Santa Fe Institute – Cities, Scaling & Sustainability

sfi30homeSFI’s Cities, Scaling, and Sustainability research effort is creating an interdisciplinary approach and quantitative synthesis of organizational and dynamical aspects of human social organizations, with an emphasis on cities. Different disciplinary perspectives are being integrated in terms of the search for similar dependences of urban indicators on population size – scaling analysis – and other variables that characterize the system as a whole.
A particularly important focus of this research area is to develop theoretical insights about cities that can inform quantitative analyses of their long-term sustainability in terms of the interplay between innovation, resource appropriation, and consumption and the make up of their social and economic activity. This focus area brings together urban planners, economists, sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, and complex system theorists with the aim of generating an integrated and quantitative understanding of cities. Outstanding areas of research include the identification of general scaling patterns in urban infrastructure and dynamics around the world, the quantification of resource distribution networks in cities and their interplay with the city’s socioeconomic fabric, issues of temporal acceleration and spatial density, and the long-term dynamics of urban systems.

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WC-blok als goudmijn


Toiletblok Safisana

Aart van den Beukel, eerder eigenaar van koffie & bagel barretjes in Amsterdam, levert publieke toiletten aan de sloppenwijken van Accra, Ghana. Van het menselijk afval uit de toiletten wordt compost en biogas gemaakt met een biogascentrale. “Met het biogas leveren we vanaf volgend jaar stroom aan de locale energiemaatschappij. Daarmee is het businessmodel rond.”
“Geld verdienen aan publieke toiletten in sloppenwijken is niks nieuws. Vaak zijn de bestaande toiletblokken eigendom van gemeenten en soms van ondernemers. Mensen betalen 10 cent per keer aan de toiletjuf. Daarvoor krijgen ze 4 velletjes wc-papier en mogen ze gebruik maken van een rijtje smerige wc’s, uitlopend op een open riool.”

“De toiletblokken worden slecht onderhouden en niet (goed) schoongemaakt. Toch maakt 70% van de bewoners in de sloppenwijken van Accra er gebruik van. Ze hebben geen eigen wc en wonen zo dicht op elkaar – zo’n 240.000 duizend mensen op 4 km2 – dat er weinig alternatieven zijn. Dat veroorzaakt natuurlijk allerlei ziektes. Kinderen zijn continu aan de diarree.”
“NGO’s hebben eerder nieuwe toiletblokken neergezet, maar dat gaat vaak mis vanaf het moment dat ze worden overgedragen aan gemeenten of lokale franchisenemers. Die investeren het geld liever in andere zaken dan onderhoud.”

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Safi Sana collects toilet and organic waste from slums. This waste is used to produce organic fertiliser and green electricity. Safi Sana is a social venture offering this package of services to (local) governments. With our products we serve a growing demand for affordable and effective fertiliser products and a demand for renewable energy. We also offer governments an innovative solution for the massive waste problems in cities in developing countries.

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Uri Friedman – 70% Of India Has Yet To Be Built

IndiaASPEN, Colo.—We don’t typically see an upside to slums—the squalid, makeshift settlements that house one-third of the urban population in developing countries. But not everyone’s so glum. The economist Edward Glaeser, for instance, has argued that slums don’t make people poor, but rather attract and inspire poor people seeking a better life in the city.

Shirish Sankhe, a director in McKinsey’s Mumbai office, offers more cause for optimism. For him, slums are cities waiting to be built. By that, he doesn’t necessarily mean newcities conjured from scratch, like China’s “ghost cities.” Instead, he means developing the sophisticated infrastructure that India’s furious urbanization demands. If and when these cities are built, they can be conceived as 21st-century metropolises, equipped to meet modern challenges like climate change in ways that established cities like New York can’t be.

Three hundred million Indians are expected to move to urban areas over the next 20 years, Sankhe noted during a panel discussion on Saturday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is organized by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. That means India will be 40-percent urban by 2030 (more than 60 million Indians already live in slums).

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