This article was originally published on the Global Dashboard, as part of their Scenarios Week series, explore and expand Long crisis scenarios.
For professional optimists like me who want to develop an alternative, healthier economic model, the temptation to project our dreams of a better world onto the COVID-19 screens, on which different futures play out, can be great. Of course, these “screens” are not empty screens, but stages on which various old and new actors, motivated by their own designs and pandemic-driven fantasies, vie for control of the script.
The Long crisis scenarios are a timely and helpful reminder that nothing has been clarified: our future is set. As full of possibilities as this moment is, we still have to deal with the tremendous powers of the term, which pull us back to the status quo ante. A better future can only be achieved if the cities are equipped and empowered according to COVID-19 for environmentally friendly, integrative recreation.
Cities and the long scenarios
The Long Crisis scenarios provide a useful framework for understanding the forces at work and the shift in power. They identify important lines of error along which alternative futures are challenged.
The pandemic has certainly opened up new opportunities and strengthened existing trends. Two main trends that appear to have accelerated at least in the early days of the pandemic are the rise of authoritarianism and the increase in human-powered social movements.
A sobering milestone was reached last year when, for the first time in a century, the world’s autocracies were on the right track to claim a larger share of the global economy than all democracies combined.
The pandemic was good for autocrats, like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and the Philippines ” Rodrigo Duterte have successfully shown that they have greater control over power by successfully calling on extensive emergency services. NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen has warned that “tyranny wakes up from her sleep again.”
We have seen how grassroots social movements have grown in strength everywhere and on several fronts (climate, race, gender, rights, inequality). 2019 was called the “Year of People’s Power”. The year started with 5 million women in Kerala forming a 620 km human chain to demand that their rights be respected. A lone protest by a Swedish schoolgirl turned into a global movement that had taken 7.6 million people from 185 countries to the streets in September at the largest demonstration that ever called for climate action.
Not only are the numbers mobilized remarkable, but also the effectiveness of these movements to answer their demands and advance their goals. Protest was powerful, it was effective. On the contrary, the pandemic has not stopped its dynamism: it has triggered new forms of action and new forms of mutual and communal activism have emerged.
How we emerge from COVID-19 largely depends on what is happening in cities around the world. Cities play a vital role in creating a more collective and decentralized future in which power is more diffuse and bottom-up.
A turning point for cities
Since the pandemic is largely an urban phenomenon – over 95% of cases occurred in cities – it is not surprising that this moment revived dormant anti-urban sentiments. Old tropics over cities as breeding grounds for diseases, places of danger and decay have reappeared. Michael Kimmelman from The New York Times has stated that pandemics are anti-urban and questions if cities can survive the pandemic.
Others, like Joel Kotkin, predict that this is the “End of the megacity era. ”These feelings are wrong in that they differ from the overall picture. There will be no urban regression – urbanization will continue. Which way cities will go in the future is a matter of choice, and it deserves our full attention.
The corona virus has indeed identified serious problems with our cities. Starting with their extreme fragility. Because cities are the main thoroughfares of our economies and key nodes in our global system, they amplify and spread risks that spread through closely interlinked economic, energy, food, water, and health systems rather than absorbing them. Their startling lack of resilience has a lot to do with how unequal they have become.
Almost 70% of city dwellers do not have access to reliable core services – water, electricity, transport and affordable housing. More than 880 million people live in densely packed informal settlements where social distance is not an option. Up to 80% of urban employment In cities in the global south, the informal sector is often beyond the reach of formal social security networks and employment protection programs. Informal workers in these sectors are the backbone of the urban economy in all types of cities, but they lack the resources to overcome a crisis. Inequality is therefore a major reason for systemic vulnerability.
These are not inherent properties of cities, but the consequences of certain decisions and paradigms of urban development. Fragility and inequality reflect decades of chronic underinvestment in disaster preparedness and basic public services that support the ability of a rapidly growing urban population to live a productive and healthy life.
For example, between 2000 and 2015, the number of city dwellers who lack it safely managed sanitary facilities rose from 1.9 billion in 2000 to 2.3 billion. This pandemic has also exposed chronic underinvestment in disaster preparedness and emergency response.
As with adaptation to climate change, economic accounting suggests that investments in preventive and preventive measures account for a fraction of the costs they incur. (The World Bank and WHO published a report last September Pandemic preparedness Prevention measures have been estimated to cost $ 3.4 billion a year, a trifle compared to the trillions currently used to contain the economic impact.)
The pandemic also shows another side of cities: their infinite ingenuity and adaptability to respond to crises. Cities are petri dishes not only for communicable diseases, but also for groundbreaking solutions, innovations and bold ideas that can be realized in a unique way in the urban cauldron.
While urban environments have vectors for the spread of the virus, the crisis appears to have increased public appetite and the political space for bold interventions that can radically change cities. An unintended consequence of this crisis is that it has shown that radical changes in our daily lives and in our systems are indeed possible.
In many cities, the air is cleaner than in the past few decades as vehicle traffic and factory output have declined dramatically. Hiking and cycling are being introduced as the new preferred means of transportation for many. Rescue workers find that cycling is the fastest and safest way to get around. More than 130 German cities, Bogota, Mexico City, dozens of cities in the United States and more each day announce plans to add temporary or permanent protected bike paths and pedestrian infrastructure.
