Spotlight Series: SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities


Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

This sustainability goal focuses on the habitats where many of us live our daily lives, in fact half of humanity, 3.5 billion, live in cities today. By 2030 that number is estimated to increase by ten percent.

With this in mind i’m excited to spend time on this urgent discussion with a group of dedicated young people at the UWC short course.

While cities take up only 3% of land mass they account for 60-80 per cent of the world’s energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions. Although this sounds inherently unsustainable, in fact urban infrastructure holds major potential for efficiency gains and technological innovation while reducing resource and energy consumption.

For this reason among others, Richard Werner, author of ‘Cities for a Small Planet’ explains the potentiality in our urban spaces;

“Nowhere is the implementation of sustainability more potent or beneficial than the city. The benefits derived from this approach are potentially so great that they should become the guiding principle of modern urban design.’

But what does sustainability mean in this context?

In the UN report: ‘Our Common Future – Sustainable Development’ they describe,

‘The core of this concept of sustainability is the redefining of wealth to include natural capital: clean air, fresh water, an effective ozone layer, a clean sea, fertile, land and the abundant diversity of species.’

While these scientifically quantifiable goals are urgent and required, what excites me about cities and urban spaces are their potential to redress how we live together and build societies. They make power distribution transparent and can act as playgrounds for building futures.

One of the most prolific architects and urbanist, Buckminster Fuller held sustainability at the core of his designs. While energy efficiency was integrated, his works served as a critique of societal attitudes towards our planet.


“It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting our high technology from weaponry to livingry.”[1]

Fuller’s Dome design was shown at world expos and became an iconic image of sustainable building. The imagery of this closed circuit habitat also illustrated the fragility of the planet earth, the finite nature of resources.

So at this short course, I am looking forward to talking to people about how we can design cities, not just to lower emissions but also to change fundamentally the way that people engage with their surroundings. I am also interested in who can claim power for change in urban environments and so think the UWC context will be a really inspiring place to encounter these big questions.

See you soon,


This is part 12/18 of a series on the Sustainable Development Goals.





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