Individual Welfare

Sustainable Cities – The Driver to Forge a ‘Creative’ Society ?

Dr. Craig Barrett, Chair (2005-2009) of Intel Corporation’s Board, recently dropped some sharp home truths onto our frail and sensitive Irish laps … concerning national competitiveness in the Global Economic Environment.  It was like a breath of fresh air !   And … how right he was !!

Today, however, I want to focus on just one of his themes …

Quality Education + Quality Research & Development + Facilitating and Fostering Creativity & Innovation in Society

Since the 1990’s … we have had to listen to endless amounts of bullshit and hot air … until we are blue in the face … about the Information Society, the Knowledge Society, the Smart Society, the Green Society [what is ‘Green’ anyway ?], etc., etc., etc … and the biggest anti-climax of them all … the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy … boring, boring, boring !!!!

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When you hit the bottom of the barrel, there is only one place to look … and that’s up … with an engaged mind feverishly picturing what’s around outside !   So … for one wild moment, let’s join together some nice ideas …

Could Sustainable Cities be that essential driving force which forges a ‘Creative’ Society ???

What is the Sustainable Urban Environment (City) ?   A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

  • An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;
  • A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
  • A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated or ‘wrought’ landscape) ;

And together functioning as …

  1. A complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;    and
  2. A synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

Our Ultimate Goal must be to achieve a dynamic and harmonious balance between a sustainable ‘human’ environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, ‘natural’ environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving social wellbeing for all.

Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate and future climate changes, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s).

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Supporting Definitions

Human Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the ‘natural’ environment.

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the ‘natural’ environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the ‘virtual’ environment.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The ‘social’ environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the ‘built’ (including ‘virtual’) environment.

Economic Environment:  The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the ‘social’ environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the ‘built’ environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  (World Health Organization)

Individual Welfare:  A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Sustainable Human & Social Development:  Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … and their children.

*As defined, in International Law, by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).

Sustainable Design*:  The ethical design response, in built or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

*Includes Spatial Planning, Architectural / Engineering / Interior / Industrial Design and e-Design, etc.

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Sustainable Globalization – A Contradiction or a Target ?

2009-05-19:  Globalization is not just an economic concept … it is a social reality in the 21st Century …

 

In discussions about Sustainable Human & Social Development … it is the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and its 1987 (Brundtland) Report: Our Common Future which tends to attract most attention … that is, if people have gone to the trouble of actually reading the report ! 

 

However, fast forward to November 2001 … the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG) was created by a decision of the Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO), in Geneva, Switzerland.  Its brief was to prepare an authoritative report on the social dimension of globalization, including the interaction between the global economy and the world of work.

 

Later, in February 2002 … Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania, accepted the ILO Director-General’s invitation to act as Co-Chairs of the Commission.  Nineteen other members were appointed from across the world’s regions, with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise.

 

The WCSDG’s Report: A Fair Globalization – Creating Opportunities for All was published in February 2004.

 

 

Before the current dark days of global economic crisis, financial meltdown, consumer spending collapse and spiralling unemployment … the WCSDG’s Recommendations might have appeared somewhat radical.  Now, however, they are too tame by far …

 

” We seek a process of globalization with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values, and respect for human rights and individual dignity; one that is fair, inclusive, democratically governed and provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people.

 

To this end we call for:

 

         A Focus on People

The cornerstone of a fairer globalization lies in meeting the demands of all people for: respect for their rights, cultural identity and autonomy; decent work; and the empowerment of the local communities they live in.  Gender equality is essential.

 

         A Democratic & Effective State

The State must have the capability to manage integration into the global economy, and provide social and economic opportunity and security.

 

         Sustainable Development

The quest for a fair globalization must be underpinned by the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection at the local, national, regional and global levels.

 

         Productive & Equitable Markets

This requires sound institutions to promote opportunity and enterprise in a well-functioning market economy.

 

         Fair Rules

The rules of the global economy must offer equitable opportunity and access for all countries and recognize the diversity in national capacities and developmental needs.

 

         Globalization with Solidarity

There is a shared responsibility to assist countries and people excluded from or disadvantaged by globalization.  Globalization must help to overcome inequality both within and between countries and contribute to the elimination of poverty.

