Archive: November 2012

November 19th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch7-4

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 4 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.

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CHAPTER Seven – Part 4
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Do you know when General Electric, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft started? You might not have guessed, in the middle of a severe economic downturn or depressions. Even when economic times reflect the gloom and doom, there is opportunity. Crisis gives us reason to fight back. Today, new types of businesses are focusing on sustainability. They’re using their power to solve social and environmental problems. That’s a big deal.

Corporate law makes it difficult for businesses to take employee, community, and environmental interests into consideration when making decisions. But new business models allow corporations to make decisions that are good for society, not just for shareholders. The building industry is catching on. A 2012 study by McGraw-Hill Construction found that more than half of construction companies expect 60% of their construction projects to be certified as “green” in 2015, up from just 28% in 2012 and 13% in 2009. That’s not incremental progress. That’s a revolution. The companies are doing this not because they wish to be socially responsible, although they do, but because it makes economic sense. Their customers want it, and the life-cycle cost of their buildings is less.

International financial institutions have adopted sustainable measures too through the Equator Principles. This allows them to invest under socially responsible investment (SRI) principles. Trillions of dollars in assets are managed globally in a way that benefits society and the Environment.

Without a doubt, challenging times serve as catalysts for creativity, innovation and accomplishment. Things have to change. Get ready for a new global economy based on open collaboration. Get ready for the new economic paradigm that will shake the world. Some may disagree. There are those who resist change, who dismiss change. That’s understandable. The development of a new economic paradigm will not be that simple. But there is power in people working together for noble causes. U-2’s lead singer Bono was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his global activism on behalf of the poor of Africa. Making money isn’t the problem. Bono makes lots of money. The problem is that growth needs balance. Capitalism needs balance. That’s where you and the butterfly effect come in. A butterfly flapping it’s wings in one area of the world may or may not cause a tornado somewhere in the world. But if you drop a pebble into the water little circles will flow outward to affect the rest of the pond. Doing good things makes more good things happen. Guaranteed.

Some people do good by asking for a closer connection between their money and their values. In spite of technology and regulation, banks are beginning to move toward greater transparency and sustainability. It may be a ripple in the pond but one day it might extend to taking steps to protect the environment. One day, banks might refuse to lend money to businesses who harm the environment. They will do that because acting sustainably actually improves overall risk management and business performance. In financial terms, acting responsibly results in better and more comprehensive risk management, a higher degree of employee pride, a greater attraction of talented people and new business opportunities.

Bostons’ Wainwright Bank has a socially responsible lending strategy and is one of the few banks in the country with a department solely committed to socially responsible community development lending. Half of the bank’s commercial loan portfolio is committed to these types of loans without a single default so far. In Europe, banks like Triodos and Co-operative push the transparency barrier too. Calling themselves ‘ethical banks’, they even formed the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

TD Bank brands itself “America’s Most Convenient Bank”. The TD Bank store in Ft. Lauderdale has targeted the highest level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, LEED Platinum. The bank opened a branch that generates as much energy as it uses. It goes beyond LEED to become the first zero-net energy bank building in the U.S. by installing solar panels on its roof, on the canopy over the drive-in window and on adjacent land next door. This net zero approach is the next way to deal with the climate crisis. Here’s another way: GoodBank, in the San Francisco Bay Area, calls itself the ‘High Transparency Bank’. This bank rewards customers like you who shop according to sustainable values, who live sustainably.

Where will you make your start? Where will you take the world? There is much to be done on all fronts. But in many ways the world is better now than it has been for a long, long time. As fragile and imperfect as life is don’t ever give up trying – knowing this – you’re not alone.
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[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]

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November 18th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Innovation | Comments Off

Smart Housing Plan to Attract Young People

The Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, has recognized that a key to making future cities thrive is attracting and keeping young people, according to DC Street Blog. We’ve known for a while that developing your city or town to be attractive to the ‘creative class’ is correlated with a strong economy. The problem is that housing prices are a challenge for young people. Governor Patrick is creating a state policy to address that, and at the same time focus development near transit on places to live, rather than park-and-ride lots that sit empty half the day. The housing envisioned is also designed to be appropriate for seniors, the other growing demographic who would like a more urban and transit oriented living option.

