Sustainable cities must be compact and high-density

From GeorgeMonbiots blog on more of what planners and urban designers know but is seldom put before the public at large – that the planning of our cites has degenerated into a tussle between business and politics….

As the balance of the world’s population tips from rural to urban, we need strict urban planning to keep cities from collapse

An aerial view of Sydney

An aerial view of Sydney Harbour. Sustainable cities need strict urban planning. Photograph: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

For at least a century, governments have tried to urbanise their nations. Communist states sought to drag people out of what Marx and Engels called their “rural idiocy”. Capitalist governments – Mahatir Mohammed’s administration in Malaysia is a good example – tried to persuade and bully indigenous people into leaving the land (which then became available for exploitation) and move to the cities to join the consumer economy. Urbanisation was equated with progress and modernity.

In a few nations such as Britain there is a significant middle-class flight to the countryside, while in most places, as agro-industry replaces subsistence farming, as local marketing networks collapse and ecosystems fail, the countryside is emptying out and the cities are bulging. In 2007 the balance of the world’s population tipped from rural to urban. Continue reading

A Leg Up – How cities are failing their residents – via Metropolis

An article in Metropolis Magazine referred by Encountering Urbanization sets out views of how the world global cities are failing to provide the necessary leverage for the majority of their citizens to benefit from the supposed advantages of dense urban environments and globalization: I have illustrated this with pictures from Charlie Koolhaas’s exhibition of photos  “True Cities” ‘A Photo Essay From London – featured in Domus:

Charlie Koolhaas, True Cities: Lagos, Nigeria

By Joel Kotkin : Metropolis

“Throughout much of history, cities have served as incubators for upward mobility. A great city, wrote René Descartes in the 17th century, was “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could lift their families out of poverty and create new futures. In his time, Amsterdam was that city, not just for ambitious Dutch peasants and artisans but for people from all over Europe. Today, many of the world’s largest cities, in both the developed and the developing world, are failing to serve this aspirational function.

Though leading urban theorists love to celebrate the most rarified parts of the city economy—Saskia Sassen refers to “urban glamour zones” that thrive in what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proudly calls the “luxury city”—they tend to forget about working- and middle-class residents. Unfortunately, these urban ideas appear to be contagious, as they’re being applied to the expanding cities of Asia and other
developing regions. A recent World Bank report argued that large urban concentrations—the denser, the better—are the most prodigious creators of opportunity and wealth. “To spread out economic growth,” the report claimed, is to discourage it.” Continue reading