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Radical Thinking To Recreate And Reimagine Our Cities

Does this look like your average mayor?

It is estimated that by the year 2050, eighty percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. Unfortunately, modern-day cities are often crime-ridden, chaotic, and in some form of decay. The Torre de David, the world’s tallest squat, which has emerged in Caracas, could be a precursor of things to come if something isn’t done about expanding urban populations. One answer is to build brand new cities, such as Iskandar in Malaysia, soon to be home to 3 million people. However, if governments don’t have a few trillion dollars to spare, there is a slightly cheaper solution. Follow in the footsteps of others.

A series of films commissioned by the Danish Film Institute and national broadcaster DR, focusing on four mega-cities that faced extreme problems, sought out and gave recognition to inspired visions for an urban future. Of the four cities dealt with in Cities on Speed, the most incredible story of transformation comes from Colombia. Bogotà Change tells the tale of two unorthodox politicians, Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa, whose successive mayoralties transformed the Colombian capital from a city plagued by crime, poverty and corruption to one of social equality and relative harmony.

The political metamorphosis in the place once dubbed ‘the worst city on the planet’ was, bizarrely enough, when Mockus pulled down his trousers and mooned 2000 students who were booing and insulting him. He was chancellor of the university at the time and was soon forced to resign—though remarkably this action became a symbol of his candor, which was seen as part and parcel of a larger integrity. Within a few months he was running to become the first independent mayor in Bogotà’s history. Campaigning in spandex ‘super-citizen’ suits, he won.

Immediately, he put into action a behavioral philosophy that turned Bogotà into an experiment in political theory. His radical methods included a ‘vaccine against violence’, and firing all 3200 of the notoriously corrupt traffic police and rehiring 400 of them as mime artists to manage the city’s traffic. Slowly, his moral re-education of the citizens saw the city transform itself. His successor, Enrique Peñalosa, envisioned equality through urban design, turning private clubs into public parks and slums into urban spaces. By the end of their two tenures their complementary measures saw homicide drop by 50%, traffic  by 25%, and traffic fatalities by 50%–and brought electricity, running water and a sewage system to all households. Twenty years later, their unique and extraordinary vision remains an inspiring model at a time when creative solutions are so desperately needed.

 


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  • Anonymous

    The story is compelling, and the results nothing short of incredible. I have a feeling that this transformation comes in well under budget and faster than expected by a skeptical world.  I wonder why this is the first I have heard of this. Could it be that it wasn’t a huge moneymaker for the rich and powerful? Could it be that this proves something in spite of those who decry the evils and ills of something too close to being called s o c i a l i s m ?

    Here, it seems as if a large number of the traditionally marginalized citizens have been considered and accounted for in the “plan”, and therefore *included*.

  • Planck

    Is this what it takes? A political metamophosis? Can radical politicians with radical methods do their stuff in USA? With campaign finance? And, “money as speech”? I don’t think so. This is a nice story about a foreign country. Democracy may exist more in those countries. It does not exist here. Even here, we needed FDR, one of them, to enforce the New Deal to save their capitalism from collapse. That was the only reason.  Today, they don’t care if it collapses. They have China and India now.

  • reidh

    The Men and/or Women who “own” the USA, now Control the most of the rest of the world?

  • Anonymous

    This all very feel-goody, but what’s up with the assumption that population will keep exploding. Population is the conversation. Environment is the conversation. Fatalist statistics is not a good foundation for discussing ‘tomorrow’.

  • Anonymous

    This all very feel-goody, but what’s up with the assumption that population will keep exploding. Population is the conversation. Environment is the conversation. Fatalist statistics is not a good foundation for discussing ‘tomorrow’.

    • DanM

      Which fatalist statistics?

      • Anonymous

        Assuming that population will keep exploding to the level assumed in the piece. Fatalistic.

        • DanM

          The only statistic that is a speculation in this piece is that more people will live in cities, not that the population will explode:
          “It is estimated that by the year 2050, eighty percent of the world’s population will be living in cities.”
           It is simply a story of how 2 mayors made a drastic difference in a place that desperately needed it, no assumptions or fatalistic statistics are being made in this documentary.
          This is all regardless of course of the fact that overpopulation is indeed a huge issue we are facing- on average, the world’s popuation grows with a net
          increase of 215,000 people per day.  This is every day, adding to an
          already terribly overpopulated Earth.

        • Anonymous

          Sorry, but because it does not factor exploding population the story of fantasy cities is fatalistic. Given your understanding of population I’m surprised you don’t get that, though maybe you do now. I know that is what the ‘story’ was about, I’m simply tired of all the silly bs ‘theories’ and ‘city hopes’ going round and round while the primary factor is never discussed. And further, the idea that 80% will be living in cities is just as grotesque. My post is my means of contribution to the subject, for now.

  • Anonymous

    I noticed that much of the space below is spent discussing the topic of population. The following is a link (with many more attached to it) on that topic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZVOU5bfHrM

    One of the fastest growing technologies in the world today is safe, sustainable and  healthy farming (in previously unimaginable locations and quantities), it’s neck and neck with affordable, accessible alternative energy.  Here are but two examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2RpS9tFkrg

    There are great diy examples that have only begun to be translated into other languages: http://theurbanfarmingguys.com/

    The appropriate/alternative energy technologies currently available to developing countries limited only by your imagination:
    Water:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=On7gbKIa5zc
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/08/cheaper-and-more-efficient-water.html

    I don’t currently have the time to begin listing the current appropriate alternative energy tech’s but here’s a start. Look into micropower

     http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/

    I used to believe much of what the contributors below did – then I looked into it.

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  • DC PEACE

    I loved this article and movie link! Inspirational how Mockus’ leads a people’s consciousness to CHANGE, value yourselves AND your environment! He truly is a leader! A problem solver with creative visual tactics! Penosa comes off as a thoughtful developer, who knew how to spend the money earned by Mockus’ righteous public turnaround. Both are exceptional politicians who truly SERVE the public! Cool flick!

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