Designing sustainable cities

Designing sustainable cities, sustainable societies, is about closing loops, a network approach. One of the most important loops we have to close is the political system. Top-down systems do not work, where the people, if they are lucky, are reduced to election fodder to keep corrupt elites in power, to provide them with fig-leaf of legitimacy. We have to close the loop and put the citizens in charge of running their cities, as they once did in Athens.

In Tahrir Square for the last 18 days we have seen participatory democracy in action.

Look at the number of people in Tahrir Square, there was no police and yet apart from when they were attacked by state security and Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs, there was no violence. People worked together, they looked after each other and out for each other, no one was telling them what to do or organising them. The reality was the people were more than capable of running their own affairs.

There are examples of good governance around the world but those in power have a vested interest to keep to their old corrupt ways.

Two examples are in Brazil: Curitiba and Porto Alegre.

Synchronicity: I was only discussing Curitiba and Porto Alegre with a local politician today. We were discussing budget cuts and I said these should have been discussed with full participation of the public, not imposed.

Top story in The Cities Daily (Sunday 13 February 2011).

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