News article

Quality of life becomes more important than economic growth

12 February 2021

The cities are in charge and they are unstoppable in their move towards sustainability and a circular economy

Many people are looking for a better life in the city; a career, more varied food, health and mobility. Worldwide, 200.000 people migrate to the city every day. Today there are already over 30 large metropolises; from Tokyo with 35 million inhabitants, to Manila with more than 20 million inhabitants. In 2030, 60% of all people on earth live in metropolises. There will even be super cities with more than 50 million inhabitants.

Shanghai City now has about 27 million inhabitants, but the Yangtze River Delta, of which Shanghai is part, has more than 65 million people. It is a contiguous metropolitan area where city and countryside alternate, but where the countryside is increasingly being oppressed. Cities are beginning to realize that they can’t continue to sacrifice the land around the city. Because cities need this land to produce the food they require. That is why the land close to a city that is used for food production, the ‘green belt’, will have to be integrated into metropolitan developments.

In China, we already see several large cities that encourage project developers and real estate entrepreneurs to invest in the surrounding area: in large-scale and professional food production. The project developer takes on an additional role: he becomes responsible for food supply.

Cities are the biggest drivers of radical innovations

Cities are also becoming the biggest drivers of sustainability and radical innovations. For technological breakthroughs. Local authorities can and will increasingly support the use of their cities as a testing ground for new technology. And with a clear goal: to solve their major problems with living, working, air quality, sewage, water, energy, lack of green, mobility and safe and healthy food. Because the cities’ inhabitants are becoming more demanding and critical. People no longer want to live in the smog and pay too much money for a small apartment with a poor indoor climate that smells like a sewer. Corruption is no longer accepted. Quality of life is becoming more important than economic growth!

Unstoppable move towards circular economy

We already see this happening. President Donald Trump may deny the climate problem, but that doesn’t stop the governments of metropolises like San Francisco and New York from setting ambitious sustainability goals for their cities. Even Texas, the largest oil producing state in the US, is already also one of the largest suppliers of wind energy in the world. It is partly thanks to the vision of many cities that the move towards sustainability and a circular economy is unstoppable. The same is happening in India, in China, in Japan and even in Russia and Turkey. The gap between what cities find important and what the national government wants to invest in is increasing.

The 19th century was the century of the empires. The 20th century was the century of the countries and national states. And the 21st century will be the century of the cities. With that, it will be the century of human wellbeing. It is the logic of three centuries of development: everything that does not add value or is not transparent, will eventually disappear...