 

         Greater Accountability to People

Public and private actors at all levels with power to influence the outcomes of globalization must be democratically accountable for the policies they pursue and the actions they take.  They must deliver on their commitments and use their power with respect for others.

 

         Deeper Partnerships

Many actors are engaged in the realization of global social and economic goals – international organizations, governments and parliaments, business, labour, civil society and many others.  Dialogue and partnership among them is an essential democratic instrument to create a better world.

 

         An Effective United Nations

A stronger and more efficient multilateral system is the key instrument to create a democratic, legitimate and coherent framework for globalization.”

 

 

 

Sustainable Economic Development means … Economic Development which is compatible with Sustainable Human & Social Development !

 

That was the easy part … but try explaining it to economists ?!?!

 

 

Sustainable Globalization … much more than an economic concept, but a social reality in our time … means Globalization which is also compatible with Sustainable Human & Social Development … each co-existing with the other in harmony and dynamic balance … and – together – providing a high level of Social Wellbeing for All. 

 

Unfortunately … while economists can readily understand Individual Welfare

 

a person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment

 

… they are not familiar with the concept of Social Wellbeing

 

a general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

 

 

 

Please help your local economist !

 

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Abu Dhabi as ‘Sustainable City’ – A New Language Required ?

2009-03-03:  Recent international attention has been drawn, in a morbid sort of way, to the current economic condition of two contrasting cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Abu Dhabi and Dubayy (Dubai).

 

In the month of October, 2008, I was very pleased to travel to both of these cities for the first time … with the purpose of introducing the subject of Sustainable Fire Engineering at a Building Seminar in the World Trade Centre, Dubayy.  My host was, and is more so now, convinced that this innovative approach to fire engineering offers a key to future commercial success in the Gulf Region.

 

Before making my presentation, however, I had spent some essential days wandering around Abu Dhabi … soaking up the local atmosphere and culture.

 

Arriving later in Dubayy, I was ‘shocked and stunned’ – a vivid Dublin expression –  to see that Billions of Dirhams (the local currency) had been spent on re-creating the Nightmare that is the 20th Century American City … where, if you want to just scratch your nose, you must get into your car – or one of them at least – to do so.

 

It was tragic to see how the local authorities were trying to ‘shoehorn’ an Urban Rail System into the existing City Fabric … ducking, and weaving in and out, between road overpasses and spaghetti junctions which had only been built in the last 10 years.

 

Sightings of UMO’s (Unidentified Moving Objects) … pedestrians and cyclists … are extremely rare !   The local summer, by the way, is the only season when it is definitely unhealthy to engage in either activity … temperatures can regularly reach into the low 50s oC.

 

People are much smarter in Abu Dhabi – so I was told.  They have seen the mistakes which have been made up the road, and they are determined to take a different path with their future development.

 

“How long will it take to transform and re-shape Abu Dhabi into a Sustainable City ?”, I was asked.

 

 

In order to answer that question, a new language is required.  Let me introduce you to some of its Technical Terms … which, even after many years of sweat and toil in SDI, are still being regularly reviewed, revised and updated:

 

 

Human Environment …

Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the natural environment. 

 

The Human Environment comprises, and must be taken together as a unified, complex whole:

 

Social Environment …

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

 

The Social Environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the Built (including Virtual) Environment.

 

Built Environment …

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc.

 

Virtual Environment …

A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the Built Environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

 

 

Long before the present seismic upheavals and sordid revelations … the intuition of many people around the world had been informed that ‘economics’ inhabited its own closed environment … and operated to entirely different ‘rules’ from the rest of us – mere peasants – which are anything but open and transparent.  The ‘actors’ in this Economic Environment are not accountable.  Well … not yet, anyway !

 

Economic Environment …

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the Social Environment.

 

 

And, still under development … the Institutional Environment.

 

 

 

Social Wellbeing …

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

 

Individual Welfare …

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

 

 

 

And finally for now:

 

The City …

 

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)  An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)  A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)  A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

 

together functioning as …

(i)   a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;   and

(ii)  a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

 

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