The Materials Book

200 crisis as cities come to terms with the challenges of social inclusion and ecological sustainability. Statistical evidence overwhelmingly supports the claim that modern urban patterns resulted in a drastic increase in resource requirements. Undoubtedly it was the combustion engine, and the car-oriented techno-infrastructure related to it, that was a catalyst for the resource-intensive Great Acceleration that intensified after the Second World War. Sprawled out urban forms interconnected by cheap car-based intra-urban mobility were the result of cities with modern aspirations. It was this that drove the transition from a dependence on biomass to a dependence on nonrenewables from the 1950s onward. 2 In terms of governance, it was tied to a managerial and hierarchical model of city planning, epitomized by the master planner of New York, Robert Moses, and Georges-Eugène Haussmann from nineteenth-century Paris. The decline of human-development imperatives in favor of productivity and growth during the neoliberal era from the 1980s onward would not have been possible without computerization. 3 As China became the world’s manufacturer, its financial surpluses were transformed into the credit that drove the consumer boom and the massive escalation of urban property values across most economies during the decade preceding the financial crisis of 2007. 4 But this financialized and short-term-oriented form of global capitalism is now haunted by the negative side effects it has produced. The economic transition from welfarist, Keynesian mass production to a neoliberal, post-Fordist, and debt-funded consumerism resulted in far-reaching changes in urban governance. These changes occurred during the 1980s and 1990s with respect to city-level state structures, modes of governance, and types of political leadership. Since 2009, a wave of changes is underway as a new ecology of actors emerge who share, in one way or another, the notion that urban futures depend on the reconfiguration of urban infrastructures, in both social and ecological terms. Sustainable Development Goal 11 best expresses this aspiration to rebalance urban economic productivity, human well-being, and sustainable resource use in cities. Once again, state structures, modes of governance, and political leadership can be expected to transform what can now be referred to as the information-based “SDG era.” 1 Mark Swilling, Maarten Hajer, et al., The Weight of Cities: Resource Requirements of Future Urbanization; Report for the International Resource Panel (Paris, 2018). 2 Fridolin Krausmann et al., “Growth in Global Materials Use, GDP and Population during the 20th Century,” Ecological Economics 68, no. 10 (2009): 2696–705. 3 Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997). 4 Joseph Stiglitz, Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy (London: Allen Lane, 2010).