bird s eye view of city

Are cities cool? Insights for Urban Agendas

Originally posted at Atlantic Cities’ Blogactiv (October 2017)

Written at the request of the publishers

The title of the book “Cool Cities”, written by Benjamin Barber, plays with the different dimensions of climate change that can be tackled at local level and even the mood for doing it. It is thus, an integrated metaphor of the book itself.

As a Political Science authority, Barber explains, in the first section of the book, the grounds for cities to access and exercise power.  For the author, the local level is not only the basis of democracy, but also the last rampart before failing states. Moreover, climate change comes as a confirmation of a logical conclusion: before particular and vested interests, power belongs to cities and its citizens.

In its second part, the book builds in that conclusion so as to describe its implementation, from the setting up to the assessment with a particular accountability index. The need for clear, practical, SMART local agendas is paramount to deal with climate change. The notion of justice seems also a vital condition for positive achievement.

All throughout the book, Barber demonstrates the need for cities to work in network, not only to increase size before global issues but also to create scale economies by learning from each other. Therefore, the Global Parliament of Mayors emerges as the logical evolution for those networks.

As a political scientist that works with cities, I completely agree with Barber when he says: “The relationship between city and state cannot be left for nation-states alone to define”. It seems clear that cities have (still) to raise their own voice when not making it louder. And, still concordant with the book, the moment has come to be extremely noisy; climate change will not allow us to lose time in silence.

But this cities’ voice cannot be chaotic. Cool Cities offers clear guidelines and best practice for a new urban speech, dosed in concept that every mayor in the world may understand. And that all city networks, like the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities, can convey to their members.

I have been working at CAAC since 2009, thus when I read “If Mayors ruled the world” I was in awe. However, nobody better than Barber himself to realise that something was missing, and the answer to that is Cool Cities.

Now, that we deeply miss him, it is time to take over his message.

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