Fearless cities and more

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet


Publication date

March 12, 2020

It is impossible for me to write this March 2020 political editorial without mentioning the coronavirus outbreak. Yes, in this age of globalisation, pandemics are difficult to handle. Yes, the WHO has warned us and their advice and warnings should not be taken lightly. Yes, national governments, which are already under multiple pressures, seem ill-prepared and coordination at EU level is once again subject to criticism.

Fear is being insidiously instilled by doom-and-gloom media and reinforced by contradictory information: 15 million Italians have been quarantined but other countries have taken no action; we are all required to follow simple hygiene rules but the most basic products to apply them, such as masks and hand sanitiser gels, are in short supply. But can fear really help us here?

Whether in the case of an immediate threat like this virus outbreak or the equally real threat posed by climate change and the urgent need to fight it so that future generations can still have a (liveable)  planet to live on, who would be able to take the right decisions, adopt the right measures in the grip of fear?  This month, I have experienced this feeling which extinguishes any spark of creativity, reflection and analysis. And who would want to live in fear? Not yielding to it does not mean being reckless, quite the contrary, as a clear head is necessary to think about the next steps. Embracing fear but not letting it overwhelm us is how we can resist it.

This is exactly why hundreds of cities worldwide accepted the invitation extended by Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, to attend the first “Fearless Cities” summit two years ago. Fighting the fear of migratory waves by standing up as human-rights-friendly cities. Combating the “programmed collapse” of thermo-industrial societies by co-managing local resources and promoting production based on these endogenous resources. Making affordable housing, quiet mobility in cities accessible to all a priority…

The conference proceedings have recently been translated into French “Guide du municipalisme“. Energy Cities has contributed to the chapter on community energy, relaying multiple examples of partnerships between cities and citizens throughout Europe, all aimed at producing and managing renewable energy differently by aligning energy supply with local, hence reduced, needs.

I remember fondly this fearless cities summit because the remedy that was recommended against this anxiety that grips us and prevents us from taking action, the only free, universally available vaccine against it is solidarity. Solidarity between citizens, between neighbourhoods and between cities.