Maintaining a balance between natural, economic, and social capital has already shown itself to be one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. For hundreds of years, economic and social capital has grown by transforming environmental resources into more ‘useful’ forms. Given that natural capital is finite, this growth is unsustainable by definition, and we are now beginning to observe the limits of this growth as our global environment comes under mounting pressure. Continue reading
The sharing economy broadly refers to access-based consumption or people renting their unused goods with others mainly through the use of information technologies (IT). The newly emerging practices are particularly favoured on environmental grounds due to their role in the utilisation of unused sources. The examples of such practices are most evident in transport and hospitality sectors. AirBnB, car clubs, cycle hire schemes, ‘Uber’-like taxi-hire, are clear everyday life examples in cities. As with all emerging forms of consumption, there is no consensus on what sharing or collaborative consumption implies for the economy. In his book The Zero Marginal Cost, Jeremy Rifkin argues that the marginal cost of producing an extra unit of input becomes (close to) zero through IT-based consumption practices. This in turn makes profit-making cease to exist, which might create another crisis for capitalism. While the argument has led to a broad range of negative and positive responses and is therefore not conclusive, it is still crucial to extrapolate the future implications of this current move towards services. Even a massive industry with a long-term vision such as car manufacturing has openly recognised this trend, and they provide alternatives to car ownership through several sharing services. It is clearly an appropriate question to ask what could be the long-term impact of replacing buying goods by buying services or exchanging goods through the use of IT. Continue reading
Last June we had the pleasure of hosting here in Oxford the research workshop African Dreams: Imaginations of urban life and infrastructure in the African metropolis. The event was organized with the support of Oxford’s John Fell Fund, the African Studies Centre, the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities, our own Sustainable Urban Development programme, and the generosity of Mozambican photographer Mauro Pinto, who lent his work to illustrate our event.
The main purpose of the workshop was to take infrastructure as a focal point for discussing the future of urbanization in the African continent, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2010 report by the World Bank Continue reading