Integral City :Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive
But, with every passing year, we endure the failure of the mechanical metaphors and realities embedded in the design of the modern city, where mechanical failure is giving us serious pause that the Old Story does not serve us well in cities. Thanks to leaders like Jaime Lerner (architect and former mayor) of Curitiba, Brazil, we have heard a re-frame of the relationship between cities and transportation. Lerner proposed that he would build the city for people and not cars.
That simple shift in intention opened a crack in the old paradigm for transportation in the city. It challenged the priority and the purpose of transportation – and even cities themselves. The act of putting people first allowed us to rethink the interconnection of all things that cities – and their transportation systems enable.
This act of turning a core assumption about how cities work on its ear, reveals the role that organizational leaders can play as the Old Story shifts into a phase that is justifiably critical of the Old Story. The Nattrasses suggest that transportation (and other organizational) leaders can take specific actions during this Critical Stage that will help transform the Story. They say Leaders in this core Critical Phase can:
- Courageously enter and stand in territory that is uncertain and unpredictable and no matter how disorienting;
- Conscientiously and boldly examine the fault lines that challenge even one’s own basic assumptions and beliefs;
- Create and facilitate sense-making conversations with others in the industry and the city to discern which elements of the narrative about unsustainable mechanical/transportation systems are relevant and what they mean to the human systems in which the leader acts;
- Co-create the terms and forms that will help others understand the meaning and irrelevance of the old story and communicate those through compelling narrative accounts.
If Lerner’s new story marks a shift from Old Story to New Story for Transportation, it has also been quickened by scientific innovation that has opened up the transportation field to new energy sources (solar, wind, water); new energy delivery systems (e.g. Bombardier wireless recharging grids); new modes of cradle-to-cradle manufacture; new methods of financing and ownership ( Uber app); new interlocking multi-modal systems (e.g. NL bike/tram/train).
Last week, I heard an even more definitive indicator that the Critical Stage of the city transportation story was shifting into the Transformation Stage, when Jeffrey Tumlin spoke of “transportation as health”. A global expert in sustainable transportation planning, he was sharing this life-giving insight in my own small city of Abbotsford. When the new story is actually invited into and entertained in small cities as well as large, that seems another strong indicator that the story is changing. Tumlin’s radical approach to measuring transportation success through population health statistics, almost made me stand up and yell “bravo”!!!
He went on to cite another statistic that affirmed an observation I had been noticing in city life; namely, that driving rates continue to decline for the first time in history. It appears that – since 2005 Millennials and Boomers have reduced their purchase of cars. These populations are either choosing never to own a car or to give up their cars – in favour of the most healthy transportation option – walking – or for public transportation.
When I first imagined the Integral City as a Human Hive, my view of transportation was embedded in the story of a living system. Now I hear the language that supports that metaphor – namely that transportation is about metabolism – the flow of resources that energize and give life to all human systems in the city.
I am encouraged not only by Tumlin’s characterization of “transportation as health” but by the Nattrass recommendations about what leaders and organizations can do to make that final shift of the Old Story of unsustainable mechanical transportation into the New Story of healthy metabolic resource flow. The Nattrasses say:
“Ultimately there is nothing mysterious about how to get into action using new assumptions and concepts. This ability is a hallmark of our species and part of our adaptive toolbox. We have found that most organizations choose similar areas to enact