11.20.14 The Guardian
To a classical economist, cities should not really exist at all. They represent disease, higher costs of goods, land, and labour, and in so many cases, congestion that leaves workers stuck behind the wheel rather than their more productive desks or factory lines.
Cities represent the majority of greenhouse gas emissions (pdf), combined sewage overflows, and air pollutants. Meanwhile, urbanites experience many of the worst effects of the steady decline in ecological function. In 2013 alone, China’s poor air quality shut down Harbin, a city of 11 million people, and crippled the capital city of Beijing.
And yet, cities are the world’s engines of economic growth, accounting for 70% of global GDP and even more as the balance of humans tips from 50% to 70% urban between now and 2050.
With current transportation, energy, water, and emergency response systems designed for a much smaller population and more stable environment, cities are caught in a catch-22. They must enhance the quality of life for their citizens, while the very life support systems upon which they rely are hampered by the daily activities of those citizens.
So what is a city leader to do?