Forget a new car. Build me a city.
Skepticism of technological solutions to sustainable development is entirely warranted. Our overly techno-centric culture too often forgets to put the human at the centre of technology and innovation - as if all these increasingly green gadgets will create a systems change. Given a) the need to reduce overall consumption and b) that massive amounts of technological innovations are still used by humans who work in human systems (like businesses and governments) this is not particularly good thinking. And while an electric car might prompt me to consider buying one, I don't have much need for a new car.
I do, however, have a great need for a new city. The technology that I need the most isn't a new iPhone - its a new transportation system, a city-wide composting system that includes the place where I work, a garden at the office where my colleagues can take a break and pull some weeds when things get really stressed, and a community bank (almost unheard of in the UK) where my savings are safe and local and my stocks are invested into renewable energy plants that aren't going to have the plug pulled on it when the economy waivers.
Sometimes it seems we curtail ourselves from that most precious of human gifts: our creativity and our imagination. As if the new world we are struggling to create right now needs has to have cars. As if we can't tear up our freeways and re-create our rivers and streams, unleash the waters and let them (carefully) overflow into gardens and farmlands. Â True innovation needs to happen not just faster, but at a much grander systemic scale. And for sustainable development around the world, cities - where there's a fighting chance you might know your neighbor - are one of the best places to start.
Once again, Brazil is one of the leaders in the international race for green cities.Curitiba in the south of the country with 1.8 million people is often cited as one of the leading sustainable cities (though in recent years this has suffered).Â Â Once again, the North has a lot to learn from the South. But the North is slowly getting its act together. Â Seattle's aiming to be the first American city to be fully green - and it has a lot going from it, but perhaps most of all, an entrepeneurial community with a can-do attitude and a real commitment to going green. The World Mayors Coalition for Climate Change is one of the leading networks in the fight for a bright green future. There are many plans for building new cities that can be green (ish), but I'm behind Manuel Castells and other's Â proposals for taking the cities we already have (especially in the West) and transforming them. Let's dream big - big enough that our grandchildren will have a place where they can call home and say to their children, yeah, my grandmother built that - back when we didn't know whether the human species was going to survive. That's the kind of human, systems-impacting technology that's worth being techno-centric about.