Shrinking Cities

One of the biggest challenges for the world this century is how to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who will flock to cities, especially in emerging economies. Coping with this human torrent will be fearsomely difficult but at least the problem is widely acknowledged. That is not true of another pressing urban dilemma: what to do with cities that are losing people.They are hardly unusual. Almost one in ten American cities is shrinking. So are more than a third of German ones and the number is growing. Although Japan’s biggest cities are thriving, large numbers of its smaller ones are collapsing. Several South Korean cities have begun to decline a trend that will speed up unless couples can somehow be persuaded to have more babies. Next will come China, where the force of rapid urbanisation will eventually be overwhelmed by the greater power of demographic contraction. China’s total urban population is expected to peak by mid-century; older industrial boom towns are already on a downward slope.

An abandoned street containing a rotting nursery or primary school is a sad sight. And declining cities have more than visual problems. Disused buildings deter investors and attract criminals; superfluous infrastructure is costly to maintain; ambitious workers may refuse to move to places where the potential clientele is shrinking. Where cities are economically self-sufficient, a smaller working population means a fragile base on which to balance hefty pension obligations. That is why Detroit went bust. So it is unsurprising that governments often try to shore up their crumbling smaller cities. Japan recently announced tax cuts for firms that are willing to move their headquarters out of thriving Tokyo. Office parks, art museums and tram lines have been built in troubled American and European cities, on the assumption that if you build it, people will come. For the most part, they will not. Worse, the attempt to draw workers back to shrinking cities is misconceived. People move from smaller to larger cities in countries like Germany and Japan because the biggest conurbations have stronger economies, with a greater variety of better-paying jobs. The technological revolution, which was once expected to overturn the tyranny of distance, has in fact encouraged workers to cluster together and share clever ideas. Britain’s productivity is pitiful these days (see article) but it is almost one-third higher in London than elsewhere.  Policies meant to counteract the dominance of big cities are not just doomed to fail but can actually be counter-productive. The most successful metropolises should be encouraged to expand by stripping away planning restrictions. If housing were more plentiful in the bigger conurbations it would be cheaper, and the residents of declining cities, who often have little housing equity, would find it easier to move to them. Rent controls and rules that give local people priority in public housing should go, too: they harm the poor by locking them into unproductive places.

A new kind of garden city

Even so, many people will stay stuck in shrinking cities, which will grow steadily older. Better transport links to big cities will help some. But a great many cannot be revived. In such cases the best policy is to acquire empty offices and homes, knock them down and return the land to nature—something that has worked in the east German city of Dessau-Rosslau and in Pittsburgh in America. That will require money and new habits of mind. Planners are expert at making cities work better as they grow. Keeping them healthy as they shrink is just as noble.

In the US at least, cities house poor people, often racial minorities or from lower classes, who global capitalism no longer wants to employ. The excesses of finance with harmful if not predatory mortgages, ended up kicking people out their houses, which become vacant and vandalized, driving people away from cities. Who will pay to restore or repair them? Excessive wealth inequality may favor a few high lifestyle metros, but also prevent capital from investing in places where the those who control capital seek only to exploit. Growing populations may keep property values inflated, but low and stagnant wages will not make cities liveable. Our biggest crisis is how to employ everyone, or if that is becoming more obsolete, to ensure that the productivity of the society is widely shared. Whether that happens in large metros, smaller cities or even repopulated and renewed farmlands is less important than that it happens at all.

Cities rise and fall. Take the former City States of Rome and Venice as two significant examples. This pattern will continue and the global pattern of key cities will also shift. Cities with strong economic drivers will prevail. Cities with attractive natural qualities will prevail. Cities which are well marketed and offer a better quality of life will prevail. Cities in countries whose governments offer significant financial and taxation advantages will prevail. Competition will always prevail at the Local, Regional, State, National and International level. Larger cities with characteristics such as those above will continue to prosper provided they can compete. Smaller centres located within short travel times to such cities will also benefit and transport technology here can play a large role. In addition locations with good cyber connections to people in such centres also have potential. The urban settlements patterns of the past and today will be quite different to those of tomorrow. Government will always have a regulatory role in ensuring that citizens are safe and prosperous and make a fair contribution to society. People will migrate to seek a better life. Those people captive to their own predicament and their country’s policies will be unable to move and policies of countries may restrict immigration. Humanity adapts.


