while quality of life improves, suddenly community and connectedness is no longer so easily dismissed.
For more information about the work of C40, click through to the C40 official site