ES/SO 360 - Designing the Sustainable City

The world is in search of sustainable cities - models of urbanism that can house, educate, and employ a growing share of the world's people, and meet their needs for breathable air, drinkable water, healthy food, as well as safety, community, and opportunity. In some of these fields, Amsterdam is a global inspiration. Its model of human-powered mobility, in which cycling is the dominant transport mode, is almost unique among cities of its size in the world. Amsterdam is also a testbed for design thinking and experimentation in food production, building on the Netherlands' highly intensive, and high-tech, agricultural model. The city trades ideas and provides political room to try them out - and fail sometimes - in a way that exemplifies what Mariana Mazzucato terms 'the entrepreneurial state'. At the same time, Amsterdam lies largely below sea level in a warming world. The Netherlands remains a high-income consumerist society, with a vast ecological footprint. Amsterdam, its largest city, contends with a persistent housing crisis, a cost-of-living crisis, and the kinds of pressures on public services that are now widespread across the high-income world. As the paintings in the Rijksmuseum depict in such memorable detail, Amsterdam is also built on a colonial and post-colonial legacy that was built on, and sustained by, violence and dispossession. This unequal global order is intrinsic to the lifestyle that Amsterdammers enjoy, and the choices they have in how the city meets its needs, and reconciles the needs of its people.

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Environmental Studies
Social Studies

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