Set aside the question of how much of the earth can or should be urbanized. There is one lesson that helps us make the right choices with just three questions. Regarding the business of making the urban structure sustainable, the first of lesson might begin this way:
1) If I am not for a limited urban presence on the earth, who will be?
2) If I inform myself on this question in solitude will it make it so?
3) If I do not act now, when?
The long history of the phrase si se puede is spoken by people that require action in the fierce urgency of now. It can be recognized in the “Yes, we can!” of President Obama’s first presidential campaign. In my life, it was “What do we want? Peace!” When do we want it? Now!” The most useful actions create stories that assure the tale is taken home. Whether the actions seek social justice and economic progress or ice cream and cake it is the narrative that matters.
Exciting narratives track individuals who embrace effectiveness and error, efficiency and miscalculation. The three initial questions above are useful for building a stance that respects the individual in the world but they lack the mechanisms to change the phrase “If I” into “If we”.
Recurring trial and error experiences yields an organizing structure. The main elements are, 1) willingly accepted delegations and 2) a widely held responsibility for the impacts of implementation. Currently, the depth of this strategy is strong on delegation and weak on post enactment accountability. When both are fully active, combinations of skill in the distribution of tasks increase the potential for exchange and trade. In turn, this broadens authorization and allocation cycles that fund increasingly successful plans. In all of this, life-long learning becomes strong. The lessons are frequent enough to continue implementation with confidence. As kids we learn to swim, but first we learn how not to sink.
Two other structures keep an organizing process functional – 1) the way information is transmitted and the most problematical – 2) access to it and the resources it describes. Decisive questions such as; can mass replace cash? Can a concerned activist public produce a resource for establishing truth as effectively as cash will in the protection of self-interest?
Authority is diverse, flexible, open, and temporary when “groups” create and control social structures. The size remains in question, but in the democratic sense of consensual participation, a group will also be read as “a cell” and that carries very different connotations. Margaret Mead settled this question by telling us not to doubt that small groups change the world because it is the only way it has ever happened. Yes, it can be done, but decisions in the interest of a group or cell can be good or bad. Finding ways to assure a greater number of the former over the latter is the central challenge.