New-tech for urban sustainability

Communication/transport and food production are some of the most widely discussed aspects of urban sustainability these days. While my impression is that many initiatives are just old wine in new bottles (and some of it is really too old!) there are some quite innovative ventures using if not high-tech, at least new-tech.
Electric vehicles has been a promising technology for about a century now, but hasn’t really started moving yet. One reason is of course the impressive resilience of the fossil-fueled-automobile system, but also the inability to create a similar system for electric vehicles (EV). Now there are two interesting ventures for EV’s in Europe that have taken the systemic perspective as their starting point – one based in the Basque country (Hiriko) and one in Britain (Riversimple). Both are now moving from “promising” to prototypes, with trials planned in several cities. Malmö is one of the cities where they plan to try out Hiriko, I can’t wait to stumble into one!
Urban farming is also a global buzzword, and the range is tremendous – from new allotments and communal gardens to Plantagon‘s giant greenhouses (“plantscrapers”). Just a few months ago Plantagon started construction of it’s first creation in Linköping, Sweden. Interest in this new technology is global, and what makes it stand out is the systemic perspective – also with cradle-to-cradle thinking.
The systemic thinking for these concepts goes beyond the technology – it also applies to their business models. Plantagon argues for an innovative governance model they call “companization” – a kind of hybrid between a commercial business and a democratic organization, and say on their website that “business as usual is over”. A similar statement can be found on Riversimple’s homepage:”We believe that business can be a powerful force in addressing the greatest issues that face humanity. However, it cannot be business as usual. The business must be driven by a profound purpose, must be democratic in structure, must seek to give back to society more than it takes and must be highly flexible and responsive to changes in its environment.”
It’s going to be very interesting to follow not only the success of these “new-techs” but also these new business models – and see if they can live up to their promises!

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