These modes are not just resilient. They are affordable, promote a healthy lifestyle and inspire regional economic benefits and are an integral part of people’s access to public transport.
The moment is not for urban regression, but for urban transformation.
Why cities need to be at the center of COVID-19 response and restoration
Regardless of how the pandemic feels about cities, and despite the microtrends of reverse urbanization reported in some parts of the world, the inevitable truth is that many more of us will live in cities; 2.5 billion is the estimate for the next three decades. Much of this growth (90%) will take place in Africa and Asia, where more urban areas are being built to accommodate new inflows than have been built in history.
To prevent a future crisis that shocks us, we need to change the way our cities are built, run, and governed. In order for the recovery to be environmentally friendly and resilient, you have to build resilience in cities around the world where it is most needed.
The pandemic has shown that we are only as strong as our weakest link. This underscores the need to build resilience in urban environments where the effects and responses to future pandemics are most dramatic, and where responses and recovery measures are most effective.
Recognizing and addressing the reality of urban inequality is critical to addressing these and future pandemics. Closing the gap between urban services can help cities build better and more equitably to better withstand the next crisis.
An environmentally friendly and resilient recovery of cities is not only economically and socially attractive in the short term, but also the key to achieving the common climate and the goals for sustainable development. As the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 ° C. With their focus on people, economic activity and infrastructure, cities are one of the few systems that can be decarbonised and made resilient quickly enough to achieve the Paris goals.
Much of the $ 90 trillion it will take to invest in infrastructure over the next ten years will flow into cities. Given that infrastructure investments are long-term, there is a risk that dependence on fossil fuels will be reduced and the necessary adjustments to prevent climate change become more difficult and costly if the right decisions are not taken now. In this way, the fight for a low-carbon, climate-resistant future in cities is won or lost.
After all, as already mentioned, cities are laboratories for change and drivers of innovation. In Pune, for example, a partnership with informal garbage collectors and private companies was integrated into the municipal service infrastructure to expand the city’s ability to distribute essential goods. And in BangaloreA crowd sourcing partnership with a local food delivery platform helped deliver 500,000 meals a day.
Unlocking the potential of cities for environmentally friendly and inclusive recreation
To exploit the potential of cities to promote collective and decentralized measures to promote green, inclusive and resilient recreation, progress must be made on at least three fronts.
FirstBold action by national governments is needed to close the massive gap in urban infrastructure and close the gap between urban services. Many of the political levers that influence urban change lie outside the direct authority of cities (e.g. energy, transport and housing policies).
And much of the funding that will affect the shape and development of cities for decades is provided by national governments in the massive stimulus packages that are being contracted. This is especially true according to COVID-19, as cities that are already heavily dependent on national government tax transfers are even more acute as the blockade has devastated local households.
As cities shift from crisis response to recovery, national governments’ engagement will be crucial to make substantial investments in water infrastructure, sanitation, apartment / slum modernization, and transportation for better ones Reconstruction and supply to the growing urban population are essential services.
The question of is as important as what is in these packages How They are put together and rolled out. To increase resilience to the next shock, these investment programs must effectively engage the city’s stakeholders and target vulnerable, poor and marginalized urban populations. A good example of this is South Africa, where the Treasury Department is working with other government departments and urban organizations to develop an urban support program.
Second is the need to strengthen the ability of city authorities to be effective actors that drive positive change and responsible community administrators beyond their borders. It starts with providing urban leaders and managers with the skills, tools, data, and technical support they need to take a new path in urban development, prioritize investment, drive action, and drive transformative change.
But it goes much further. Cities must gradually evolve from “takers” to “shapers” of national policies and regulations. You must be familiar with the use of data to develop and execute plans, and to target the most vulnerable communities more effectively. They must be adept at building or using broader coalitions – including the private and informal sectors – to drive innovation in the delivery of local services (we have seen previous examples of this).
In order to sustain change beyond the political cycle, transparency is required to keep up with progress and to adjust the course in this way, and there must be strong mechanisms for accountability and public engagement to get us to the next point.
thirdMobilization of the grassroots and civic engagement must be promoted and supported as part of the revitalization of the city administration. As incubators of decentralized democracy, cities are at the forefront in answering democratic regression. Democratic politics can be most important in cities.
We are already seeing elements of a more vibrant location-based policy with a blossoming of local experiments in a strengthened deliberative democracy around the world, paving the way for a new wave of innovation in city administration.
We see that in the Pop-Up Think and Do common room for climate and eco-action on Camden High Street, the tireless Farhana Yamin in response to that Citizens’ Assembly on the climate crisis Recommendation to do more to bring existing community groups together to work on the climate crisis. Also in the experiments in local funds, including the eusko that was launched last year in the French Basque Country.
The convergence of AI / Big Data, digitization and Civic Tech creates new opportunities for strengthened democratic engagement, as we see for new startups in Civic Tech such as Fluicity In France, this provides a digital app-based platform for citizen engagement in local government.
All of this is not only important for cities: building committed citizenship is fundamental to the health of our democracies in general.
This is one of the thousands of bright spots that make me believe that the future after COVID-19 will ultimately be a larger collective action and a more dynamic decentralized economy.
This article was originally published on the Global Dashboard, as part of their Scenarios Week series, explore and expand Long crisis scenarios. The other articles in the series can be found on the Global Dashboard Scenario Week page.
Leo Horn-Phathanothai is the head of WRI’s London office and director of strategy and partnerships at the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.
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