Urbanism is concerned with the design and planning of the built environment. Urbanists are guided by a desire for spatial quality, social, economic and environmental sustainability and the creation, preservation and equitable distribution of public goods.
As researchers and educators in Urbanism, we express our concern about recent political changes all over the world. The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, the UK Brexit referendum, developments in Turkey, Brazil, The Philippines and other places, as well as a growing sentiment against international co-operation are reasons for concern.
We believe that the current political landscape (including its highly contested positions towards racial, religious and gender minorities) is partially rooted in social-spatial segregation and an erosion of social contracts and solidarity among communities more broadly. With our knowledge, we can assist institutions that combat the exclusion of minorities and spatial inequality. We can make the impact of climate change visible and try to understand what measures we must take to reverse it and assist in the formulation of spatial solutions that rely on a minimum of resources.We can help promote Spatial Justice.
We must bring our knowledge concerning these developments to the foreground more assertively. Urbanists should live up to excellent ethic and academic standards in a political debate that is full of ‘fake news’, where facts are abused and knowledge becomes irrelevant. We believe that we have a role to play in political debate and in good democratic decision-making.
We also believe that urban and regional planners everywhere must take a clear stance towards those crucial issues and resist any negative change brought about by the new political landscape. We must resist and combat intolerance, exclusion, inequality, misogyny as well as actions and policies that might lead us to loose the battle against dramatic climate change. We, as professionals and citizens, have a clear responsibility towards the preservation and the improvement of our communities, cities, regions and of our only and precious planet.
Aside from the possible economic repercussions of having an anti-globalist in the White House, Mr. Trump’s instances against inclusivity, gender, racial and social equity and his disbelief in climate change touch crucial issues for spatial planning today.
Spatial expressions of inequality and exclusion have been two big concerns of urban and regional planners all over the world for some time. Those issues have become a priority for policy makers dealing with the built environment.
Mr. Trump, in particular, brings a message of exclusion and drastic reduction of democracy when he vows to exclude recent immigrants and members of the Muslim faith from the democratic process in the United States. This puts in peril decades of progressive inclusion policies, such as experiences with mixed housing, public spaces and community building. The idea that people must enclose themselves in gated communities to enjoy the company of those who are similar to them racially and socially has been upgraded to national poilicy. Mr. Trump’s city is a city for the few.
His attitude towards women is also terribly worrying, because it legitimizes instances of sexism and misogyny. Women have much to say about urban development and about how cities and public spaces are designed. They are also more and more present in the workplace. Let us not forget that until recently, cities all over the world were planned and designed almost exclusively by men, who tended to disregard the needs, wishes and aspirations of women.
Mr. Trump’s views on climate change are equally unsettling for us all. His position towards this scientifically well documented trend leads us to believe that the United States might pull out from the Paris agreements, weakening the world’s efforts to reverse the climate trends observed after industrialization, but greatly accentuated after the 1970s.
We believe that urban and regional planners everywhere must take a clear stance towards those crucial issues and resist any negative change brought about by the new political landscape. We must resist intolerance, exclusion, inequality, misogyny as well as actions and policies that might lead us to loose the battle against dramatic climate change. We, as professionals, have a clear responsibility towards the preservation and the improvement of our communities, cities, regions and of our only and precious planet.
text by Roberto Rocco and Verena Balz