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A cathedral thinking – for the future


The world of cities
Take the city back

ENVIRONMENT: We are on a collision course with both natural and social capital, globally, what former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a global suicide pact. Well, we have to build a new future stone by stone – knowing that we will not see the result ourselves.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

50 years of strong economic growth ("the big acceleration") have brought us to a world in which we had 1,4 planets at our disposal. On March 26 this year, the Danes had exhausted what they can afford throughout 2021 if consumption is to be sustainable. And out of nine themes for what boundaries there are for the planet's development, the four have exceeded the planet's boundaries (climate, biodiversity, the conditions for growing crops, biogeochemical processes).

Extensive regenerative healing is needed. Simply implementing sustainable development is not enough. Neither does CO2 neutrality. Stone by stone, we must build a new future, knowing that we will not see the result ourselves when “a new world” that respects the planet's boundaries will be ready. Today, a cathedral thinking must be developed – as in the case of buildings erected over generations – that can accommodate the extensive conversion work.

THE BIG FIVE: The World Goals; The Paris Declaration on Climate Change; The sender statement on
natural disasters; New urban Agenda (UN Habitat III); and the International Financing for Development Conference.

For the messages from the various UN institutions are clear. We are on a collision course with both natural and social capital, globally. A course that former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a global suicide pact and the current UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls suicidal.

One could wish that the UN, based on the interests of the world community, could decide on change initiatives or that a group of nations could do so. This is unlikely to happen without significant political pressure. For no government or decision-maker at different levels of governance can, over time, withstand the demands and desires of a people or a civil society.

Five major international conferences

Prior to the completion of a report to the Storting, Norsk Habitat has published the debate book World of Cities [see also separate article]. Useful information is provided here for use in political initiatives at local, regional and national level. But also with inputs to a Storting report can frame how Norway can contribute in the world.

Developments in cities all over the world have been a driving force towards the impending collapse. It is noteworthy that there is no more focus on this dominant megatrend. In other words, on the global population and economic urban growth, on the climate and environmental challenges, urbanization – and the female dominance of poverty. It is urgent that nations come together to develop knowledge and strategies for urban development or perhaps rather the development of a bioregion.

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Disasters and sustainability have until recently been separate policy themes. Today, the platforms from the five major international conferences (2015–16) can be combined: the World Goals; The Paris Declaration on Climate Change; Sendai Declaration on Natural Disasters; and New urban Agenda (UN Habitat III). In addition, decisions should be integrated from the most recent conference on International Financing for Development (July 2015).

Today, the system of international institutions is weakened, among other things. because of. the great powers' own national security interests, a permanently inadequate UN budget, and shifts in the international hierarchy of power, where the composition of the UN Security Council continues to reflect the situation at the end of World War II.

Maybe some positive experiences can actually be extracted from it Coronapandemic. Perhaps the world community was not made aware that the right to health – and the right to adequate housing – should be included in fundamental rights? Nor will it also be possible to claim that the right to information constitutes a precautionary measure to prevent disease from spreading across the planet.

In the face of the global counter-offensive against terrorism and its global security architecture, human rights and global civil society today are weak. But to ensure the right to health, the right to a home, the right to water and the right to fair public information about health risks, there will be other appropriate actors in society other than the fighters against terrorism and the security area. The latter need democratic control.

Habitat Norway

Here, too, a cathedral thinking becomes basic. according to Habitat Norway long-term solutions to the urban challenges must be worked on. In co-operation between civil society actors, research and social institutions with local and regional authorities – and why not in co-operation between the Nordic countries? Based on Goal 11 of the World Goals and an operationalization of the New urban Agenda, a dialogue should be established with the South on social urban and housing development. And larger cities with their civil society should, incidentally, be able to see a significant task in defining tasks and to whom and how. With, for example, themes such as risk analysis, sustainability and resilience. And with experience from Covid-19: on stopping the global privatization of public and semi-public land and property.

The urban tissue

In the book Take the City back with the subtitle «The winds of change over Copenhagen and Zealand», the author Peter Schultz Jørgensen presents the six threads in the urban fabric. These consist of nature, region, land, capital, settlement and democracy. These six threads must be thought of together – unprioritised – in order to embrace the complexity of the city.

This is especially true when conflicts come to the surface, whether it is a conflict in the immediate area or in a wider geographical sense.

Copenhagen has in recent years (until coronaa) has been characterized by a violent influx of new residents and also a great deal of interest from private equity funds and pension funds and their money tanks. Peter Schultz Jørgensen's book is based on a number of containment initiatives aimed at nature, with a view to constructing additional homes to alleviate demand. The construction of additional housing has been declared by the Social Democratic leadership in Copenhagen and the government to be the equivalent – and obviously the only one – of the rapidly rising housing prices with the social consequences it has for the city.

The rapidly rising housing prices have social consequences for the city.

The "nature thread" is about an embedding of society in nature must be based on knowledge and ecological ethics, so that society can establish caring relationships with other beings and the biosphere as a whole.

Are we at the beginning of a paradigm shift, how wise would it be to fill in the city's areas, based on erroneous ideas about «that everyone wants to live in Copenhagen» and «we must reduce housing prices»? How wise would it be to build on plots and protected areas and thus lock the city for the future? This is how Schultz Jørgensen asks and refers to the fact that alternatives are being tested in many cities.

An example of this is the project «Nørrebros Sjæl» in Copenhagen. In the project, citizen participation and recycling of contaminated with collected rainwater play together. New facets of ecological urbanity can be a driver for scientific insight – subordinate to an ecodesign, where «communities» are embedded in nature. Initially, by embracing this in urban biotopes. Not as isolated «green» breathing holes in the city, but a model where biotopes are gradually connected to each other.

An eco-competence will require a rethinking of the most basic structures of legislation. For “The laws of nature must become a central part of human laws,” as the author writes.

The starting point is «the common» as an organizing principle: From the dominance of the subject over to the relation subject-nature. The six threads of the urban fabric "must become a good guide for the many activists who today sense a" Think globally – act locally ".

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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