Sustainable Asian Cities and the First #Earth2Chat


Last week, the This Big City and Earth2Hub teams co-hosted the very first #Earth2Chat on Twitter. As it was Urban Asia week on This Big City, we were discussing sustainability in Asian cities, and despite the frenetic pace of questions and answers, we kept track of our favourite moments. And here they are!

As with every debate on sustainable cities, the question of definition soon emerged, with @fairsnape asking ‘is there an agreed definition for sustainable cities?’ I acknowledged that whilst it is important to know what direction we need to be moving in, the sustainability debate often distracts us from making any kind of tangible progress. Maybe we don’t know exactly what sustainable urbanism is, but we know how to make our cities more sustainable than they currently are. @fairsnape agreed, and after further discussion with @MelissaSterry, it was suggested that ‘resilient cities’ might be a more practical expression. What do you think?

The forward-thinking nature of Asian cities was raised, which Melissa aligned with attitudes to technology. Whilst I asked whether Asian cities could act as inspiration for Western cities, This Big City’s Chinese Editor @leonardchien stated his view that Asian cities are actually looking to Europe for inspiration. @futurecapetown chipped in, raising the point that the speed of urbanisation in Asia means it is less a talking point, and more a point of action – something which is useful to study as Africa urbanises.

Melissa shared some interesting examples of Asian urban innovation, including research into the ‘sixth sense of animals’ for detecting seismic activity. Leonard noted that this has ‘always been a talking point‘ in East Asia, though Melissa saw it as more than that, citing ‘at least one event you haven’t heard of – a Chinese city was evacuated pre-quake off back of such a project’.

The supposed sustainability of Singapore was also debated. @danielequercia challenged whether this sustainability was comprehensive, asking ‘how much money was spent to be sustainable?’ Despite this, I suggested that the environmental sustainability associated with a dense city like Singapore could be a useful case study for the UK, With Melissa saying ‘what we can learn from the city is its ability to bring the best of East and West’.

As conversation came to a close we noted that whilst speedy Asian urbanisation can teach us a lot, so too can the slower approach we have so far taken in the Western world. In fact, @ivanisawesome‘s infographic lived up to the twitter handle of its maker, presenting an awesome view of how Eastern and Western attitudes differ, just like our cities do. Click the image below to view it in full:

We ended our first #Earth2Chat with few answers, but loads of great ideas explored. The next chat takes place on November 10th. Follow @earth2hub to find out more details. It would be great to tweet you at the next discussion!