NEW KIND OF INEQUALITY
The new times do away with all our old certainties. The rate at which this happens puts all city-dwellers to the test. Those who can lead in keeping up with the trends form a successful elite, whilst those who just tag along remain undistinguished. But success is by definition short-lived and market leaders are soon replaced in a climate where technological innovations follow one another in a murderous tempo. The public, consumers and employees need to make continual choices in response to the information and other stimuli with which they are constantly bombarded. That creates a new kind of inequality: those who can’t keep up are crippled by the stress of continual decision-making. These pressures also affect groups that fifty years ago would have felt quite at home in the city, cushioned by the safe network of compartmentalised society and job security.
Not only individuals need to be alert to the need for repositioning themselves: cities and their hinterland are also increasingly involved in competition that transcends existing geopolitical boundaries. Those who want to keep up are forced to become players on the world market. Certainly in the current knowledge economy, the room for manoeuvre behind the dikes of the Low Countries is too restricted. Cities need to become more adaptable, in new and different ways. Of course, this does not absolve us from the responsibility of maintaining investments in high-quality resources and accessibility. But the city of the future will mainly have to invest in flexibility, in order to respond quickly to the rapidly changing economic opportunities. This demands a new approach to urban development and its financing.
AIM FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN QUALITY AND A INCLUSIVE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
The environmental impact of urban development also requires the creation of new frames of reference. The concentration of production, consumption and waste storage vastly increases a city’s footprint and hence its impact on global ecology. As cities expand to fill the biophysical space available, they need to call on the ecosystems in their hinterland for support. This is crucial for life in the city, but may disrupt the ecosystems in question. These risks make endless circular thinking the new mantra, and sustainability a must.
Global overconsumption and population growth will, unless checked, inevitably lead to shortages of raw materials, energy, water and food in the near future. This means that we need to hurry up and switch to a more circular, sustainable economy. This economy will be characterised by maximum reuse of products and raw materials, and minimum degradation of economic and ecological values. Waste will be abolished, thanks to the prevention and reuse of waste flows, and the interests of people and the planet will be key considerations right from the product design phase. The purchase and ownership of goods will no longer be the norm. Instead, leasing, sharing and pooling will become commonplace. What is needed to bring this fundamental transition about? Innovative knowledge and new competences in industry, the authorities and consumers. And also experiments in the use of new business and earnings models, changes in forms of cooperation and contracts, tender procedures and the like. These topics are high on the strategic agenda of many companies today.