The promise of 2011: Cities will lead, and the people will push

Flags and buildingsCities: The final frontier?Photo: Thomas HawkAs the international climate talks in Durban sputtered and fizzled, and the Republican presidential field competed to out-deny the competition, it became ever more clear that if cities don’t lead, no one will. “As mayors — the great pragmatists of the world’s stage and directly responsible for the well-being of the majority of the world’s people — we don’t have the luxury of simply talking about change but not delivering it,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a gathering at the United Nations last week. If things continue as they have been, mayors like Bloomberg will have growing clout on the national and international stage. That’s thanks in part to the protesters whom Bloomberg chased out of Zuccotti Park last month, who have changed the national dialog to focus on issues of inequality and justice. It’s also because of a very real generational shift toward cities as the national ideal. Fifty years ago, America was a nation obsessed with the suburbs. Now, we are beginning to turn back to cities, investing in more sustainable ways of living and finding here-and-now solutions to the problems ahead. These are promising signs, and if the stars align, maybe, just maybe, we’ll see that urban renaissance we’ve all been rooting for. The country and the planet will be all the better for it. Here’s to 2012.