This blog is written in response to a generous and humbling offer by the urban anchor at the World Bank to present my book on the Evolution of Great World Cities (Kennedy, 2011). Having provided occasional assistance to the Bank over the past few years, I realized how big a challenge this may be. The Bank has brainpower akin to an Ivy League university, and is a large organization with so many endeavours that are hard for me to keep abreast of. Nonetheless, while tackling enormously complex development challenges, the clear objective of the Bank is to help with the elimination of poverty. Given that my book is primarily about stinking rich cities, there’s a chance that I could completely miss my audience! There again, the rapid rate of urbanization in the developing world provides such a huge opportunity to bring millions out of poverty, if planned well - and many cities in the developing world no doubt aspire to be great world cities.
Driving through Sao Paulo yesterday, I was struck by the power of cities. While cities are part of the climate change problem, they need to be part of the solution too. They are bigger and more energized than any individual or organization. Cities push and cajole; and cities act. Cities are where it all comes together.
Even more so when former President Bill Clinton, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined forces in Sao Paulo. The accomplished gentlemen born less than a dozen years and 1,500 miles apart spoke and fielded questions with a worldly and gracious informality. The pleasant exchanges sat in contrast to the underlying gravity of their mission. Together they have determined to access their considerable resources to tackle one of the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced: climate change.
What makes your city great? Are you living there because of great skyscrapers? Connectivity? A love of turmoil? Edwin Heathcote at FT gives us a scan of liveable city indices here, explaining why "liveable cities lists [are] intellectually on par with People magazine’s ‘sexiest people’ lists."
The Atlantic knows which are the world's 26 best cities for Business, Life, and Innovation. Do you agree? Even though we sometimes critique city rankings, the pictures and blurbs are irresistible.
Recently I saw Masdar City for the first time. I was excited to visit since over the last few years at almost every ‘Green Cities’ Conference I attended someone mentioned Masdar. Masdar City seemed the big hope: with potential and excitement of a whole new city in the desert. After $20 Billion in infrastructure investments, 50,000 people would live in this “emissions free”, closed-system suburb of Abu Dhabi. Masdar is to be a city of the future; a living laboratory to develop new technology. Planners, engineers and financiers are rushing to get in on its development. Easily a dozen times in the last two years someone enthused over coffee or lunch. ‘You need to visit’, I was told many times.