Systems Thinking for 21st-Century Cities: A Beginners Introduction
Article #1: why it matters, what it means & 3 steps to start
Our 21st century demands leadership — and many are turning their eyes towards our world’s cities.
Why? By 2050, 65% of our global population — an estimated 6 billion humans — will live in cities. Cities, accounting for just 2% of earth’s landmass, produce 70% of global GDP, 70% of global C02 emissions, and 66% of energy consumption, they are growing in political power, and enliven society as cultural hubs. One could say that cities are our bellwethers, our global pulse points…as cities go, so goes the world.
To take a pulse today, cities indicate a global system in distress. The symptoms and warning signs are clear. Cape Town is set to run out of water. San Francisco is failing their homeless population. Beijing is enveloped in critical smog levels. San Juan is rolling with power outages. Caracas is stricken with hunger. My home city, Philadelphia, is grappling with 25% poverty.
For decades, scientists and urban experts alike have stated that cities are — borrowing a term from ecology — ecosystems, hybrid ecosystems consisting of both natural and human-made elements. Like natural ecosystems, cities evolve through a combination of chaos and order. The late urban writer and activist, Jane Jacobs, once said, “cities happen to be problems in organized complexity” and warned against predicting city’s futures. “People who try to predict the future by extrapolating in a line of more of what exists [today]…are always wrong.”
Undoubtedly, the future of our global cities will be emergent in ways we may or may not predict — from social uprisings like new populism, new technologies like blockchain, or climate events like Hurricane Sandy. Yet, we are not powerless in our city ecosystems. Chaos is paired with order, and we have power — with the right leadership, knowledge, and tools — to reimagine a new, 21st-century order for our cities and our world to thrive.
Continutes in original: Systems Thinking for 21st-Century Cities: A Beginners Introduction