Do we need ‘Smart’ cities or ‘Regenerative’ cities?

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Very often a word, a phrase or an idea can mislead us, or mislead even several generations of human beings. We have many such words that are part of the colonisation of our minds, part of determining our world-view and our world today.

‘Bacteria cause diseases’ is one such idea – and we have a world today which gives very little importance to education for immunity building that can save us from diseases of all kinds and also prevent the breeding of many disease-causing bacteria in our bodies.

The words ‘fertilizer’ has come to mean man-made chemicals essential for agriculture – and made us forget that Nature has created natural fertilisers for millennia on which life has thrived amazingly well.

‘Development’ has come to mean progress, something promoted as undeniably good, while what we see today alongside the prosperity of a few, is the destruction of thousands of species, of forests, of human communities and possibly even our survival on the planet. Not real development at all.

The ‘Smart Cities’ idea seems to be yet another of these powerful words that when repeated often enough by political leaders and the media get accepted as, of course a good thing for all of us. ‘Smart’ conjures up ideas of slickness and quickness like the ‘smart phone’; of fancy cars on smooth wide roads, of better connectivity for more smarter phones and computers, of slums tucked away out of sight, and hopefully more basics like water and electricity for all.

The common perception seems to be that the smart city mission addresses the largely urban elite’s enchantment with ‘world class’ cities. The current model of ‘development’ focuses on development of infrastructure and consumerism with no thought given to the spatial context or the carrying capacity of the region the city exists in. It also neglects the needs of rural India and encourages a constant migration from villages to cities Will the smart city idea as a solution to the complex issues of life today work?

Perhaps the use of the words “Regenerative Cities” instead of “Smart Cities” can help unfold a whole array of changes which make for much more intelligent growth and wellbeing; a whole new way of bringing them about, involving those living in the city, transforming people, place and philosophies of living.

In this issue Herbert Girardet and the Resurgence Magazine have generously given us permission to use his article, “Our Cities need Regenerating, Our villages must be valued”. His book “Regenerative Cities” was the inspiration for the theme of this issue - making us focus on regenerative cities for a better future.

Derrick Jenson has shared with us another article which again questions the term “development”, which he says is nothing more than ‘colonialism’ applied to the natural world. We are thankful to all our contributors including members of our panel of advisors, Satish Kumar, Ashish Kothari and Devinder Sharma.

The idea of regeneration does not imply a denial of all that has been brought in by technology and capitalism. Truly regenerative processes will let die what is decaying and build on what has possibilities for aliveness and greater well being.

On behalf of the Bhoomi team I wish you a wonderful new year. May 2016 find us spreading the idea of regenerative cities, regenerative schools, regenerative food system and so on. That is a really good word – it would be great if it captures our imagination!