A Conversation about Density is a Conversation about Solidarity

As we all know, we’re living in a rapidly urbanizing world where our only chance to have an ecological future with 7 bn people is to stop sprawl and foster density. But, according to Matt Hern, a writer, activist and lecturer from East Vancouver who talked about his visions for rethinking contemporary urbanism at SFU Vancouver on February 12, 2013, not all kinds of density are equally good and it is important that we learn how to limit ourselves.

So, a conversation about density is not a conversation about form but a conversation about solidarity, about learning to live together on limited resources and sharing resources and space. But if we want to share space and limited resources, tolerance doesn’t get us there, instead we need a commitment to difference.

We need to embrace a city that’s full of surprise, serendipity and risk – socially, potlically and culturally. We need to accept that a city that embraces differences and moves beyond tolerance can’t be totally safe. We need community and difference as they support each other if they are participatory, alive and constantly changing.

Because a participatory city is not only about voting, community meetings, etc. but about all versions of people actively inhabiting their city and relying on common spaces. Moreover, a participatory city is necessarily a city that is equitable, where people have time to participate, where children can participate and where housing is affordable so that people don’t have to scramble all the time.

We also need to talk about land, in particular land use, allocation and stewardship as capitalism has always been far more about land than about production. Let’s have a discourse around land, profit and wealth, think about the essentials of everyday urban life and discuss how we can enlarge the commonly held non-market component of the city that is based on shared resources and solidarity.

Thinking about commonality has to lead us to thinking about domination and solidarity. And it can lead us to an ecological future in which we remake our cities as something other than crass investment mechanisms populated by greed and shoppers. Because we can reimagine cities as something better: compact, accretive, self-determining places full of commonality and vibrancy.

This rendition of density requires a politics that commits to participatory difference, equity, hospitality and friendship.

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Note: This blogpost is part of a series of blogposts on interesting events from 2013 that I haven’t blogged about yet. As they’re dealing with rather timeless issues, I am finally sharing these insights at the turn of the year where both I as a blogger and you as a reader hopefully have the time to enjoy them.

Posted on January 2, 2014 in Urbanism

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About the Author

Andreas Lindinger is a Vienna-based business consultant, sustainability expert and urban thinker passionate about livable cities, sustainable transportation, renewable energy and civic engagement. Andreas offers a transdisciplinary business, finance and sustainability background, industry expertise in energy, mobility and environmental consulting and broad international experience gained in Vienna, Vancouver, Berlin and Dublin. Make sure to also check out Vienncouver.com and to follow @lindinger on Twitter.

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