15 August 2011

Cities as a source of recovery from the Economic Crisis of 2008, Part III (B): establishing the environment

It would appear that the ‘spark’ or the ‘embryo’ , taking from the example of one of the most successful cities in the world, Curitiba, Brazil, is the presence of a charismatic leader, such as Jaime Lerner and a group of dedicated professionals, citizens and others stake holders committed to changing an urban environment. This is not a ‘talk shop’, but a ‘contracted’ group, which will make things happen once they are planned. This group could be considered the ‘vanguard’ or ‘intelligentsia.’ Every movement starts in this way. There was a ‘vanguard’ for the spread of Christianity and Islam, War of American Independence, French Revolution, Russian Revolution, Chinese Revolution, Velvet Revolution, the independence movement of India, Civil Rights Movement, and now in the Middle East Spring. Thus, to make significant changes in any urbanized area is the necessity of a vanguard.
The other element is the establishment of an inclusive and expanding network. The vanguard can start things in motion, but eventually it must let go, allowing for the natural development of chaos and complexity. Whole communities which may be first a city and then later other scales such as a region, state/province, nations and the entire globe have to ‘buy’ into the ideas. This may be both through formal or informal networks, perhaps by-passing the formal structures of political subdivisions such as counties, states/provinces, the nation- state, or formalized supra-national organizations such as the European Union, or the G-8. It is quite apparent when one group tries to maintain rigid control that disaster on a massive scale is surely to follow. Examples would be: the state terrorism following the French Revolution; genocide by the Stalin régime in the former U.S.S.R; the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward in China, the creation of the Nazi state in Germany; in Cambodia, the revolution led by the Khmer Rouge; and the list goes on. The great leaders in the world led by their influence and not by force. Just think about leaders in our modern age that brought about major change: John Paul II, Lech Wałęsa, Václav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. They formed networks that transformed a decrepit environment into another healthier environment.

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