Tragedy Of The Homeless 

Every year over 70 million rural migrats are moving into urban centers around the world. Unfortunately most of them land up  into the slums of their new cities.  In such a situation can the buy-one-give-one model work for housing? Imagine if every slumdweller or homeless family on earth had their fully paid home. Thanks to our new social concious buyers Many such projects and proposals are well under way to make that a reality. Buy A Luxury Condo or home, Give A Slum Dweller A New Home is a reality and is launched one of the first partnership in the U.S. and India. Buy a new luxury condo in San Diego, and you can help build a home for a family currently living in a slum in Manila or Mumbai. The philosophy and the social impact behind this has inspired many developers a one-for-one real estate gifting model,” says Pete Dupuis, who co-founded World Housing with his business partner Sid Landolt in 2013, beginning with a development in Vancouver.


The business model is simple in theory: Real estate developers donate a portion of their marketing budget to the nonprofit, and then the nonprofit creates local factories that build low-cost homes in the developing world. Each home, which can cost about $5,000 in a place like Manila or Mumbai, is part of a bigger neighborhood with a playground, community garden, and other common areas. “Our mission at World Housing is to create social change by connecting the world to be a better community, so the idea of ‘community’ is foundational to how we think, design, and create our homes,” says Dupuis. In Cambodia, where the nonprofit has been building homes for the last two years, they’ve partnered with Cambodia Children’s Fund to help provide services like health care, nutrition, and education for residents.The team’s new project in Manila was inspired in part by a trip Dupuis took to a slum called Smokey Mountain, where about 300,000 people live in shacks in a landfill. “The abject poverty has left a lasting impression on how I saw the world,” he says. “However, the one thing I discovered was the welcoming and hopeful nature of the people there. One of my best memories was playing a game of pool in the middle of a slum, on a table reconstructed from garbage. The people made me feel like part of their family and I made a promise to myself that when World Housing opened we would return to help the people there.”

In India, anyone who buys a condo or house at any of its new developments in and near Mumbai, Houston and Tanzania called micro Cities will help change the lives of a family locally. The Bosa condo development in San Diego will fund 64 homes in Manila, housing 300 people.
The condos, which will be available in 2017, are polar opposites of the simple houses under construction in Manila, with amenities like ocean views, a pool and sauna, and even potentially an indoor dog run. But the developer thinks that buyers will respond to the idea of doing good as an added perk. “We hope to set a new norm in residential development and inspire buyers, who will be the driving force in building this community,” says Nat Bosa, president of Bosa Development, the company behind Pacific Gate. Companies such as Zeons Realty which builds off the grid Micro-Cities also donates to the local community in which it starts any project.  “We believe it will attract domestic and international buyers, so it is a natural progression for the company to expand its philanthropic footprint within the community it does business,” Garson Silvers says CEO for Zeons. World Housing has housed 2,000 people so far, and hopes to reach 30,000 by 2020. Bosa believes the model may start to spread in the development community. “As the industry continues to grow we believe this model of giving will also grow,” he says. “There’s nothing more powerful than having owners and developers see the physical impact they are having on a global scale. They are affecting lives in the most profound way.”

By Naved Jafry

Reference : A. Peters

What Enterprises Need To Know About Creating Sustainable Development Goals


Which goals are key for businesses? What sectors do they address? Will they make any difference? Here are some insights on many of the 169 SDG targets which can come handy when building a SDG compatible organization. Where the millennium development goals were seen as applying principally to developing countries, the sustainable development goals will apply globally. What do businesses need to know about them? Ahead of the formal adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit in New York, we wonder what are the SDGs, what do they mean for business and what impact will they have?
What are they?
The SDGs effectively replace the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were in place from 2000 to 2015. Whether you believe the MDGs were a success or not, they certainly became a fulcrum for global development. In 2012, at Rio+20, it was agreed that a new set of goals would be drawn up, based on widespread stakeholder engagement. The final 17 goals as agreed by all 193 member states of the UN cover a 15-year timeframe to 2030 and include 169 targets. “Unlike the MDGs, the private sector has been very involved in their creation,” says Simon Kingston, global development practice lead at Russell Reynolds Associates.
Which goals are most business-specific?
MDG sceptics long argued that the only reason people were lifted out of poverty from 2000-2015 was the economic growth of developing and middle-income markets, most notably China and India. In a sense, the SDGs build on that argument and embrace private sector growth as a means for development and poverty reduction. Goal 8 includes targets to achieve full employment for all, protect labour rights and tackle the Neet (people not in education, employment or training) crisis, the last of these by 2020. It also includes the memorable phrase “decouple economic growth from environmental degradation”, which could become the slogan for sustainable business.Goal 9’s “sustainable industrialisation” talks of a need to significantly raise “industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, and double its share in least developed countries” – a pro private sector stance (and arguably anti public ownership). “The important elements for business is that their role has been recognised,” says San Bilal, head of the economic transformation and trade programme at the European Centre for Development Policy Management. “They are not considered the bad guys any more. The discourse has changed – seeking to make profit is not seen as [incompatible] with development.”However, Rob Cameron, executive director of SustainAbility and former CEO of Fairtrade International, says: “Don’t overlook Goal 1, end poverty in all its forms, everywhere … the question becomes one of equity, and business will need to address that.”

