Systems Science

Urban Dynamics and the Planet Earth

Photo Courtesy of - Portland, Oregon

Photo Courtesy of – Portland, Oregon

How will the Earth “look in 2030 and beyond?” How will urbanization “change the face of the planet and the biodiversity that is an essential part of it?”

As the narrator, Edward Norton, will explain, urban environments are “hubs” of creativity and innovation. But more than that, they are centers of inginuity and productivity. They are also where great philosophical and scientific discoveries emerge over coffee and cake, or beer in the case of the great physicist Richard Feynman. But this is not just hopeful rhetoric. Edward Glaeser, the premier urban economist in the United States, illustrates this very point in his book Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. As Glaeser explains, cities are centers of intellectual growth and intellectual exchange.

Intellectual growth increases due to the sheer number of interactions between academics and thinkers, industry professionals and workers, merchants and traders, and government officials and participatory citizens. Because of the interactions between the respective practitioners, intellectual capital increases, creativity and innovation emerges, and thus more interested and willing participants are attracted to the urban environment over time, which perpetuates a productive feedback loop for the system. In the long run, this in turn has a positive impact on the economy, health, and happiness of the residents; that is, the stability of the urban environment and the upward mobility of its citizens. But this is not the only benefit. There are many more.

There is an environmental argument to be made; that is, an argument about sustainability, and as the narrator exclaims, cities can lead the way. There is an educational argument to be made. Cities with great universities are richer in both intellectual and market capital. And there is a moral argument to be made – a morality for the common good and nature and its inhabitants rather than the few or the one. However, do United States citizens have the moral fortitude to take responsibility for their actions along with the vision and leadership to create a safe and healthy world for their children and their children’s children? Cities are the future of humanity if level heads prevail and systems scientists have the courage to push the necessary policies. But the question remains, how do leaders make them work for the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of the species?



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