This past week I was in Baton Rouge to work with CDMSmith as they assist the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development on a new long-range plan. We had a day to talk about future scenarios. Participants in the session highlighted the need for development and transportation policies and infrastructure that would help them keep highly educated young people in the state. Most leave now, they said. The might want to see what Massachusetts is up to.

Example of transit oriented housing

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November 18th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch7-3

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 3 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.

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CHAPTER Seven – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

When it comes to the question of “Where”, it’s more useful to imagine where you’ll take the world five or ten years from now than where you will be by then. Industries will continue to shift jobs all over the world. At the same time we expect a growing movement toward insourcing, efforts to re-localize work, even including manufacturing work. But this is going to take a while. Faced with difficult employment prospects and a business climate increasingly geared toward independent consultants, you may have already opted to freelance. It has it’s advantages over working for a single employer.

You are by nature entrepreneurial. Not surprisingly, you may already be drawn to places that embrace entrepreneurship and innovation. Great cities recognize this and go to great lengths to attract and retain you and others like you. You are the competitive advantage they need. And you certainly will not be left behind. You’re too smart for that.

You’re on the cutting edge. You’re good at innovating at the verge. Why wouldn’t you work in places that offer the greatest opportunity? One of the greatest challenges facing global companies right now is their ability to exploit synergies and efficiencies in their global talent acquisition and retention programs. You want to make an impact, to identify problems no one else has, solve problems no one else has, make old things better and invent new things.

The question remains “Where” will you take the world. Will technological “fixes” be the way of the future? Will biotechnology solve our resource problems? Will geo-engineering be on your agenda? Or will you radically rethink the power grid to get electricity to where and when it is needed?

Tinkering with nature is an option. The idea of engineering the climate on a global scale might be appealing. But the quest for meaning and for spirit is what makes you different. You believe deeply in the power of individuals and collective action. Your concerns are for the state of the environment and human rights. You have a deep sense of responsibility and pragmatism and consider it your generation’s responsibility to change the world.

Scientists and engineers believe that living systems can be engineered just like any other system. The boundaries between people machines might eventually blur one day. Who knows where that fits on your agenda? You’re running out of time. You’re much more concerned with attaining world peace and you may have the motivation and unprecedented power to do just that.

Look at Los Angeles. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has a new initiative called the “Mayor’s Council on Innovation and Industry”. The council is made up of Los Angeles entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and business leaders who aim to change the narrative around innovation in their city. The city is at a unique moment in its evolution. But the Council isn’t about answering a question or problem, it’s about bringing together resources and attention to momentum that already exists.

The outside perception is that LA is outdated and incomplete while in reality it has a great story to tell. Successful companies will do more to attract investors and talent than new slogans. LA has a lot of wealth, but it’s largely directed to the entertainment industry. What LA does have is one of the highest concentrations of engineering and research universities in the world. 75 percent of graduates leave after graduation. The council’s greatest challenge might be to hold on to this wealth of talent and they might just succeed.

When it comes to the question of “Where”, it’s more useful to imagine where you’ll take the world five or ten years from now than where you will be by then. Industries will shift around the world. Cities with industry clusters have a distinct advantage. Los Angeles has all the elements to be a leading entrepreneurial environment – diversity, creativity, attractive places to live, a growing transit system to supplement their infamous roads, new media, ecommerce, clean tech, space industries, cloud computing and other forms of innovation.
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[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]

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November 17th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch7-2

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 2 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 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

The future can’t be allowed to mimic the past. The “margin of safety” where Nature can accommodate humanity’s mistakes is perilously thin. We’re running out of clean space, clean air, clean water. Cities will face decreasing access to resources while reducing bloated carbon levels will be the most difficult challenge of this century.