Which sectors are addressed?
There’s a fair bit in the goals for the food and drink industry. Goal 12 includes halving per capita global food waste at the retail level and reducing food losses along production and supply chains. Goal 2 also seems to favour smallholder farmers over large-scale agri-business – “double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers … including through secure and equal access to land”. For the energy industry, fossil-fuel subsidies are to be phased out “where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts”, while increasing “substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix”. Water and utilities obviously have a direct interest in Goal 6 (ensure access to water and sanitation for all), while the fishing industry is targeted by Goal 14(conserve oceans, seas and marine resources).
Recurring theme of trade liberalisation
The removal of subsidies and trade barriers recurs throughout. As well as fossil-fuel subsidises, the prohibition of fisheries subsidies is called for in Goal 14. Goal 17 gives robust support to global business and free trade, and calls for meaningful trade liberalisation under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), while the “means of implementation” section of the SDGs twice describes international trade as an “engine for inclusive economic growth”. We can expect to see the Doha Development Agenda come back to the fore.“Governments cannot ignore their responsibilities,” says Cameron. “There is no such thing as a free market, there never has been – government sets the rules by which commerce is done … that regulation has to shift.”
Sustainable business becomes mainstream
The circular economy, supply chain auditing and sustainability reporting – all come out of the shadows and into the limelight.Goal 12 calls for the 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production to be implemented, which promotes whole life cycle, cradle-to-cradle approaches among other things. Target 12.6 calls on member states to encourage companies to “integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle”. Expect to see a lot of activity around reporting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
Will the SDGs make any difference?
Not everyone thinks so. These are aspirations, not legally binding commitments. Bill Easterly, co-director of New York University’s Development Research Institute, has called the SDGs “a very big container of verbal fudge”. Many,including David Cameron, have decried the sheer number of goals and targets. “Let’s not be naïve,” says Bilal. “The SDGs provide a nice framework but in themselves are not sufficient to change approaches and attitudes … with 169 targets, the full implementation of the SDGs will not be possible.”However, even if they do preach to the converted, Kingston believes converts can now increasingly “influence their supply chain, through contractual arrangements, expectations and scrutiny. That’s the next generation of this agenda … What we’ve learned from the MDGs is having a shared framework and shared language is something one shouldn’t be too cynical about … and it is a revelation to see people like Paul Polman now in the middle of this, rather than the outside looking in.”
What happens next?
Following the UN summit, multi-sector working groups will form for each of the 17 goals. A UN business advisory council will also launch their website that will offer businesses a step-by-step guide to how they can address the post-2015 agenda and the International Chamber of Commerce has launched a guide to help companies contribute to the SDGs for a much promising future.

