Twelve Principles for Healthy and Sustainable Places

In support of project underway of United Nations University’s Global Health Institute

UN Urban thinkers Campus

  1. COHABIT – Design with nature. Human and ecosystem health stand centre stage in good place design. If it is good for our small planet, we are well on the way to healthy and sustainable places, and sustainable lives. Sustainability and sharing is a defining context!  It changes everything.
  1. SENSES – Humans like all animals are intimately connected to place through our senses – hearing, touch, smell, taste and sight. And a sense of compassion. Beautiful, vibrant and culturally distinct places ignite the senses, bringing a feeling of wellbeing, security, creativity and generosity of spirit.
  1. COMPLEXITY – Natural, economic and cultural diversity make for complex but equally interesting and resilient places. So forget everything you think you know. Welcome chaos and complexity as a necessary first step in the solution process. Engage with diverse ideas, cultures and approaches.
  1. OPPORTUNITY – Given the level, dynamics and sheer overwhelming complexity of the challenges, we will not solve 21st century challenges with measures based on the old paradigms. So much has changed in terms of imagination, technologies and the way we use them. So prepare to be very different.
  1. PROXIMITY – Physical activity, social connection and healthy eating are fostered through proximity, and natural and built environments that are designed to connect, respect and protect. Retire distance, speed and indifference. Replace with proximity, safety and neighborliness.
  1. EQUITY – Justice and equity are vibrant beacons for health, democracy and development in human settlements. Burdens of climate change and unsustainable development must not be carried by the most vulnerable citizens, cities and countries.
  1. DEMOCRACY – Good governance holds the key to the future of human settlements. Citizens cannot be not passive spectators. There is more to democracy than occasional elections. Mobilise civil society in all its diversity and differences around big questions and strive for local answers.
  1. PARITY – Sustainability cannot be planned, decided and administered by a minority. Daily life needs and perceptions of women differ in many ways. The only path to planning and implementing sustainable, efficient and just communities is to ensure full gender parity in all decision fora.   
  1. RESISTANCE– Most human beings are change-averse and ready to challenge anything they perceive see as invasions in any part of their daily lives. So we must anticipate this from the beginning and have a multi-level strategy which takes this into account from the beginning. 
  1. TIMEMake time our ally. We need to be very clever in the many ways that we can put it to work for our good cause. We can knit together the strands of our solution, putting time on our side 
  1. COLLABORATION By creating and pushing to their limit flat, open, citizen peer knowledge networks we enter a new age of problem solving capabilities far beyond anything available to us in the past. (Which is to say, we have a chance!) 
  1. NEVER GIVE UP

[1] Revised working draft by Eric Britton submitted in response to a request from an on-going research project of the United Nations University’s  Global Health Institute (http://iigh.unu.edu/) that is setting out Principles of Healthy and Sustainable Places. In support of their Health and Wellbeing in the City We Need symposium to meet in Kuching, Malaysia from January 24-27, 2016  –  http://unhabitat.org/urbanthinkers/ for more.

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About the author:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is a sustainability activist, mediator, managing director of EcoPlan International, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development, and Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion in Paris. His latest work focuses on the subject of equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions and in the process find practical solutions to urging climate, mobility, life quality and job creation issues. Founding editor of World Streets and the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice, his forthcoming book, “Glad you asked, Madame Mayor: Toward a General Theory of Transport in Cities”, is being presented, discussed and critiqued in a series of international conferences, master classes, peer reviews and media events in Asia, Europe and Africa over 2016. - - > More: http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7

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Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

It’s no secret that just about anywhere you go in the Netherlands is an incredible place to bicycle. And in Groningen, a northern city with a population of 190,000 and a bike mode share of 50 percent, the cycling is as comfortable as in any city on Earth. The sheer number of people riding at any one time will astound you, as will the absence of automobiles in the city center, where cars seem extinct. It is remarkable just how quiet the city is. People go about their business running errands by bike, going to work by bike, and even holding hands by bike.

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World Car Free Day 2015: “La femme est l’avenir de l’homme”

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Celebrating Bandung’s Car Free Day. Known as “We shot Bandung” Credit: Ikhlasyl Amal.

At a terrible time in the history of mankind, I propose to you this photograph as a message of hope and a silent clue to a better, sweeter future for all. . . agreeing as I do with the poet Louis Aragon when he wrote so long ago: “La femme est l’avenir de l’homme” (“Woman is the Future of Mankind”).

What about this? Let’s get together, you and, I to see what we can do about making this the universal theme of World Car Free Day this year . . .  in as many cities and countries around the world as we can.  One city at a time.

Your turn!

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