Community Futures lays out the seven most prominent challenges we’re facing right now, their interconnected nature, and how local tactics can provide global solutions.
Climate Change: the scale of the challenge. How we design our sustainable infrastructure and how quickly we implement it over the next 20 years will determine the future of human civilization.
Biosphere: from pollution to regeneration. Scientific evidence points to the start of a new era in the Earth’s existence called the Anthropocene, where human activity is reshaping the planet’s natural systems. The accelerating changes to our biosphere will shift political, community, investment, and economic agendas in the coming years, and force more urgent responses.
Water, Energy and Agriculture: opportunity through transformation. Threatened water supplies, growing energy demand, and the need for carbon emission reductions overlap significantly. These integrated issues have a profound effect on our environment, not least of all our food production system.
The Rise of Digital Cities: pervasive systems and automation. Digital innovation is already reshaping our communities. Systems that combine sensors, drones, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and predictive algorithms have the power to address some of our biggest challenges, but also need to balance individual rights and freedoms.
Transport: radical innovation ahead. Shifting the goal of transport policy from moving cars to moving people will give new priority to a range of modes, from e-scooters to ride-hailing to bus rapid transit. An increasingly diverse mix of modes could unlock valuable urban real estate, now dedicated to parking, for sustainable urban development and a richer public realm.
Creative Communities: building a sense of place. Cities will increasingly treat soft infrastructure—cultural resources, sustainability measures, natural and green spaces, and social inclusion—as an essential complement to traditional hard infrastructure in managing climate threats. Decarbonization will require an end to consumption-based, resource-intensive economic development; instead, it will favor a model organized around the knowledge economy.
Cities, Communities, and Governance: think locally, act globally. Realistically, cities have little choice in taking the lead on pledges made in the UN Paris Agreement, because two-thirds of humanity will live in cities by 2050. The nuts and bolts of building and executing policy will happen here, where rising sea levels, flooding, and extreme heat will hit first.
Considering the evidence, one has to conclude that cities stand on the front line in meeting the challenges of climate change, regenerating the biosphere and natural environment, and creating sustainable, socially inclusive development.
Thinking globally and acting locally has never mattered more.