By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

Can The World Go 100% Renewable


A new report from Greenpeace says the world can be 100 percent renewable by 2050, and 85 percent renewable in just 15 years. The 2015 Energy [R]evolution report, the latest in a series that has offered the most accurate projections of any major analysis, worldwide, says that for the first time, the path to 100 percent renewable is cost-neutral. In addition, no new technological advancements are needed, the report says. “It’s basically political will,” Emily Rochon, a global energy strategist at Greenpeace, told ThinkProgress. “The primary premise of the Energy [R]evolution scenario is we have all of the solutions already on the table to get there.” Under the scenario outlined in the report, global CO2 emissions would be stabilized by 2020 and would approach zero in 2050. Fossil fuels would be phased out, beginning with the most carbon-intensive sources. By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s electricity could come from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Transitioning to renewable energy is the only way to significantly decrease carbon emissions. In the United States, a third of emissions come from the electricity sector, another quarter comes from transportation, and industry largely through electricity use and fossil fuel consumption accounts for another 20 percent. The United States has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2030, as part of its participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Global leaders will meet in Paris in December with the goal of developing a broad climate treaty to prevent average global temperatures from climbing past 2°C.
Economic considerations are often cited as a major hurdle to transitioning to renewable energy, but the Greenpeace report found that at every point during the transition, there would be more energy jobs than before. Rochon pointed out that during the economic downturn, the solar industry saw double-digit job growth. “Renewable energy definitely means more on the jobs front,” Rochon said. By 2030, renewable energy will account for 87 percent of the jobs in the energy sector, the report says. The authors estimate there will be 9.7 million people working in solar PV. The cost of developing renewable energy sources has fallen steeply in recent years, and, at this point, the fuel savings are “cost neutral” with investment in renewable energy, Rochon said. Amazingly, this is possible even though worldwide, governments pay $5.3 trillion annually to subsidize fossil fuels, according to a study by the International Energy Agency. “Despite the fact that the playing field isn’t level and is tilted in the favor of fossil fuels, renewable energy sources are still winning,” Rochon told Think Progress.
Policies that support renewable energy, such as federal tax credits and net metering for residential solar installations, are considered critical drivers of renewable industries in the United States. The solar industry’s tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2016. None of the fossil fuel tax credits are set to expire at this time. “A renewable energy future is within reach,” Rochon said. “It’s really up to our political leaders to say, yes, and we can do the work to get there.”What ever the future hold, predicts or promises the question is not if off the grid Zero carbon future is going to be a reality anymore but when will and how it will shape our lives the era of our NEXT.

Opinion By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

Significance of Storage For The Future of Clean Tech

battery 6

The renewable energy industry’s future can also be summed up in one word:STORAGE. Renewables are growing. Even many of my friends in the oil and gas industry concede that the energy mix of the future is going to look a lot different from the one we have now and renewables will be a much bigger part of the picture. The real question is how close (or distant) that future is. Based on current technologies, the conclusion of the fossil fuel industry is pretty darn far. In its 2015 Outlook on Energy, for example, Exxon XOM 0.64% projects that solar will grow by a factor of 20 and wind by five—but that by 2040 all renewables will still make up less than 10 percent of the global power supply. In its projections to 2035, BP BP 0.74% ends up in the same neighborhood.
battery 8The reason is that people really do want to be able to flip a switch and see the lights come on. Renewables (other than hydro, which has had its day) cannot deliver that; there always needs to be another source of backup power, which means fossil fuels or nuclear. Consider Germany. Even though it is investing heavily in renewables, it “will continue to need almost as many conventional power stations as before,” noted technology minister, Philipp Rosler. “When there is no wind, or it is cloudy, conventional power stations need to jump in and cover the bulk of energy consumption so that the electricity supply can be maintained securely. …At present, only flexible conventional power stations can do this.”
storage 5What renewables need to scale up to the very big time, then, is a game-changer (to use some consultant-speak). If solar or wind power could be economically stored, then released on command, that could fundamentally change the world’s power dynamics.This idea is neither new nor fantastic. Hydro has used pumped storage systems for decades; your cellphone’s battery is a form of storage. But the technology basically doesn’t exist for wind or solar. That could be changing. IHS, the respected energy consultancy, projects that energy storage will grow from a one-third of a gigawatt in 2013 to 6 GW by 2017 and more than 40 GW by 2022. In 2013, McKinsey estimated that the economic impact of energy storage would be at least $90 billion a year by 2025, and possibly much more (up to $635 billion) depending on how fast it is applied to cars. This is a drop in the bucket that is the $6 trillion global energy market but it is a drop that is getting bigger.

