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Urban Development

Collaborative consumption – a trend for the young, the hip, the urban

Sintana Vergara's picture

Moving from California to Washington DC, I did not expect to find revolution; but I have. Fellow city-dwellers are overthrowing old models of consumption (through which their cities became extractors and importers of natural resources and exporters of waste products) by simply changing their habits. One by one, urban citizens are choosing collaborative consumption instead, to save money, resources, and time.

Though sharing is not new – in fact, historically, people lived and consumed resources in groups – it is an innovation in the modern city. A diverse set of sharing mechanisms has sprouted – for-profit, non-profit, informal, and formal – many of which use the web to match supply and demand.

Instead of purchasing cars, consumers are using car-sharing companies (like Zipcar), which allow them to rent vehicles by the hour, or stopping by to get a ride from the Casual Carpool in San Francisco or the Slug Line in Washington DC, two informal, citizen-organized carpool sites that match car-free commuters with drivers looking to enter High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes and save on toll fares.

Baseball and the City: Happy 100th Birthday to Boston's Fenway Park!

Artessa Saldivar-Sali's picture

Fenway Park, Boston, USAs a graduate student in Cambridge, Massachusetts living outside my home country Philippines for the first time, attending Boston Red Sox games at Fenway Park marked the beginning of my initiation into American life — and that most American of pastimes: baseball. Fenway Park (the country’s oldest ballpark) turned 100 years old last Friday (April 27, 2012). It is a wonderful icon of the enduring nature and magnetic power of cities.

Fenway Park (like the city of Boston) is small, expensive, and still has infrastructure from 1912. The bathrooms, parking, and other amenities don't always work (again, like many great cities). But overall, this urban gem is the best place to watch a baseball game — despite the 86-year drought in World Series championships.

Using GIS to Manage the Urban Ecosystem

Henry Jewell's picture

Growing up on a farm meant I spent very little time in cities. I felt more at home when surrounded by green than grey. As a kid, I saw cities as noisy, bright, busy and quite frankly, confusing. I always thought to myself why would anyone want to live in them? However, when I grew up, I moved to a city to take advantage of the opportunities it provided. I am not alone. More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities and this number will rise. Cities are hubs of productivity, innovation and vast human capital; but once you live in them you begin to see that they are like any other ecosystem: complex and fragile, whose balance can be easily disturbed. With many cities rapidly growing and evolving, how do you manage this increasing complexity without destroying the ecosystem?

GIS Image.  Source - University of Texas at DallasGeographical Information System (GIS) techniques have proven successful in mapping, analyzing and managing natural ecosystems. It is now time to make use of the same technology to manage, model and design our expanding global system of cities. GIS consists of a proven set of tools that can provide information to leaders at the local and national level to facilitate evidence-driven decision making. It allows us to move beyond 2D paper maps and incorporate everything that lies below, above and around a city to create a 3D digital representation of the city’s ecosystem. By integrating this information into the planning process, it will hopefully lead to harmonized planning across sectors. For example, integrated transport and land use planning and development will allow for economic, social and environmental benefits. More sectors can then be incorporated, with this integration not only happening within the city limits but including the urban periphery, where a lot of urban expansion is currently occurring. This holistic view will allow planners to make cities more livable.

Earth Day: Bah Humbug

Dan Hoornweg's picture

LeafI have a love-hate relationship with Earth Day (April 22nd) . The concept and enthusiasm are great; but the faux commercial interests and token personal efforts make me uneasy. True, every little bit helps, but the ‘lots of little efforts’ are still way too little, and may actually distract us from the big changes needed. 

All good ideas usually come from several sources; and once they get going, often head off in several directions. Earth Day is no exception. The first Earth Day had two sources. San Francisco, again showing that cities lead, first observed Earth Day on March 21, 1970. The idea was to help celebrate the Equinox (first day of spring in northern hemisphere). A few weeks later, a US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, called for an environmental teach-in arguing: 

“I am convinced that all we need to do to bring an overwhelming insistence of the new generation that we stem the tide of environmental disaster is to present the facts clearly and dramatically.”

This is where I disagree. The facts are clear - and have been for a long time. The problem is we just don’t want to do the hard work that’s needed for any semblance of sustainability. We are very powerful procrastinators. So a few of us might as well turn off a light, or forgo the car while we wait to generate sufficient political and personal will to get on with the heavy lifting. But surely getting all these people thinking about, and working for, the environment can’t be a bad thing. Maybe it will help us act on the bigger stuff sooner.

