Overtourism policies in European cities: the cases of Venice and Amsterdam

Overtourism policies in European cities: the cases of Venice and Amsterdam

The term “overtourism” has gained so much popularity over the last few years that it is even the word of the year 2018 in Oxford and Collins dictionaries. We are talking about a new global phenomenon that can be defined as “the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitors experiences in a negative way”. This means that tourism is growing but not sustainably and responsibly. Rather, it damages communities instead of enriching them by increasing the quality of such touristic places. 

Tourism is increasing and will increase sharply in the next years because of the ever-growing middle class in developing countries and the increased mobility due to the lowering costs of transport and accommodation.  In 2017, the percentage of international travelers rose by 7% up to 1.3 billion. The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts that this will continue to grow by 3.3% annually by 2030 where roughly 2 billion people will cross borders. 

Certainly, the income generated from tourism contributes significantly to the socio-economic and cultural development of many cities and their surroundings. However, the problem is that tourism is concentrated only in few accredited destinations, especially in cities, where citizens live and work and, therefore, feel the pressure of too many tourists on public transport and public places. In this case, tourism may have many negative consequences for cities such as increased congestion by crowds around specific iconic places, waste production, bottlenecks on infrastructures (crowd on bridges, roads, footpaths, public transport) as well as the reduction of water and energy supplies. In addition, changing the identity of neighbourhoods and misbehaviours among tourists can damage the quality of life of local residents, as well as the greater demand of private residences as accommodation for tourists leads to an increase of costs of living for local residents. As a result, the city centres have been depopulated by their citizens. Furthermore, great numbers of tourists can generate pollution, causing damage for the environment. As well as many tourists and inadequate touristic management facilities can spoil historic buildings and monuments. 

For these reasons, this new issue has been introduced into the EU Urban Agenda in order to tackle this phenomenon and to address visitors’ growth, by ensuring sustainable policies and measures considering the needs and benefits of both local communities and visitors, through the collaboration among different stakeholders within the private sector, local communities and tourists themselves.

There is not a unique solution for this complex issue. In fact, several measures have been proposed at the European level by the TRAN committee, particularly 17 potential European policy responses result from 41 cases study of different cities. Among these 17 strategies, the first main goal is to encourage the dispersal of tourists in other parts of the city, by promoting events and attractions, and in different periods of time, promoting experiences and events during low season, dynamic pricing and real time monitoring of visitors in the most important venues. Another strategy regards the review and the introduction of financial regulation for tourism services, traffic regulation and operational regulation regarding the management of touristic attractions. In addition, some strategies aim to make tourism benefit the local community through new services in the city, new job opportunities and businesses. Finally, some measures are based on the communication and the engagement of local stakeholders and tourists in order to create a collaboration to find the best compromise for sustainable tourism. 

As an example, according to a recent report launched by Airbnb (Healthy Travel and Healthy Destinations) Venice is the first city in the world affected by overtourism, with 25 million tourists estimated every year and projected to reach 38 million tourists by 2025. In 2016, there was a large protest “No grandi navi” (“No Big Ships”) against the cruise ships into the canal, when locals stopped the passage of six huge cruise ships with their fishing boats. Because the most damaging visitors are the day-trippers. In Venice citizens are engaged to safeguard the lagoon, by promoting sustainable initiatives such as the collection of waste, or certain hotel owners offered steel flacks to the guests of the hotel to reduce the use of plastic. A Venetian resident Emanuele dal Carlo is launching Fairbnb a platform of home sharing not-for-profit, in order to crowdfund money to support local community projects with half of the booking fees, and it has the policy of one home per host, to avoid multi-hosts and prevent from short term rentals. Cities’ authorities banned the construction of new hotels in the city, inserted cartels around the city to sensitise tourists to respect, installed turnstiles in periods of large turnout to monitor the flux of tourists and imposed entry-fee for day trippers. However, there still isn’t any structural policy response to this problem. 

Amsterdam, that is among the most overcrowded cities, found different effective solutions. Netherlands tourist officials recently took the decision to stop promoting the city and recognized that the perspective of 2030 will be the “destination management” instead of “destination promotion”. There was a halt to building new hotels and souvenirs shops, the city is also limiting private rental platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com, it has for instance been imposed to homeowners a maximum of rental for no more than 30 days a year. The city has also raised the fines for minor offenses by tourists who behave badly. Furthermore, a strategy consisting in dispersing tourists in other parts of the cities was adopted, and “live lines” have provided visitors of an overview of live queue times in 10 Amsterdam’s museums, in order to avoid the crowd in public spaces. In addition, in October 2018, the city started a collaboration with booking.com to design a strategic plan around three key themes related to responsible tourism: tourism dispersal, inclusive growth and behavioural awareness.

