Sustainability: it’s the only way to make the cities we all want
Today’s growing cities face an apparent contradiction: how can they be the best places to live, and also be economically competitive? I think a key answer is to ensure that innovative thinking and repeatable practice around sustainability are woven into every step. Not only is it increasingly possible for today’s cities to be sustainable and profitable at the same time, sustainability is in fact the only way to be competitive. Sustainability is, if you boil it down, the only necessary strategy to make our increasingly urban future work. Sustainability is both vital for our urban future; and the wider sustainability battle will be decided in our cities.
Naturally there are immediate gains we have to make. Cities must improve their infrastructure, connect transport more efficiently, etc. – all the things that make cities run better. But to be successful, a city needs to compete, support, and last. These three ideas encapsulate what real people need from their urban world, as this Twitter discussion on SustainableCitiesCollective reveals. And they all boil down to a call for sustainability.
We want cities that COMPETE. The search for the perfect economic formula for something as complex as a city is of course on-going. A good review is in this article from USA Today. But competitive cities must support people’s ambitions, needs and lifestyle – and they must be there in the long term. They can only do this by conserving resources and reducing emissions: embodying sustainability.
We want cities that SUPPORT. We want to live in a great place! We want it to be something we value, a city brand. To be truly supportive, a city must be truly competitive and have longevity. All of which require waste reduction and emissions control: otherwise support functions, and liveability, all decline.
We want cities that LAST. True urbanization only happens with permanence and resilience. This in turn demands economic clout (competitiveness) and public will (derived from a supportive urban environment). And longevity requires that resources are consumed and controlled in a responsible way.
Of course cost and economy are vital. But if the call is for competitiveness, it is also a call for sustainability. The truly competitive city will be the truly sustainable one. Every aspect of planning, integration, and efficiency must bear this in mind if we want our cities and world to work now, and into the future.