Toronto vs. Barcelona: A tale of two very different cities

Toronto and Barcelona are both aiming for great-city status, but are going about it in a very different way. Yes we need private wealth and a dynamic economy, but shared wealth is what truly makes a good, healthy and happy life possible.

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By: Pierre Herman

What makes a city worth living in? The answer is certainly complex but what we know is that economic growth, high salaries and purchasing power alone won’t help a city make the grade. Dubai’s overnight success-in-a-desert isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, despite the allure of a jet-setting lifestyle.

In fact, if accompanying factors are strong enough to balance out the equation, a big pay-check might be dispensed with entirely.

So when comparing cities across the globe, where do we begin? Perhaps with the most polar opposite of examples.

There are few cities in the world so diametrically opposed, certainly in aesthetics but perhaps also in fundamental ethos, as Spain’s Catalan capital (my recently adopted home) and my former one, Canada’s financial and economic hub. At least that’s the impression I got when I came back to Toronto after a long sojourn in Barcelona.

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Healthy cities: Is economic growth a partner or a problem?

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A high level of life satisfaction in cities is achievable through policies that encourage interaction, equality, and human development, but not necessarily economic growth.

While we lament that our country’s growth rate can’t seem to climb higher than 2%, the obvious eludes us: continued GDP growth has failed miserably to benefit anyone but a slim margin of the population. Growth achieved through improved productivity (meaning more automation and fewer workers), outsourcing and technological innovations is translating into excellent numbers at the top (higher corporate profits, stock market growth, and higher executive pay) and very marginal benefits for those at the bottom or even the middle.

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Psychology and the city: why the inner-workings of our minds is the greatest obstacle to a sustainable planet

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Psychological barriers and prejudices within the human mind are destroying any chance for individual, and consumer-led action. Can cities be re-designed to overcome them?

The number of times I’ve heard people say they don’t give a damn about the environment and climate change is countless. Hardly born out of ignorance though, they are displaying what is in fact a normal, human psychological reaction to a seemingly distant problem that does not have immediate ramifications in their lives. It’s also an immensely stubborn obstacle to environmental progress that sustainable-lifestyle advocates cannot afford to overlook.

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Is energy-efficiency the key to a sustainable world? Not on your life.

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The idea that energy efficiency is inherently a good thing for the environment is deeply embedded within the sustainability movement. But a new NASA-funded study has its doubts.

If there’s a term that’s become sacrosanct in any discussion about the environment, quasi synonymous with sustainable living, it’s energy efficiency. Fuel-efficient cars and airplanes, energy-efficient homes and domestic appliances, and LED bulbs everywhere we’re told, is the solution to living in harmony with a planet that’s got finite resources and a lot of people and nature to divvy it up it with.

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