The complexity of the problem does not permit a unique and homogeneous policy response, what is important is the collaboration among citizens, authorities and touristic services in order to guarantee a responsible tourism that can enrich cities economically and culturally. So, a possible way to transform this problem into an opportunity is to “create a tourism model that works for local communities as well as for travellers” (Emanuele Dal Carlo, The Guardian, 30/04/2019).

La collaborazione civica come principio generale dell’attività amministrativa

La collaborazione civica come principio generale dell’attività amministrativa

Lunedì 17 giugno 2019 si è tenuto il convegno su “La collaborazione civica come principio generale dell’attività amministrativa” presso la Sala di Pompeo di Palazzo Spada, sede del Consiglio di Stato.

Il convegno ha costituito l’occasione per presentare il volume “La Co-Città. Diritto Urbano e Politiche Pubbliche per i Beni Comuni e la Rigenerazione Urbana”, a cura della professoressa Paola Chirulli e del professor Christian Iaione, edito da Jovene, 2018.

Il convegno è stato aperto dal prof. Claudio Rossano, Emerito di Istituzioni di Diritto Pubblico presso l’Università di Roma La Sapienza, che ha presieduto l’incontro. Egli ha affermato che “La partecipazione degli abitanti delle città all’amministrazione locale, prevista dalla Costituzione, presuppone nuove soluzioni amministrative”.

Nel primo panel i due autori del volume “La Co-città”, la professoressa Paola Chirulli de La Sapienza e il professor Christian Iaione della Luiss Guido Carli hanno effettuato una introduzione ai temi in oggetto al convegno. La professoressa Chirulli ha sottolineato la “Necessità di identificare una cornice normativa più stabile per le esperienze di gestione di beni comuni urbani e di collaborazione civica che sempre più si diffondono nelle città. Il professor Iaione ha ringraziato tutti coloro che hanno contribuito alla stesura del volume e all’attività di ricerca che, nelle sue parole è “engaged research, un modello di università impegnata con problemi reali”. Questa è la cifra caratteristica della ricerca che Luiss-LabGov porta avanti anche in collaborazione con la professoressa Sheila Foster e la Georgetown University di Washington DC. Il professor Iaione ha sottolineato che “Le città si stanno dimostrando un luogo perfetto di sperimentazione giuridica, che produce diritto per garantire diritti, forgiando strumento che raggiungano scopi sociali e di uguaglianza”.

Nel secondo panel sono intervenuti la professoressa Sheila Foster della Georgetown University e il professor Giovanni Moro della Pontificia Università Gregoriana di Roma e di FONDACA – Fondazione per la Cittadinanza Attiva. La professoressa Foster, che con il progetto Co-Cities con la Luiss e la Georgetown anima la terza/quarta missione dell’università e il modello di engaged research, richiamato precedentemente dal prof. Iaione, ha parlato di città intesa come un bene comune (The City as a Commons), intesa come infrastruttura abilitante, che crei opportunità per coloro che godono del right to the city e che favorisca la creazione di partnership pubblico-privato-comunità. La professoressa, con LabGov, sta provando a esportare l’approccio Co-Città negli USA (a New York e a Baton Rouge in Louisiana). Quello che con il professor Iaione sta portando avanti oramai da anni è un riadattamento per i contesti urbani dei principi di design elaborati dal premio Nobel per l’Economia Elinor Ostrom ( https://www.thenatureofcities.com/2017/08/20/ostrom-city-design-principles-urban-commons/). Il professor Moro si è soffermato invece sulla “sussidiarietà circolare come logica di relazione” elencando le sfide e le opportunità che per la pubblica amministrazione e le comunità derivano da questa logica. La PA si trova spesso, nelle sue parole, davanti a un soggetto comunitario che non sempre si coordina bene con questa. Questo è un elemento da tenere ben presente.

Il convegno su “La collaborazione civica come principio generale dell’attività amministrativa” è proseguito con il terzo panel, che ha visto intervenire Rosanna De Nictolis, presidente del Consiglio di Giustizia amministrativa della Regione Sicilia e Raffaele Bifulco, professore della Luiss di Diritto Costituzionale. La Presidente De Nictolis ha sottolineato come “Le amministrazioni locali dovranno saper cogliere le sfide connesse a partecipazione e cittadinanza attiva, sapendo sfruttare strumenti come il baratto amministrativo, strumento previsto dal codice dei contratti pubblici”. La Presidente De Nictolis ha quindi effettuato un excursus sul suddetto strumento del baratto amministrativo (o partenariato sociale), a cui ha dedicato una sezione del manuale “La Co-Città”. Il professor Bifulco invece ha ricordato come “La responsabilità etica e morale assume oggi importanza specialmente verso le future generazioni. Anche la tradizione giuridica inizia a ripensare i propri strumenti in termini di responsabilità intergenerazionale”. Il professor Bifulco ha analizzato il tema dei beni comuni urbani, partendo dal territorio, che dal 1800 è diretta manifestazione della sovranità statale, dello “Stato che decide cosa è pubblico e cosa è privato”, così anche nelle democrazie del ‘900 e in Italia come in molte delle discipline codicistiche europee. Nel corso del ‘900 avviene un qualcosa di nuovo, vi è una nuova consapevolezza che porta a ripensare la responsabilità etica e morale, che “Assume oggi importanza specialmente verso le future generazioni. Anche la tradizione giuridica inizia a ripensare i propri strumenti e le proprie categorie in termini di responsabilità intergenerazionale”. Il patrimonio comune dell’umanità è, secondo il professor Bifulco, una delle prime manifestazioni dei beni comuni nello scenario del diritto internazionale. La prospettiva intergenerazionale è fondamentale per intendere correttamente i beni comuni.