Where the Cloud Forest Meets the City

Julianne Baker Gallegos's picture

Puntarenas, Cosa Rica

Standing in the middle of the cloud forest in my home country of Costa Rica as a child I made the choice to dedicate my life to protecting the environment. Back then, the first image that came to mind when thinking about biodiversity conservation was definitely not that of a flourishing city. Fast forward 20 years and you’ll find the same environmentalist sitting in front of a computer in an office working on the challenges cities face as a result of climate change. What is a biologist doing working on cities? Well, I’m basically doing what I promised myself to do as a child… just from a different angle and in an apparently less exotic setting.

Unlocking Global Environmental Intelligence Through The Cloud

Robert Bernard's picture

The climate, energy and resource challenges facing the planet are daunting. The world’s population continues to grow rapidly, and the majority of people now live in cities. While cities are projected to be home to nearly 70% of our population by 2050, this won’t happen unless society drives significant efficiency gains in all aspects of resource use. Leveraging information will lie at the heart of optimizing resource use.

While projections for city growth are common, we need ask ourselves a simple question -- how much longer will cities be able to service increasing demands for energy, transportation, water, and food without a wholesale transition in the way resources are managed? If we are going to accommodate billions of new urbanites, they will need energy for lights, for heating, for cooling; energy for transportation, housing and emergency services; energy for water systems and sanitation.

Learning from Dublin: Urban Cultural Heritage as Differentiator

Rana Amirtahmasebi's picture

IFSC Dublin, IrelandA few weeks ago, John O’Brien, the chief strategist for Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency, was at The World Bank, Washington DC to address an event on the role of cultural heritage and historic cities in Local Economic Development. The theme of the event was creating jobs by supporting historic cities and cultural heritage. Urban Sector Manager Abha Joshi-Ghani began the day’s session by underlining the significance of cultural heritage in city development: “We have started to look at cities as drivers of entrepreneurship and innovation.  It is important to understand how cities attract skilled people and industries to create jobs and what role they play in economic growth. Therefore it is very helpful to find linkages between cultural heritage assets and job creation.”

Celebrating Earth Month…One step at a time

Artessa Saldivar-Sali's picture

Earth Day Network logo

Happy Earth Month from the Sustainable Cities team! While Earth Day isn’t until April 22nd, we must spend some time this month to think about what this celebration of the natural environment means for us, staunch urbanites.

Like many environmental initiatives, Earth Day was actually proclaimed by a city – San Francisco, California - and the occasion was celebrated with other US cities in 1970. Earth Day went international in 1990, and now it’s celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.

A Top Ten of New Urban Businesses

Dan Hoornweg's picture

We’ve seen cafes, car sharing, cell phones, and social networking products like iPads, proliferate from the world’s rush to urbanize. So what’s next? Following is a list of top ten urban businesses that are likely to flourish over the next few years.

  1. Take Two – Tablets. Just as every television now comes with a remote control, so too will every house and apartment come with a ‘control tablet’. We’ve seen the introduction of tablets as cheap as $40 in rural India. The next push will be a clever city that provides every household with a tablet to check on municipal services, emergency announcements, entertainment, and much more. Once every household has its own tablet, the impact will be enormous. The only question now is which city and companies will take a lead. Best guesses: Kitchener, Canada; Gwangju, South Korea; Bangalore, India; Kunming, China; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Thomson Reuters; RIM; Samsung; DataWind.

What is a Smart City and How Can a City Boost Its IQ?

Maggie Comstock's picture

Earlier this month, the World Bank hosted a Smart Cities for All workshop in Washington, DC which convened experts from the United Nations, academia, government agencies, non-profits and industry. The purpose of the workshop was to share insights and experiences of equipping cities with the tools for intelligent growth. Additionally, the forum established a public-private partnership for collaboration in pursuit of shared goals for global sustainability. But what does it mean to be a “smart city”? Is this distinction only reserved for cities starting from scratch? Can an established city boost its IQ?

First, we must take a step back to reflect upon what it means to be a “smart city.” While there is no official definition, many have contributed to this debate. Industry leaders, such as Seimens and IBM, believe that stronger use of technology and data will enable government leaders to make better informed decisions. Whereas others, including the Sustainable Cities Blog’s very own Dan Hoornweg, consider the social aspects as a component of what it means to be a smart city. In his blog, “Smart Cities for Dummies,” published last November, Dan contends: “At its core a smart city is a welcoming, inclusive city, an open city. By being forthright with citizens, with clear accountability, integrity, and fair and honest measures of progress, cities get smarter.” Though I agree with both the data-driven and socially-conscious approaches, I’d like to propose my own definition of a smart city.

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