Cities in a Steady State Economy

Cities continue to serve as centers of culture and commerce in steady state economies. But these re-designed cities have smaller populations working and living in more compact land areas. Buildings and transportation networks are much more efficient, requiring fewer energy resources, and nature and gardens are re-integrated into city landscapes. At the same time, local cooperative enterprises, businesses, and regional trade activities generate good prospects for employment. The smaller scale of cities offers cause for celebration, providing more opportunities for inhabitants, urban livability, and a smaller ecological footprint.

Campus by Ecocity Builders

More of this…

Human-scaled cities that take into
account livability, efficiency and

Image credit: Ecocity Builders


Urban Decline in Growth Economies

During the age of growth, cities have experienced some profound problems. The cores of many great cities have emptied, with inhabitants fleeing to remote suburbs and sprawl zones to avoid crime and degraded environments. Somewhat ironically, many other cities receive floods of new residents who are migrating to vast shantytowns. Stripped of economic opportunities in the countryside, many of these migrants end up in environmentally challenged slums ith few prospects for long-term economic success. Whether sprawl, slums, or unjust differences between resident “haves” and “have nots” are the result, obsession with economic growth has not been the catalyst for building healthy cities.

Mumbai Slum

Less of that…

Degraded urban slums overflowing with
the effluents of a wasteful economy.

Image credit: Lecercle


Exemplary Cities

Ecocity Builders has a motto of “building cities in balance with nature.” This nonprofit organization undertakes projects to reshape cities and towns based on ecological principles to achieve long-term sustainability and cultural vitality. Ecocity Builders works to create:

  • Thriving neighborhood centers that avoid sprawl development;
  • Whole cities based on human needs and access by proximity that avoids the current pattern of automobile-driven excess; and
  • Neighborhood environments and prosperous downtown centers that are open for curious children and native plants and animals.

Ecocity Builders’ vision for cities includes pedestrian streets, car-free buildings, plazas with openings to celebrated views, mid-block pedestrian passageways, bridges between buildings, and buildings that are bridges over pedestrian streets. Rooftop gardens, restaurants and public places with spectacular views of local environmental resources are also part of the concept. Cities are where the majority of the world’s citizens reside. We can’t create a vibrant and sustainable economy without redesigning our cities into vibrant and sustainable places.