As national and international governments struggle with political inertia, particularly when it comes to addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development policies, cities have emerged as places of action and innovation and have formed trans-local municipal networks to share knowledge, their best practices and their expertise. The approach of tackling environmental issues locally is not a new one. In 1987, the Brundtland Report argued that since future cities will hold the majority of the world’s population they should be key to pursuing sustainable development (Betsill and Bulkeley 2006). Agenda 21, the voluntary sustainable development action plan agreed to during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, encouraged municipalities to craft their own Local Agendas 21, and promoted the increased coordination between cities and towns around the world (Betsill and Bulkeley 2006).
Over the past few years US cities have seen a rise in urban foraging– the act of searching for and gathering food in an urban landscape. In cities across the country, people from varied backgrounds, such as Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese, Korean and Latino/a immigrants, have been partaking in this practice of finding edible food amongst their urban landscapes. Attempts to find when urban foraging first started prove to be fruitless. The practice “remains without a lineage and without a shared history” (Cryptoforestry). People and communities around the world have been practicing foraging in both rural and urban areas for centuries and for various different reasons.
Cities from Amsterdam to Adelaide, from Boston to Bangalore, and San Francisco to Seoul are teaming up with big businesses like IBM, Siemens, Cisco, GE, and Google in a frenzied dash to become “smart cities.” They’re rolling out sensors for everything from street lights to trash cans. Homes are being wired up with smart meters and smart appliances that feed real-time data back to public utilities. Buses, cars, and bike-shares have GPS or radio-frequency identification that helps to alert users of when the next bus will arrive, as well as matching car and bike-share users to a the nearest Zipcar or Hubway bike.
One of the things I continually tell my students is that there are no ‘answers’ in urban planning but that if we ask the right questions we may get better ideas on how to approach the challenges we face in “managing our co-existence in shared space” (Healey, 1997, p3). Two questions that have been interesting my students this academic year are:
How do we move beyond the basic formats of public meetings and town hall discussions which simply ‘round up the usual suspects’?
How do we think more creatively in developing innovative tools for diversity, equity and inclusion in urban planning?
“Sharing Cities is a comprehensive and thoughtful guide to how the principles of the sharing economy will affect the spaces where we live, work, and play. If you want to understand the possibilities and challenges of the sharing paradigm to transform the way cities are designed, read this book.”
—Rachel Botsman, coauthor of What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live
“There are relatively few books out there that really introduce a new paradigm for cities, a new lens through which to understand what urban sustainability could look like. This book does that, and rather than just sharing theory, it shares the story of real cities successfully making the sharing city real.”
—Brent Toderian, urbanism consultant, TODERIAN UrbanWORKS; former Director of City Planning, Vancouver, Canada
Urban agriculture has enjoyed a near meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. Projects began mostly through the grassroots efforts of non-profit organizations, but now urban planners and many city officials are also very interested in its interlinked economic, social, health and environmental benefits. Many of these officials and planners see urban agriculture’s greatest potential in low-income and communities of color where fresh food and employment opportunities can be scant, even though such desires may or may not have been articulated by community members. The official assumption seems to be that the benefits of urban agriculture are so compelling that everyone will want it. Period.
When mayors and developers focus on technology rather than people, smart quickly becomes stupid, threatening to exacerbate inequality and undermine the social cooperation essential to successful cities.These days every city claims to be a “smart” city, or is becoming one, with heavy investments in modern information and computing technology to attract businesses and make the city competitive. After researching leading cities around the world, we’ve concluded that truly smart cities will be those that deploy modern technology in building a new urban commons to support communal sharing.
What can be bad about an economy that’s called ‘sharing’? Sharing is the antithesis of our current dog-eat-dog economy right? With a booming global population and mass-migration to cities, surely anything that encourages getting-along with each other is a good thing?
But the sharing economy is under attack – though surprisingly not from market-is-gospel neoliberals. It’s being rejected by people who put ‘all for one and one for all’ at the center of their politics. The sharing economy, they say, is nothing more than sly companies profiteering from the skills, possessions and spaces that people would otherwise never think of making money from. Let’s take a closer look at why we must move beyond the current concept of a sharing economy and make the wider case for Sharing Cities.
Stories are everywhere. We tell stories about who we are, stories about other people and stories about our past. We read stories and watch them on our screens. We even use stories as professionals, students, and academics in planning and policymaking, although they aren’t always acknowledged as such. Storytelling and story-listening are important both because they are happening all around us, whether we realize it or not, and because stories can lead to change. In particular, they can help lead to equitable and just change.
Food justice has emerged as a powerful social movement across the USA as well as an increasingly studied academic concept. In many circumstances, the food justice movement operates to reject the neoliberal mechanisms that dominate today’ s food system, but simultaneously needs to operate within this system (to a degree) in order to exist. The movement’ s engagement with larger neoliberal structures, such as the increasingly consolidated transnational food retail industry, can lead to it being co-opted. For instance, selective patronage campaigns focused on the local scale may create market mechanisms that are alternative to those of the conventional market by circumventing intermediaries, but they operate along similar lines of logic that fetishize the commoditization of food for profit.