And yet inaction prevails, in our policies, in our businesses and in our personal lives. Part of the problem is that we cannot clearly see where we are heading – that there is no clear vision of our low-carbon resource secure future and thus developing a roadmap to achieve it is impossible. Liveable Cities seeks to change this, by envisioning such a future, back casting from it to our lives today and developing the much-needed roadmap.
Engineering of cities has traditionally adopted best practice derived from personally and vicariously garnered experience, using top-down approaches for engineering provision while taking only broad cognisance of the needs of society via collective governance. This approach to city engineering starts from the basis of the legacy from previous generations and either seeks to integrate new solutions or destroys the fabric locally and imposes them (canals, railways, roads, gas pipes, electricity cables, optical fibre cables provide examples). The economic model driving new development has in the past favoured the growth and development of cities with little regard to future potential scarcity of resources or environmental damage beyond the local or regional impacts. There is now a growing awareness that this should change, but the mechanisms to deliver change much beyond the incremental are not immediately apparent and there is a fear in the current global markets that any country instituting radical change will lose out financially, i.e. their global competitiveness will suffer, while the effects will be limited unless all countries change in the same manner and to the same degree. This is a recipe for inaction and deferment of the problems to the next generation, with some clinging to a hope that "technology will provide a solution". The research challenge is to detail the implementation of radical change that is socially and economically acceptable to all.