Green from the Grassroots —Elinor Ostrom

On the day she died, Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom published her last article, in Project Syndicate, 12 June 2012, Green from the Grassroots,

This grassroots diversity in “green policymaking” makes economic sense. “Sustainable cities” attract the creative, educated people who want to live in a pollution-free, modern urban environment that suits their lifestyles. This is where future growth lies. Like upgrading a mobile phone, when people see the benefits, they will discard old models in a flash.

Of course, true sustainability goes further than pollution control. City planners must look beyond municipal limits and analyze flows of resources — energy, food, water, and people into and out of their cities.

Worldwide, we are seeing a heterogeneous collection of cities interacting in a way that could have far-reaching influence on how Earth's entire life-support system evolves. These cities are learning from one another, building on good ideas and jettisoning poorer ones. Los Angeles took decades to implement pollution controls, but other cities, like Beijing, converted rapidly when they saw the benefits. In the coming decades, we may see a global system of interconnected sustainable cities emerging. If successful, everyone will want to join the club.

And counties, and regions, and watersheds, of course. As Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio said, there is a "nexus between sustainability and job creation." We don't have to wait for San Antonio or Los Angeles or Beijing or Atlanta to lead the way: we can get on with it right here where we are.