Declarations develop an emotional capacity for change on behalf of family and community, a town or city, a state and nation, province and commonwealth. The following declarations describe qualities of life known to the people and organizations of the dense urban environment. Each one strengthens the purpose of ‘the city’ for more effective technology, continuous innovation, informed public policy, and global urban leadership.
- Produces High Levels of Collaboration
- Sustains Micro-Change
- Establishes the Essential Boundary
- Defines Human Abiotic Interdependence
- Embodies Intelligence
- Advances Diversity
- Assures Well-Being, Viability and Resilience
Dense Urban Places and Collaboration
Governments tackle the complexity of urbanization on the drifting structures of accountability. Harnessing the interests of people who take actions that assure a recurring measure of certainty and security, love and family require environments that support collaboration. Measures of accountability attempt to determine the need to renew leadership. Implementation builds contracts between the structures of governance and the collective power of community action. Collaboration is how and why places matter. The benefits of collaboration are expanding rapidly.
The development and preservation of a neighborhood is an ancient practice. The physical conditions required are well developed. The social contracts guiding implementation are renewable. We know how to advance combinations of physical and social processes and with them, sustain lasting human relationships. Yet, there remains a far-reaching list of huge urban failures built on this hubris. What is missing? It is the belief in the power of small change and equally important, the ability to capture the knowledge of all of them, all at once. This is described best as the fierce urgency of now. Nevertheless, I believe we have reasons for renewed hope.
Dense Urban Places Sustain Micro-Change
Micro change is a substance people must know and feel to achieve goals. Setting objectives creates the instruments of action. In dense urban places, goals and objectives are immediate; occur in continuous succession and produce substantial results. The achievements of multiple micro-change makers reduce the pressures inherent to adaptation. In this sense, they have strategic control. This new reality of connective governance will grow.
Imagine a neighborhood filled with demolished building sites, and abandoned places. Then witness the arrival of small groups who are planting gardens, attempting to occupy and rebuild abandoned housing and demanding accountability for the cause. The authoritative role of government in this context includes developing legitimacy for these actions as a direct means of assuring public safety that includes the preservation of rights for all concerned. Preservation efforts describe many New York City neighborhoods from 1975 to the early 1990s. Many global factors have brought investment to NYC since then, but the most important and creative are community reactions to failure. A vast range of micro-change makers exhibit the vitality of diversity through moms, dads and kids, students of many professions, artists, visionaries of all kinds and cultures imaginable. This new reality of connective communities and cultures will grow.
Urban Density Establishes Firm Boundaries
Even though the strategies for adapting to change are mainly personal, the larger organizational demands for enabling conditions remain. The progression from individual to the group may occur in a vast expansion of urban places or the isolation of just one, but the opportunity for goodness is only evident with the assurance of survival for both. The complexity of individuals and organizations is a good thing, but due to a lack of boundary, the goodness acquired dissipates. There needs to be a firm urban boundary.
Imagine how creative a city would have to become if it had a firm and fixed boundary within which the goal is to encourage unlimited growth. What remains of the wilderness outside of this boundary and from which humanity ascended to its present condition would stand. Humanity must know and learn that there are many more lessons of natural diversity on offer. Each of them will be essential and prerequisite. The wild/urban duality requires full development if either is to survive with dignity.
Abiotic and Interdependent
Life emerges in environments that make intelligence possible. Change is upon new life instantly and upon its place among many others in a vast array. Whether it is the rise of the industrial revolution’s black moth or the loss of Bengal tigers in the shreds of the wild, urbanization is the chauffeur in the express lane of change. Human awareness of this includes the emergence of a global knowing, that the city is truth about being human, yet we stand in its shadows with only a vague notion of it. Nevertheless, the city links ideas and turns them into action. It injects a bright optimism into the shadows cast by doubters that prefer to stay alone in the wilderness of our past.
Recognition of actions in the common good occurs instantly and they are most frequent in dense urban environments. Now imagine holding this data among a group of people with great power and knowledge. Suddenly, you recognize one of the decisions by the members of this group will announce to another group – natural selection discards you. You are not selected. The horror of this is evolutionarily unknowable, but were this a real act, it destroys everything.
Dense urban systems collect the experience of the whole with great rapidity. It can sense justice and injustice instantly. The new collective nature of it leads to a pathway of action that adds balance to the human development landscape. Prefer this to the acquisition of power alone.
Urban Density Creates Intelligence
Platforms that link everyone to everyone else on every imaginable question embrace the joy of problem solving as a natural extension of human emotional experience and curiosity. The arduous and combative nature of hard science, on the other hand, can suck the oxygen out of a room and in that same moment reveal the importance of helplessness. When it comes to environmental intelligence, the rules of common sense provide balance by adding the reflections of ordinary observers. Social networks support immediate innovations that do not have the patience to await the proof of science. Platform technologies support small changes in quick succession. They build consensus for action and because of this, control discards the “big stick” of efficacy in favor of simply knowing how to make goodness recur.
Imagine the way science introduces complex questions about genetically modified organisms (GMO) or greenhouse gases (GHG). The demand from the commonplace grows loud with uncertainty regarding the injection of these things into their lives. At this point, govern the strict rules of science with rules of common sense. In this realm, the placeless structure of social networks will select physical places with the resource allocations needed to implement a vital social action, resolve an urgent economic problem or define routine political questions. The cycle of knowledge from experience to reflection is whole. This is a new form of intelligence. It is prompt due to the connected activity of people and organizations in the dense urban place.
Urban Density Advances Diversity
Our ability to adapt our place in the world and to meet our needs depends on the structures of leadership built into our society. The expertise born of this legacy facilitates the acquisition of skills and presents them without compromise to all observers as thresholds onto pathways. The policies on how or why any of them would open as a choice to everyone have changed to favor diversity without the dissolution of differences. This idea is on a near equal footing with the legacy of privilege. It will bond them in a powerful new way.
Imagine ways in which the history of leadership that formed the legacies of society will change to become acts of inclusion. The services required that enable accountability are those derived up from the roots of adaptation. Continuous and unrelenting investment in the social capital formation and community-based organization is a combination capable of changing the traditional practices of urban preservation and development. It will build powerful sets of helping relationships that will bring reciprocity to the urgency of thousands of teaching and learning situations that require immediate and useful action
Density Supports Well-Being, Viability and Resilience
We build to control, but we only control what we can make recur. The urban habitat is destructive of complex natural systems. Unlike the human habitat, natural systems operate on sunlight, recycle everything, reward cooperation and rely on diversity entirely. The human pathways to this end remain ineffective, but there is hope because the challenge to secure human well-being has never been greater.
Imagine the drive for urban resilience as the prerequisite for sustainability. The dense urban environment fully isolates natural system habitats. A new urban world can form in ways that are far more protective and respectful of the wilderness. We will build the means to leave the wild. By making this so, doing no harm will recur.
Summary in Fifty Words
Dense urban environments offer high levels of collaboration that support quality micro-changes within physically firm, yet flexible social boundaries. Fueled by diversity and interdependence, this forms a unique urban intelligence in the abiotic and human world of urban life, and there is just with one rule. First, do no harm.
Please forgive these explorations if you have stumbled upon them. These platforms force clarification of weak ideas.
cross link to NYC Plan 2030