This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 1 of Chapter 7. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.
CHAPTER Seven – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra
The past has lessons to teach if we pay attention. The future will be of our own making, so lets turn the page and see what’s ahead. Whatever it is, it’s already on your mind. It’s your ideas that will drive change. Your talent will make it happen. Your creativity will generate economic growth and enable the development of cities.
The world is not on a sustainable path. And that bothers you. There was a time when ‘saving the planet’ was barely mentioned. Now that ranks among the top global priorities. Our oversized footprint isn’t getting any smaller. Reckless consumerism is degrading ecological systems. Environmental and socio-economic problems will only get worse. Over the past 50 years, the standard of living for American families has doubled. People want more and more to be happy. If we’re ever going to get out of the tailspin we are in, cities have few choices.
Consumption isn’t a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with finding ways to make life easier. America, after all, was built on free enterprise. But globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for most of the spending and the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%.
The market has done what it does best by adapting to meet certain wants and needs. Companies provide social goods. That’s part of the fabric of society. The truth is: What we are doing is wrong. The old economic paradigm is wrong. The service economy – built on the digital communications revolution that began in the early 1970â€²s – is winding down. There are many who will deny that. Denial is a valid response when people are confronted with tough times. This response explains climate change deniers who argue over global warming when the scientific consensus is strong.
The idea that the U.S. will have to adapt to new global economic realities seems almost inconceivable. Most Americans assume that, in the end, all will be well. One challenge is getting people to sacrifice for the future at a time when the present is not that good. The reality is, if we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses forever.
Conversations about global futures are dominated by management thinking. Building great cities will require heart, conscience, and emotional intelligence. We will need to move beyond addressing issues in the same old way. We will need to work together. The battle is in the mind and in the heart. In that new reality, governments and NGOs must learn to breathe new possibilities. They must strike the kinds of partnerships needed to take on society’s toughest challenges. But we can’t create a future that we do not first imagine. To imagine a new future, we have to stop trying to build simply a more efficient past.
To shape the future, we must change the way we think, the way we perceive the world. Ideas will drive change. Talent will make it happen. Creativity will generate economic growth and enable the development of cities. Entire industries and institutions are on the line here and banking is one of them.
Tackling climate change, corporate responsibility and transitioning to a low-carbon society are impossible without reforms in banking. The possibility for banks to contribute to sustainable development is profound. Expect ethical banking to become a movement toward more social and environmental responsibility in the financial sector. But ultimately, building a better city is not about more controls, taller fences, or more effective leadership; it is people and their willingness to change – to become sustainable. Hope is the best way to overcome fear and hope is generated through imagination, vision and innovation.
Your world will be a sustainable one, focusing on abundance and celebrating generosity. Future cities will transition to the concept of “net-zero,â€ a place where buildings, cars, factories and homes will be designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but also to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Embracing knowledge and innovation will reshape our lives and make the future more certain.
[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]