Greg Lindsay's Blog

December 02, 2019  |  permalink

URBAN-X ZINE 03: BETTER

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As part of my duties as the inaugural “Urbanist-in-residence” at URBAN-X — the startup accelerator founded by BMW MINI — I guest edited the first three issues of its annual magazine. The third and final issue appears this month, with the theme of “BETTER,” as in the startup catechism “…and make the world a better place.” But as the stories in this issue make clear, “better” is a subjective choice at best.

To commemorate its publication, you can download a complete PDF of the issue here, while the editor’s letter appears below. You can also read articles about the URBAN-X startups Toggle and Treau and how they hope to wriggle free of the Jevons Paradox, and a Q&A with Thrilling co-founder Shilla Kim-Parker about why we need to slow down fast fashion and why vintage shopping is good for cities. And don’t miss the artist scientist Dr. Alexandra Daisy Ginsburg on her efforts to recreate the scents of extinct flowers and what it says about our notions of “better” – more of which is in the editor’s note below.

Finally, if you’re in New York on Dec. 4th, please join us at the official issue launch party, featuring a live version of the “Green New Deal Flow” roundtable discussion that anchors the issue. I hope to see you there.


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The flower Hibiscadelphus woodii was thought to be extinct until this spring, when the Hawaiian National Tropical Botanical Garden announced it had discovered a few hardy specimens clinging to a cliff. Before that, the artist Dr. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg had spent a year reconstructing the scent of another long-dead hibiscus, prompting her to wonder which world is better – one where the technology exists to resurrect the scent of lost flowers, or one in which they never went extinct at all? While the answer may seem obvious, in our rush to create better cities she reminds us to inquire: “What is better? Whose better? Who decides?”

Technology promises to solve many of our problems, including challenges that are part of our urban lives. Yet under the premise of greater efficiency, accessibility, enhanced experiences, and betterness, are we really solving challenges or simply creating new ones? Our relationship with the environment is under threat, and while this might be seen as the consequence of a selfish human condition, it’s reflective of our own limitations – nature doesn’t need us, we need nature.

The third edition of the URBAN-X Zine unpacks better against the backdrop of the Anthropocene Era, in which it is fair to question what progress means for climate change. In this issue’s centerpiece about green-impact investing, the German Marshall Fund’s David Zipper notes that the Green New Deal resolution is framed in a vision of social justice, asserting a different notion of better than purely market forces would dictate. We profile URBAN-X Cohort 05 members Toggle and Treau who interrogate the Jevons Paradox, which states that every attempt at better energy efficiency eventually becomes its own undoing. As climate change gathers speed, it is equally imperative to decide what a “better place” is, in order to invest in and invent the technology to achieve it.

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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URBAN-X: Green New Deal Flow

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URBAN-X ZINE 03: BETTER

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