Cities as Living Organisms in a Changing World

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Cities as Living Organisms in a Changing World

Cities are often compared to living organisms. Like living organisms, cities must evolve and adapt to survive in an ever changing world. A city’s choice is simple, evolve and adapt or perish. When I say perish, I am referring to succumbing to the pressures of market forces, inequality and competition with other cities.

A city must be cognizant of its need to evolve. It will become irrelevant as a place to attract talent, jobs and resources if it chooses not to do so. There are countless examples of cities that once were centers of economic activity. They are no longer relevant due to their inability to evolve. There are also examples of cities that have evolved and are seen as the leading contenders for economic growth.

In the Darwinian sense, only the strong survive. In the case of cities as living organisms, the same rule applies.  The city has to be strong enough to take care of the collective needs of its people and fight off any real or perceived issues that may weaken its ability to evolve.

A city must be creative enough to operate in the present while holding to a vision for its future. The larger challenge is how community is defined in pursuit of the city’s vision and who gets to define it?

Understanding this dynamic is important. More often than not, city leaders take action rooted in their “experience” and their ideal view of the city.

Depending on that experience, the ideal city may be limited in scope and scale depending on how community is defined. And, it may or may not be linked to the reality of what the city really is or its capacity to become.

We often here the perspective of let the market drive the vision for cities. This suggests a separation between politics and business should exist. This perspective suggests the market knows best and politics should not matter in city decision making.

Politics matters and as such requires an understanding of local officials’ subjective interpretation of city environment and its problems. Because in the end, cities use government economic tools in pursuit of the ideal city. How this is done and what’s defined as community should be of concern to citizens. It should be of concern given that the city’s ability to evolve is linked to public decision making.

As citizens its our responsibility to make sure our leaders have the capacity to execute on a collective community vision. It’s the vision and the ability to realize that vision for all of its citizens is what will drive the longevity of a cities as a living organism in a changing world.

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