I’m obsessed with trying to find just the right set of goals to define urban sustainability. Professionally, the world of smart growth has been my home base for two decades – since before we even called it smart growth…
It is great to see the evolution of this thinking moving from a set of rigid principles that are promoted "top-down", as it were, by the "experts, " to a more open engagement with different points of view. In my view, one of the most difficult challenges for sustainable/resilient urban planning and development is for the experts in any field, as well as the politicians, to appreciate the intelligence and "savvy" of locally embedded knowledge. This then means that all of these lists and formulae are only a starting point and that while the process can (possibly) be defined e.g. co-creation, co-design, integral design, transdiciplinary design, whose proponents all have their own sets of design methodologies and use different methods and tools, it seems it is always necessary to engage all the actor-networks that include the living and the dead – the dead are after all not really dead – they live on in the urban fabric, both as the built morphologies we inherit ,as well as the laws, regulations, fences, old freeways and the conditioned preconceptions and desires of the people we so dutifully want to engage and get to participate.
It is thus not only futile to think one has the answers, but in fact is a certain recipe for disaster – how many times have the plans been carefully crafted and sent backwards and forwards for public /political consultation etc. etc. and the when the dozers arrive or the hoardings are set up on site, only then is the resistance of hidden threads of diverse actor-networks revealed, be it in corrupt politicians and developers (not all are), invisible publics that were busy elsewhere and never attended the meetings, or conflicts in international relations /economics that come up unseen as it were.
By this skepticism of planning’s efficacy, I do not mean to say that we should not have guidelines and processes, but we should realize that everyone (planners included) have self-interest’s, as in the words of former president Nelson Mandela: "(Ubuntu) does not mean people should not address themselves, the question is are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you?"
Without a change in how WE do business – it will just become business as usual -so I think that the concepts of "conserver cities" would be more likely to become reality if the truth of the matter were visible to all that and to borrow a little ancient Indian wisdom we understand "Karma" and why we shouldn’t be fouling our own back door – it will be coming back to bite us – after all we all breathe this same air.
See on switchboard.nrdc.org