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Vision for a 'shareable' city

11 August 2011
Vision for a 'shareable' city

11 August 2011, By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group

Alex Steffen (author of World Changing) describes -- in his recently-posted TED talk -- a version of what The Climate Group is calling the Clean Revolution. It describes how we will need to live differently when 8 billion of us are living in or near cities, and the signs today of what is to come.

Luckily, in urban places we find that density means we are no longer consuming as much. We don't drive to get what we need. We don't want to buy things we don't need to store, such as a drill that we use a few times a year. Instead we would rather use the service of a drill at the point we need it. And as we bundle together services - instead of products for consumption - things like buildings become simply a platform for those services. What we’re developing in the city is a way to access what Alex calls 'surplus capacity' and what Robin Chase has called 'excess capacity'. And the hope is that this means we will be able to live within our means; or (to paraphrase Paul Hawken) we won’t be “stealing from the future, selling it in the present and calling it GDP”.

Overlay this with 'ubiquitous connectivity' and you have even more ways to access 'surplus capacity' such as personal navigation assistants or other means of sharing 'stuff'so we can ultimately consume less collectively.

A sustainable city can't be measured by the individual wind turbines erected, the number of buses on the road, or the leafiness of the trees you plant. It is about the underlying system, and whether that system connects waste to services in a positive reinforcement that is more productive, efficient and better for its citizens.

We do also need to focus on other aspects of the ‘clean revolution’ that Alex doesn’t describe – in particular new forms of energy generation. But he’s right to point to the huge untapped potential of productivity and human ingenuity, enabled by connectivity, to tackle climate change.

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