Abstract:Since 1950 there has been a huge worldwide increase in the percentage of population living within cities. The trend shows no sign of stopping – for the next 20 years, the flow of people is predicted to continue soaring. It assumes also that in 2030 this percentage will exceed 60%.
Furthermore the great contemporary global cities play, both in cross-border regions that in those sub-regional, the function of: a) point of power in the organization of economy, b) essential marketplaces for the leading industries of the current period, and the finance and the specialized services to the industries, and c) the most important area in which industries produce research and innovations too.
Therefore, great cities are both the places where a large numbers of people are concentrated and focal points for the growth at regional, national and international level.
Perhaps, besides the number of people living in the cities, one should consider the urban planning model chosen. Indeed, the contemporary city has been realised by considering private cars as a key element for internal and external mobility. This has led to a radical change both in lifestyle of people and policies and, in any case, to the increase of resource’s consumption (soil, water, time, material property) and services. In fact, today urban services are considered to be as supporting of the consumption’s policy because “they destroy the autonomy of men forcing – through changes of laws, environment and social structures – to become external assistances users”.
The western metropolitan cities were an important model for civil development, which was based on consumerism. However, it did not give rise to a widespread welfare, but instead, gave rise to numerous and increasingly large sacks of poverty and social exclusion. Under these conditions, the new deal of the economic degrowth means to rely on “energies” different from those upon which is based the contemporary city.
Energy, in this case, means renewable energy, which, however, has much lower EROEI than fossil fuels. Therefore, it must be accompanied by a change of habits of people, by a return to the use of individual physical and intellectual energies for purposes that affect the well-being of both communities and individuals but also the synergy among individuals. Either the western metropolitan cities or those of developing countries can escape from poverty (material and immaterial) coming back to a local production and consuming what is needed for their lives and well-being.
Poverty is growing in a world where basic necessities are increasing and induced by industrial products, generating a gap between the riches and the poor. .
As a consequence, it is necessary to reconstruct the social equity, environmental sustainability, economic resilience and renewable energies for the metropolitan cities and their neighbourhoods. It is necessary to rebuild their ability to absorb changes without collapsing and to reorganize them in a qualitatively different state from the present by controlling different structural and functional processes.
The extreme specialization of several parts of a metropolitan city carries out to the corrosion of functional relationships which are essential for the restoration of environmental sustainability and social equity, based on sharing of territory throughout people’s relationships.
The dissolution of these relationships brings to the progressive dismantling of the local economies and to low attention for the consequences of deleterious anthropogenic activities occurring inside the urban system.
Through systems thinking and choosing the neighbourhood as preferred scale of action and observation, you can turn the vision bringing to the fore the local dimension and the needs and possibilities of people groped for a rebalancing of the global dimension that now is predominant.
Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.