storage 2storage 3

In fact, as we have seen with both shale and solar over the last decade, decades of work and dozens of innovations can come together and create a tipping point where use dramatically increases. I think that could happen with storage. We are seeing many of the same dynamics.
Specifically, there are tons of experiments going on, ranging from a system that supports a 153-megawatt wind farm in Texas to one in midtown Manhattan that keeps a skyscraper cool, warm, and lit to one that provides backup support for isolated utilities in Alaska. Not all of these will work, or work well enough, cheaply enough to scale up. But that is true of any innovation; what matters is that lots of ideas are being tried. Some of them will succeed.
It’s worth noting, too, that the storage technologies that do exist are getting cheaper. In 2007, the cost of large-format lithium-ion storage was about $900 per kilowatt-hour; that is down to about $380, and could drop below $200 by 2020. There are other promising battery technologies that could leapfrog or at least complement li-ion, such as liquid metal, lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, sodium-ion, nano-based supercapacitors, and energy cache technology.
Finally, this is one area concerning renewables that the utilities are not fighting; in fact, they are investing. That matters, because we need the grid, and storage could actually strengthen it. Right now, utilities have to build extra capacity just to meet occasional peaks; the US typically uses less than 30 percent of capacity. If utilities could store power during periods of low demand, then release it during peaks, that would save a ton of money on capital costs, while also smoothing out frequency variations and providing voltage support. To venture into consultant speak again, that’s a win-win.
I am not a green-tinted Pollyanna. I know that there are lots of hurdles before storage becomes mainstream. As the hard-headed environmentalists at the Rocky Mountain Institute put it recently, there is no energy-storage business model at the moment that “offers anything close to a cash-positive scenario.” The McKinsey Global Institute cautions that there are many big issues that need to be addressed.
storageBut the big picture is this. There are many smart people, all over the world, working on energy storage. Investment in their research is growing. Costs are falling. Technologies are proliferating. And people want it. There is one word that sums up the likely consequence of those trends: progress.

Contributed By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers


unstop renewable
The clean energy revolution is facing an old enemy again. Just as clean alternatives to fossil fuels pick up speed, they confront a powerful old nemesis: oil, now cheaper than ever. Petroleum prices have plummeted since late summer 2014, declining by more than 60% to a record low below $40 per barrel, before recovering slightly. low oil prices could constitute a threat to electric car companies such as Tesla, which may sell fewer vehicles when conventional cars are cheaper to operate than they otherwise would be. People tend to be pragmatic and vote with their wallets more often than their consciences; when oil becomes cheaper, the demand for alternative fuels, including biofuels and electric vehicles, falls. Even worse, the support for policies that push for the use of such alternatives also can decline. Policies set in Washington and at the state level can cause politicians enthusiasm for clean energy technologies and more stringent fuel economy standards to ebb. This may also result in a decline in government tax credits for wind and solar, which could render these sources of energy less cost competitive with natural gas-generated electricity. For example, the astounding drop in the cost of rooftop solar panels in recent years is aided by a 30% federal tax credit that expires in 2016. Without the credit, the cost calculations of many families may change. There is a huge policy piece in here Hence there’s a lot at stake when cheaper oil robs alternative energy of customers and political support. On the flip side major policy change could also greatly expand the use of renewable energy nationwide is the federal administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions through EPA-mandated cuts to power plant emissions, while offering states incentives to meet requirements by expanding clean energy. According to the Energy Information Administration, these regulations could result in 283 gigawatts of cumulative additions of renewable electricity generation capacity through 2040, compared to only 109 gigawatts without the plan. The plan is being challenged in the courts, but if it survives largely intact, it could maintain renewable energy growth despite a continued slump in oil prices.
unstop renewable 2But the clean energy Industry is on the march, from rapidly expanding distributed solar installations to wind turbines that have been sprouting up like summer corn among the fields of Iowa and Nebraska. Today, America is number one in wind power, generating three times as much wind energy as we did in 2008. Renewable energy use grew an average of 5% per year during the period from 2001 to 2014, with major growth seen in wind and solar in particular, the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, reported. Renewable energy accounted for nearly 10% of the energy Americans used in 2014 the highest usage since the 1930s, when many people still burned wood for heat. According to the White House, the wind industry now supports more than 50,000 jobs in the U.S., and supplies enough energy to power 16 million homes. As well as we’re doing in wind, we’re also making even more progress on solar. America generates 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008 imagine 20 times the growth in less than 7 years. Last year was solar’s biggest year ever. Prices fell by 10%; installations climbed by 30%. Every three minutes, another home or business in America goes solar. Every three weeks, we install as much solar capacity as we did in all of 2008. . It is important to note that cost savings is not the only motivator for people to purchase electric vehicles, given that they have other advantages over conventional cars, like faster acceleration and a prestige factor that is hard to measure. The federal administration, for its part, is also determined to push for continued government support for clean energy that help many innovations.

In short even against all odds the love and romance for clean tech is still in the air and if this growth continues the oil based culture we see today may go to the way of horse carriages or firewood. Maybe this adverse pressure from oil may propel the clean tech to be leaner meaner and efficient.


By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers