How to change the world – The Charter City and Sustainability
Good morning people.
A few months ago I saw a Ted Talk video about a visionary concept written by academic Paul Romer, which he called Charter City, and even though he teaches at Stanford (Go Bears!), I felt the idea had tremendous potential to help developing countries to develop. However, when I was researching sustainability more recently, I realized that this concept fits easily into the Green Movement.
Romer’s main thesis is that much of the bad conditions in cities in developing countries are the result of poor regulations. The entrenched statutes and codes of these metropolises discourage efforts to bring about meaningful change. As an example, he cites North Korea and South Korea, two countries with the same geographical and cultural backgrounds, which split 60 years ago and adopted widely divergent rules. The results have been an economically vibrant South Korea and the poor, backward cult masquerade as a nation we know as North Korea. Same culture, same people, different rules.
What Professor Romer proposes as a solution are multinational charter cities, which could be located in now uninhabited regions of poor nations. These cities would start with new rules, ideas and knowledge from international sources who have experience working and building successful market economies. As a successful example of this, Romer offers Hong Kong. For many years, this canton was administered by Britain and thrived as a free market economy, particularly compared to most other Chinese cities before China opened up to the west in the 1970s. China has learned a lot from Hong Kong and many of its cities have adopted systems similar to those of the former British colony. These cities are driving China’s tremendous economic boom.
If you abstract from the idea of Charter Cities a bit, it’s essentially about establishing an example region, which could be of any size, that acts as a catalyst for change for its neighbors. These example regions put fresh ideas into practice with fresh minds.
In many ways, the United States was a “Charter Nation” that served as an example of We The People governance to the world. The results have been incredible to say the least, and in fact, many former and current monarchies whose systems our founders were trying to break are expressing the principles on which it was originally founded far better than the United States.
I think a charter city, based on sustainable principles like permaculture, zero waste, and local self-sufficiency, would be of great benefit. Romer points out that a village-sized community would not have the impact necessary to bring about enough of a turnaround in business as usual. It may be necessary to have a Charter City to change countries, but we can set up Charter Zones to change our cities. Like many of the problems facing cities in developing countries, unsustainable practices in most American cities are so ingrained in our municipal codes that meaningful sustainable change is very difficult to achieve. The creation of Charter Zones on the periphery of our cities can show how much smarter a sustainable city can be.
I hope my reader will consider this idea, as I’m certainly open to hearing about ways this could happen. Remember everyone, buy local or grow your own!
love to all,