On Friday the Olympics committee will announce in Denmark which world city will host the 2016 summer games. It is exciting that Tokyo used sustainable urbanism as a core feature of its bid: re-using existing facilities, keeping the games within a small urban radius, and showcasing their best-in-the-world city transit system.
Still, it will be hard to compete with Rio de Janeiro, which would be the first South American host, and with Chicago, which has Obama and Oprah promoting its bid. It is interesting that despite the abundant official displays around Tokyo touting the bid, I have not heard much popular enthusiasm.
After starting this post, I read a Japan Inc column by successful expat in Tokyo Terrie Lloyd, who writes that low public support for the Tokyo bid is a big negative factor in the evaluation. Apparently a poll in February showed only 25% of residents “strongly favor” the bid. Given the exclusive focus on promoting Tokyo’s eco-city attributes and financial resources in their bid, perhaps Governor Ishihara and his committee did not even realize that the International Olympic Committee considers popular enthusiasm an important selection criteria.
In my research on Tokyo green space and sustainable urbanism, I often see the disconnect between the most well intentioned leaders and public participation. Master plans and visions are one thing, but creating change requires the participation of a very capable and resourceful population.
Certainly Japan is not unique in this shortcoming, but it seems that so much potential is wasted by ignoring the potential of popular participation. What do you think?
According to the United Nations Population Fund, in 2008 the world achieved an urbanization milestone, 3.3 billion people, more than half the world’s peoples, now lived in cities.
By 2030, 5 billion people will be city dwellers, and more than 81% will be in developing countries. From 2000 to 2030, in one generation the urban populations of Asia and Africa will double (from 1.7 to 3.4 billion).
The pace of urbanization is astonishing. From 1900 to 2000, the number of city dwellers rose from 220 million to 2.8 billion, an increase of more than 10 times. Poverty and sustainability are the two biggest challenges of our century’s global urbanization, with implications for transportation, water and energy supplies.
The role of gardeners in retrofitting mature cities and building emerging cities is vital in promoting cities where residents are connecting to each other and the environment. I hope that Tokyo Green Space can contribute ideas for global urbanization and development.
Related posts: Peter Head’s “Entering the Ecological Age”
Fiber City: Tokyo 2050 is a vision of the future of Tokyo with a radically new balance between natural and built environment, conceived by Professor Ohno Hidetoshi of Tokyo University. I am fascinated by how this future vision responds to four urban challenges that involve shrinking: decreasing population, aging society, environmental crisis, and earthquake potential.
The overall vision is that a shrinking economy makes many facilities and houses surplus, freeing up land for a green city. While unprecedented population declines have been predicted for Japan due to falling birthrate and continued resistance to immigration, I wonder if the metropolis will shrink as much as the countryside. Nonetheless, Fiber City provides new models for urban living in greater harmony with nature, with better access to mass transit, and improved livability with reclamation of historic features like Edo canals and bridges that have been covered by elevated expressways.
The four strategies include Green Fingers (image above), Green Web, Green Partition, and Uban Wrinkle. Taken together, they allow for greater green space, more mobility, reclamation of history, re-use of elevated freeways, emergency access for disasters, and restoration of historic urban features. As a visionary view of Tokyo, from macro to micro, Fiber City provides a model for global cities retrofitting for enviornmental and human benefits.