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School biotopes: engagement that starts early

Keitaro Ito, in his recent essay called "Growing Places" at The Nature of Cities, poses the following question: where will children learn about nature? This is especially relevant in highly urbanized (and often fast growing) cities that are rapidly losing their green spaces, or perhaps never had much nature to begin with. This is the case in much of Japan, where Ito lives and works. There has been so much construction that much of the green space in cities has been lost. In such places, where will children learn about nature? Where will they play together in living spaces? How will they grow up to appreciate the critical role nature has in resilient, sustainable and livable cities? Read more.

Green and "long-term livability" that might add up to sustainability

I have just returned from the European Foundation Centre’s (EFC) annual meeting in Copenhagen. The organizing theme was “Sustainable Cities: Foundations and Our Urban Future”, which generated much welcome and critical discussion. The bulk of the meeting was not so much—perhaps counter-intuitively—on sustainability in an environmental sense, but in a social one. For example, how can foundations play a role in the support of people, communities and cities that are prosperous but also just, equitable and inclusive? These are clearly key to long- and perhaps even mid-term sustainability. For, as several people at the conference memorably said: we have to survive today… and tomorrow and next week if we hope to sustain ourselves all the way to next year, next decade, and next century. Read more.

The Nature of Cities: What kind of cities do we want?

What is the city we want to create in the future? What is the city in which we want to live? Certainly that city is sustainable, since we want our cities to balance consumption and inputs to make a footprint that can last into the future. Certainly it is resilient, so our cities are still in existence after the next 100-year storm, now due every few years. And yet: as we build this vision we know that cities must also be livable. Indeed, we must view livability as the third indispensible—and arguably most important—leg supporting the cities of our dreams: resilient + sustainable + livable. Read more.

Partnerships key for equity in Transit Oriented Development

The term Private Public Partnerships (PPP) in India is a dirty one. While partnerships present an opportunity for stakeholder collaboration that generate value by pooling of complementary expertise and resources, the practice in India has meant subcontracting of tasks and strategy by public sector to the private sector with little accountability or responsibilities on outcomes. The only driver of the partnership has been project finance and profits. This has been especially true in housing or slum redevelopment schemes from Dharavi in Mumbai to Katputali colony in Delhi driven by PPPs between city governments and large private developers. Maximizing the value of land while delivering maximum number of low-income housing are contradictory and misleading national policy objectives with fatal social outcomes. Read more.

Inclusiveness is all about smashing barriers, not selling statistics

It just doesn't add up. Nigeria is one of the world's fastest growing economies (we've been in that exclusive club for years); Foreign Direct Investment ($8.9bn in 2011, a four-fold increase from a decade before) and Diaspora remittances ($21 billion in 2012) are growing impressively; crude oil prices are at record-high levels — but none of these is managing to make an impact on poverty rates. Read more.