Inclusiveness. We are building cities for over two billion more people over the next thirty years at the same time as we are dealing with the fallout of climate change and trying to halt the mass extinction of species. This momentum is Earth shattering. To a large degree how we address the challenge of this massive urban development will impact global warming and biodiversity. The civic revolution is not about the migration of people into cities, but how we choose to live with each other. The cornerstone of equitable, low-carbon cities is the priority given to public affluence. There is no sustainability without diverse and inclusive cities that combat social injustice and environmental depredation by enabling us to share our finite resources more humanely.
We live precariously in an unsustainable twenty-first century global economy and an unstable environment. And yet our true calling to lift these shadows is deadened by our collective fear of breaking a broken system. The antidote to this lack of courage and vision is to do what we can to change the immediate world around us. Our livelihood depends on many things, not least a different perspective and broader aspirations. The good news is that the systemic change we need is fractal by nature: it requires leadership at every level of society.
Government can be pushed by citizens to make revolutionary changes, often with the help and organisation of impassioned social activists. They advocate fundamental change resolutely on behalf of their fellow citizens, agitating from outside the system. We need these committed individuals and their energy: they wake us up, and if we don’t wake up we become complicit.
Most of us are not activists, but all of us are citizens. What we need is a guide for us to take direct action locally, to spend our energy making changes where we live. Active citizenship is about finding new ways to make our city the seat of the solution and to create non-linear change. It is about navigating the tension between our anger with the broken system and an appreciation of how it works. It is about implementing solutions to the problems that matter, no matter what else is happening.
Civic revolution is not a political philosophy of the left or right. Instead the spectrum is flipped from horizontal to vertical, from political parties of different colours to citizens, communities and cities of all colours. Viewed from this angle, the beliefs are more encompassing and representative of a new stage. They are perhaps the universal design principles for how cities should be built to last, and how we should embrace the place where we live in order to prosper:
Growth is no longer the supreme good;
Energy is the fundamental resource that shapes the economy;
Places have power;
Civics is a force with incredible potential.
Our individual attitudes towards civic life determine how we engage with people and the world around us. Transformative change depends on our inclusiveness of others; resourcefulness in doing more with less; empowerment by taking back control; ingenuity in working with nature; audacity in reinventing urban living; and initiative in protecting vital natural resources.
Nation states and corporations will not lead the charge, constrained by sovereign interest or the profit imperative. The battle for a more prosperous and sustainable future will be won or lost by citizens, by us, on the streets of our cities. Everyone is included.