Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sustainability, creativity, peace, . . .

As well as the World Peace Forum this week (June 23 – 28), Vancouver just finished hosting the UN's World Urban Forum III (June 19 – 23, 2006).

About World Urban Forum
The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies. It is projected that in the next fifty years, two-thirds of humanity will be living in towns and cities.

Today, I just want to share a few quotes from a speech by John Friedmann. Friedmann is a professor at the University of British Columbia, School of Community and Regional Planning. He talks about "clusters" of assets that are necessary for the development of viable and sustainable city-regions throughout the world.

I thought what he had to say about intellectual and creative assets would be of interest to some of the regular readers here as well as those who question why we should support creative and intellectual endeavours:

The fourth cluster of a city-region’s assets are its intellectual and creative assets, which are the quality of its universities and research institutes and what the Japanese call their “living human treasures,” its artisans and artists, intellectuals and scientists, and all others, musicians and writers, poets and film makers, actors and dancers who embody a region’s creative powers. Small in number, they are nonetheless essential to a region’s future and should count among its finest treasures. The best among them are also the rarest, and to lose them is an inestimable loss to the city. Creativity must be nurtured. . . .

There is much talk today about a so-called creative class that cities should promote. My argument is different. Creativity cannot be commanded, but creative work requires public support. Market forces alone will not suffice. New ideas and artistic creations are often unpopular, and those who create tend to march to a different drummer from ordinary people. Cultural and intellectual elites, their presence insures a city’s capacity for innovation. Professional contacts extend across the globe to other cities, and from these exchanges come new ways of seeing and thinking that add to the city’s liveliness and vigor. It is these elites that are the primary source of informed critical thinking which can be crucial to charting a city’s future.

And finally,

The sustainable city is a possible dream. It means embracing the fact that cities are embedded in their environment on which their future depends. It means
engaging local citizens in the common effort by giving them a stake in the society of which they are a part. It means reaching out to other cities, other regions and strengthening emerging networks. Above all, it means trusting in your own powers to shape the future that lies ahead.

He also touched on globalization and the increasing trend of selling cities as commodities. Interesting and informative.

You can read the entire speech in pdf, here:
The Wealth of Cities: Towards an Assets-based Development of Newly Urbanizing Regions
UN-Habitat Award Lecture
John Friedmann, School of Community & Regional Planning
University of British Columbia, Canada

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