Towards a more sustainable city
The identification of the city as the natural habitat of humanity has long run parallel to its perceived importance as a locus for advancement. In more classical times, to live outside of the polis essentially represented a rejection of society and a poor status being deplored by Homer as: ‘clanless and lawless and heartless’. Although thinking has since greatly evolved, it is undeniable that cities have always been great generators of capital, and, as a result, an understandable magnet for people. This relationship is never more apparent than in the present, where urban areas are almost universally identified as the key driver for economic growth on a global scale and frequently individual cities contribute a disproportionate amount of national economic income. For instance, London is widely acknowledged as the main engine room of the UK, whilst Mexico City accounts for approximately a third of Mexico’s entire GDP (UN-Habitat 2007). These benefits should not just be measured in narrow economic terms however, as from a social perspective there is a rich variety of goods and services widely available. For example, the concentration of people has helped communication and collaboration, aiding the formation of agencies designed to provide a collective voice, improve standards, teach skills or facilitate mobility. Although the contrast between the rich and poor can be stark within urban areas, cities are also widely seen to be the best mechanism to help raise quality of life and alleviate poverty on both a local and global scale. An issue recognized by the United Nations Population Fund (2007: 1) who hold the opinion that:
no country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant economic growth without urbanization. Cities concentrate poverty, but they also represent the best hope of escaping it.