We are in a race; a race between what is and what could be. The decline of weakly managed large cities is neither inevitable nor irreversible. But we have to make decisions with the knowledge that they will affect a generation that we will never see. The good news is that climate change is intimately connected with each of the other environmental problems, so in solving climate change we can help to solve other environmental problems, and by solving other environmental problems, we can likewise help reduce the problem of climate change.

There’s good news. Times of stress create opportunities. We live at a time when our lives can make a dramatic difference in the world. We need to come back to life with great neighborhoods. To do that, we need to be smart and innovative. Strong and healthy cities with strong and healthy citizens are imperative for successfully dealing with any economic or social challenge we may face in years to come.

But cities are complex systems and our knowledge of them is still in its infancy. For our cities and towns to function as successful people habitat, we must make them great. Our future world will adopt drastically different approaches and practices. It will require a worldwide improvement in energy efficiency and conservation and a revolution in land use practices. Future cities will go beyond compliance with existing laws and anticipate and plan actions to prevent problems.

IBM gets it. Their Smarter Cities Challenge provides consulting and technology assistance to 100 cities worldwide – half of these are in North America – to help cities come up with plans and strategies. Cities like Pittsburgh focus on Smarter Planet industries – ones that use data, interconnectedness and intelligence to make the world work better.

Some cities are making a comeback. Cities competing for position among their global peers are re-branding themselves. They are becoming breeding grounds for new ideas, new forms of expression, and new waves of economic growth. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, and the highest rate of metabolism. Cities have long been incubators and transmitters of ideas, and, correspondingly, engines of economic growth.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says cities will need to innovate just as much as corporations; that cities can and will move decisively to tackle infrastructure gaps, improve planning, and foster high-productivity jobs. City governments – with or without the support of their national governments — will be expected to provide adequately for needed physical infrastructure.

Great cities will empower their leaders to drive innovation, reducing the barriers they face, and supporting all those who keep challenging the status quo with innovative new ideas. But real world market forces and the business climate will prove to be far more powerful in shaping our economic future than any attempt by government to pick winners among industries.

There is a challenge to innovating in government. Mayors and elected officials must keep at least one eye on the next election. Public dollars are scarce. It is hard enough to fund existing basic needs let alone new experiments. The temptation is always to hunker down and do little or nothing to change things. Even in better times, it is challenging to use taxpayer dollars when the possibility of failure is real. Likewise, reform in the financial sector will be crucial to the development of innovation that is both sustainable and affordable.

Tomorrows innovative materials and “smart systems” will offer dramatic reductions in energy and natural resource consumption, increase resource productivity, and serve as a competitive differentiator. But companies cannot go it alone. Long-term economic growth requires state government to create a predictable and competitive business climate for all industries across the board. Cities will need programs that provide infrastructure for jobs that are no longer tied to location but are inextricably interdependent on the global economy.

Given the complexity of the world in which we live, and the unreliability of national governments, city leaders may need to focus more than ever before on the future – not to predict it, which is next to impossible – but to understand the kinds of forces driving their constituencies so they can best respond to them.

By 2030 over 5 billion people will live in urban areas, resulting in larger, busier cities. To mitigate the negative effects of a growing urban population, city planners will design cities with the precepts of “green urbanism” in mind.” Tomorrow more than ever, the constructive power of science, technology, and innovation will propel humankind to new levels of global well-being. Innovation will meet any number of visions aimed at reducing the global footprint and decoupling economic growth from environmental impacts.

The UNEP points to a sustainable or “green” economy as the one in which growth in income and employment will drive public and private investments and reduce carbon emissions and pollution. The green economy will enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In future, green economic and environmental laws will be clear, even-handed, and enforceable. Environmental decision makers – public and private – will be held accountable for their decisions ensuring the cost of environmental degradation is born by polluters themselves rather than by the public.
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[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]

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