Government planning for sustainability has many advantages, with full integration of needs and resources, and long-term strategies. Yet this top-down approach cannot do enough in many of the world’s cities because it requires a full alignment of political and public support, money, expertise and legal frameworks. The problems of urban growth – for people and nature – are very great. They have already overwhelmed good planning systems in some cities. The Biosphere Eco-City (BEC) supports a grass-roots approach of individual initiative, along with cooperation to integrate all sectors.
As explained in the Biosphere Eco-City Model, when people and organizations have the support to focus on their own interests in sustainability they collectively will produce a broad range of results. The ideal is to have both bottom-up and top-down approaches. BEC complements planning for sustainability. But even where planning is weak it still can produce significant results.
Government-led planning has produced some remarkable successes for urban sustainability. It uses highly trained people to analyze all of a city’s needs and resources, and develop a plan to bring them together. This top-down approach is comprehensive, long-term, and strategic, and is used around the world.
Sustainability planning, however, cannot solve the problems of many of the world’s cities. Done properly it is expensive, and many cities are impoverished. It relies on expertise that may not be available. It requires political will and public support, which may not exist in some places. Planning needs a legislative framework, which may not have been developed. And it takes time; more than the growth of urban problems will allow in many places.
There are cities that had well-developed planning systems that were overwhelmed by very rapid growth, financial and other problems. Even in Canada, some major cities are having difficulty maintaining environmental goods and quality of life through planning. There is a need almost everywhere for a significant new resource to address urban problems and achieve sustainability. As discussed under Free Enterprise Sustainability the only untapped resource may be the initiative (enterprise) of people and organizations.
The Biosphere Eco-City (BEC) approach is based on involvement and action by people and organizations that focus on their individual and collective areas of need and interest. When all sectors of society are doing this together, they may address the full range of sustainability opportunities. As they share information and support each other in their activities, stakeholders will gain experience in moving towards sustainability. In many ways, BEC is a community development model applied at the level of an urban centred-region.
To fully achieve sustainability, we want both bottom-up (BEC) and top-down approaches (planning). BEC taps into a largely untapped area of decentralized projects and independent decision making for sustainability. This complements planning. It highlights activities to which plans can be linked. Also it gets citizens involved in activities. With this experience, they may be more interested and better able to support the development of plans. Planners, for their part, are welcome stakeholders in BEC discussions and projects.
So planning is a highly desirable part of sustainability development for an urban centred-region. But where planning is weak, the BEC approach can still achieve a lot. And where planning is stronger, BEC can stimulate a great deal of complementary activity for sustainability. Individual initiative linked through cooperation is a powerful force.