PROOF 24 – The Future of Cities

Hello Reader,

This week in PROOF, we are going to look at the Future of Cities and some of the great thinking and work that is happening in regards to how we might rethink the way we live together. As human beings moved from nomadic life to agrarian life, the first cities were built. These cities were a place to store grain and conduct trade. Grain storage was the first store of wealth for emerging civilizations. With it came the need to defend the grain from the threat of theft. Cities quickly became fortified and with that came the division between living in town, safe, and living out of town, not so much.

In the time prior to railways, small cities dotted the landscape with at most an hour’s horse ride between them. Inside the city itself, for the most part, people moved on foot. Larger cities which required carriages to move about were more rare and usually the seat of the government for a country, like Paris, London, Istanbul, or Rome.

Large and mega cities are a result of the industrial revolution. Factories provided centralized jobs. All one had to do was move to the city to find factory work. Urbanization has led to 54% of people living in a city up from 30% in the 1930’s. This number is predicted to move to 66% over the next 15-20 years. Africa alone will see a billion Africans move to cities from rural areas. In addition, climate refugees will account for 600 million people needing a new city home.

Currently cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce 60% of the world greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental impacts extend to the individuals living in these cities with 11 million deaths annually being directly related to pollution and its health impacts.

The twin pressures of population growth and climate impact will necessitate redesigning today’s cities and imagining entirely new cities to deal with both relocation from climate impacted locations and refugee populations.

I say all of this to paint a picture of a 20 year future of cities. Given the numbers and the immediacy of the problems we are facing at the city level, we will have to reconsider the entire notion of what a city is and how it shapes the lives of the people who live in them.

This past weekend my wife Alex and I traveled to a community near us called Prospect Park. It is a designed neighborhood in the city that is closest to our rural home. In the neighborhood there are a number of professional offices including a medical clinic. There is a bakery, a coffee shop, several restaurants and a number of boutique style retail stores. The neighborhood is medium to high density with a mix of houses, condos and apartments. This makes it a very walkable place.

Having an outdoor coffee at the coffee shop reminded me of the pedestrian cities of Europe. Places like the old centers of European cities and these kinds of designed neighborhoods are human scale and thus have a natural quality of life to them.

As we turn to look into a generative future, what kinds of cities do we imagine and who are the people that the cities are aimed to serve? Is it the corporations who have been the historic drivers of urbanization? Or could we design cites that are good for people, families, health, sustainability and the global environment? Do we want megacities or would smaller, more distributed communities be a better idea? Should we rehabilitate and redesign cities designed for an era that is ending, like the automobile centric cities of the west, or do we compost those cities and build newly?

All of these questions provide grist for the mill of this age of invention and innovation. We should not shy away from the challenge of imagining and building new neighborhoods and new cities that better serve humanity. More importantly, we must avoid the pitfall of designing short term solutions to current problems and look forward to creating paradigmatic shifts in what a city is, what size is it, where it is located and what it means to be a resident. We must do this and do it boldly.

From where we stand the view of who is going to lead the way in this planet wide revolution of innovation: It’s you, and you and you, every one of you. Everyone of us.

Michael Shaun Conaway
& The NOW Team

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PROOF of a Thriving Future for Humanity
Positive World News
Organizations and Initiatives that are Generating a New Futures

What We’re Watching:
 The Future of Cities

What We’re Reading:

•  Inventing Future Cities by Michael Batty

What We’re Listening to:
Our Future in Cities

Generative Futures Initiative Updates:
• Join us on Clubhouse for weekly Generative Conversations every Saturday at 11 am PT

Proof of a Thriving Future for Humanity

In the News:

Organizations Generating a Thriving Future:


Join us April 30th – May 2nd for an online festival to support the new-village movement by enabling knowledge sharing and multi-disciplinary collaboration between all the people and organizations who are re:building our world. ? ? ?

Each conversation and workshop is meant to teach you something new, or inspire you in your journey of being part of the regenerative village building movement. Connect with other village builders and meet future partners to collaborate and co-create with. ??

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What We’re Watching : The Future of Cities

More than 31 cities around the globe — including Tokyo, Delhi, Cairo and Mexico City — are considered megacities, with populations of more than 10 million people. As the number of city dwellers increases, so do problems like overcrowding, pollution, housing shortages and aging infrastructure.

In his  mini-documentary, “The Future of Cities,” New York-based director Oscar Boyson stepped out of the commercial film and TV world to explore what governments, communities, and everyday people around the globe are doing to make increasing density in their cities sustainable for the future.

What We’re Reading – Inventing Future Cities

We cannot predict future cities, but we can invent them. Cities are largely unpredictable because they are complex systems that are more like organisms than machines. Neither the laws of economics nor the laws of mechanics apply; cities are the product of countless individual and collective decisions that do not conform to any grand plan. They are the product of our inventions; they evolve. In Inventing Future Cities, Michael Batty explores what we need to understand about cities in order to invent their future.

What We’re Listening to –  Our Future in Cities

Humanity’s future is the future of cities. Explore the crowded favelas, greened-up blocks and futuristic districts that could shape the future of cities — and take a profane, hilarious side trip to the suburbs. Listen to a series of TED talks that speak to different aspects of how we can have cities contribute to a thriving future for humanity.

Please Join US – Generative Futures on Clubhouse

We are hosting weekly conversations for Generative Futures every Saturday at 11:00am PT. Clubhouse is iPhone only and you need an invite to get on the app, please email us at and we will invite you!

May this information inspire you to generate a thriving future for humanity and a thriving life for yourself.

-The Now Team

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