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How to Change the World – The Charter City and Sustainability

Good morning folks.

A few months ago I watched a Ted Talks video on a visionary concept authored by academician Paul Romer, which he termed the Charter City, and despite the fact that he teaches at Stanford (Go Bears!), I felt the idea had tremendous potential for helping developing nations develop. Yet as I more recently was researching sustainability I realized this concept is easily adaptable to the Green Movement.

Romer’s primary thesis is that much of the poor conditions in cities in developing nations are the result of poor rules. The entrenched statutes and codes in these metropolises discourage efforts at meaningful change. As an example he cites North and South Korea, two countries with the same geographic and cultural backgrounds, who split apart 60 years ago, and adopted very divergent rules. The results have been an economically vibrant South Korea and the poor, backwards cult masquerading as a nation that we know as North Korea. Same culture, same people, different rules.

What Professor Romer proposes as a solution are multinational Charter Cities, that could be located in now uninhabited regions of poor nations. These cities would start with fresh rules, ideas and expertise from international sources that have experience working in and building successful market economies. As a successful example of this Romer offers Hong Kong. For many years this canton was administered by Great Britain, and thrived as a free market economy, particularly in comparison to most other Chinese cities prior to China opening to the west in the 70’s. China has learned a great deal from Hong Kong and many of its cities have adopted systems similar to that of the former British colony. These cities are fueling China’s tremendous economic boom.

If you abstract the idea of Charter Cities back a step, it is essentially setting up an example region, which could be of any size, that acts as a catalyst for change for its neighbors. These example regions put fresh ideas into action with fresh minds.

In many respects the United States was a “Charter Nation” that served as an example of governance by We The People for the world. The results have been incredible to say the least, and in fact many former and current monarchies whose systems our founders were trying to break from are expressing far better than the United States the principles upon which it was originally founded.

I believe that a Charter City, founded upon sustainable principles such as permaculture, zero waste and local self sufficiency, would be of enormous benefit. Romer points out a community the size of a village would not have the impact necessary spark sufficient change to business as usual. It may be necessary to have a Charter City to change a country, but we can establish Charter Zones to change our cities. Like so many of the problems facing cities in developing countries, unsustainable practices in most American cities are so entrenched in our municipal codes it is very difficult to effect significant sustainable change. Setting up Charter Zones at the periphery of our cities can show just how much smarter a sustainable city can be.

I hope my reader give this idea consideration, as I am certainly open to hearing about ways in which this could come about. Remember everyone, buy local or grow it yourself!

Love to all,
Millard

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