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Let a Thousand Green Cities Bloom

August 5, 2009

The word is spreading across ideology because it transcends it. Enviro-blogger Alex Steffen grasps onto the idea–innovation in governance takes off when cities can experiment with different rule sets–and riffs. He sees Romer’s Charter Cities as an opportunity to create a renaissance for green cities:

In many ways, the Global North is as hamstrung in the face of bright green challenges as China was in the face of capitalism. What if the answer is a sustainability and social innovation equivalent of China’s answers: a sort of “Special Innovation Zone”?

Imagine a place — perhaps a shrinking city, or a badly savaged brownfield neighborhood — where laws were set up to strip rules and regulations down to a do-no-harm minimum (maintaining criminal laws and protecting health, safety, workers’ rights and civil liberties, but perhaps limiting liability and certainly slashing red tape and delays) allowing for wild deviations from existing patterns for buildings, systems and operations. Imagine a free-fire zone for sustainable innovations, where new approaches could be iterated and tested rapidly, and, when they work, sent to proliferate outside the Zone. Conversely, some of the freedom might paradoxically come from imposing boundary limitations that can’t yet be made practical or survive politically outside the Zone, such as bans on broad classes of chemicals or strict greenhouse gas emissions limits.

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2 Comments
  1. Peter Twieg permalink
    August 5, 2009 2:02 am

    Relatedly, one can look at the planned experimental cities such as the one being constructed near Abu Dhabi. It’s a top-down project, but it’ll still yield some interesting lessons:

    http://www.economist.com/sciencetechnology/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12673433

  2. August 5, 2009 10:59 am

    Relatedly, one can look at the planned experimental cities such as the one being constructed near Abu Dhabi. It’s a top-down project, but it’ll still yield some interesting lessons:

    http://www.economist.com/sciencetechnology/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12673433
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

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