Nel corso del quarto panel sono intervenuti il professor Aristide Police e il professor Paolo Stella Richter. Il primo, partendo da una analisi del volume La Co-Città, degli esperimenti concreti (che forniscono robustezza agli elementi teorici) e degli strumenti in esso forniti ed analizzati (beni comuni come strumenti, baratto amministrativo, rigenerazione urbana, compresenza di intervento pubblico e privato), ha affermato che la “Differenziazione delle città è elemento di disomogeneità che non deve scoraggiare ma indurre a intervenire il privato laddove possibile. Esistono doveri e responsabilità dei privati nei confronti delle città”, mentre il secondo ha citato gli orti urbani e la cura degli spazi verdi collettivi come un qualcosa di cui tutti si appropriano per renderli aperti alla partecipazione di tutti. Il professor Stella Richter ha infatti ricordato come “In tempo di guerra gli spazi verdi divenivano di utilità comune e oggi questo fenomeno di gestione condivisa sta tornando manifestandosi negli orti urbani”. Per il prof. Stella Richter “Questa partecipazione attiva, cioè come tutti possono dare un apporto e l’amministrazione possa godere di tale apporto è tema dominante nel volume La Co-Città.” Egli ha concluso affermando che ”È bene comune non quello di proprietà comune ma quello che serve a tutti e il nostro compito è conservare e trasmettere il nostro territorio alle generazioni future”.

Prima delle conclusioni l’assessora Roma Semplice, Flavia Marzano, ha lanciato bilancio partecipativo #RomaDecide: 20 milioni messi a disposizione dei cittadini per la tutela del decoro urbano.

Ha concluso il convegno Veronica Nicotra, Segretario Generale dell’ANCI -Associazione Nazionale dei Comuni Italiani, che ha affermato: “Da anni i comuni italiani, da sempre all’avanguardia, stanno lavorando sul tema dei beni comuni urbani, nonostante i forti tagli che sono stati effettuati sul comparto in questione. 
Oggi serve, nelle parole della dottoressa Nicotra, “Attività di disseminazione e promozione anche attraverso il mondo accademico delle esperienze in corso, un luogo come l’ANCI di supporto a queste esperienze, una cornice normativa al tema della collaborazione civica”.

Ha concluso il suo intervento assicurando che l’ANCI cercherà di “diffondere i contenuti del manuale Co-Città tra i comuni italiani”.

Grazie a tutti coloro che erano con noi in Consiglio di Stato in occasione del convegno e della presentazione del volume “La Co-Città. Diritto Urbano e Politiche Pubbliche per i Beni Comuni e la Rigenerazione Urbana” (http://www.jovene.it/schedaLibro.aspx?idLibro=39111&pagIndex=1).

The UOC organized an electoral debate in Barcelona on the platform economy

The UOC organized an electoral debate in Barcelona on the platform economy

A report by the Dimmons research group (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

The candidates agreed that people’s social, labour and digital rights must be respected

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrFyHqn2wmg&t=4s

The main candidates for Barcelona’s municipal elections took part in a debate on digital economy policies on 16 May. At the event held at the Col·legi de Periodistes de Catalunya (Catalan Guild of Journalists), they presented their proposals regarding the platform economy and the collaborative economy, which allow users to exchange goods and services via digital platforms. The event was organized by the Digital Commons research group (Dimmons) from the UOC’s Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), in collaboration with BarCola, a node for collaborative economy and commons-based peer production in Barcelona. The candidates taking part in the debate moderated by Mayo Fuster, leader of the Dimmons group, were Joan Subirats (BCN en Comú), Biel Figueras (JxC), Eva Baró (ERC), Montserrat Ballarín (PSC) and Ricard Vilalta (CUP). All the parties represented in the city council were invited to take part. The event also involved contributions from specialists in the field of the digital economy.

Challenges and opportunities

To put the debate into context, Mayo Fuster began by observing that “the platform economy is growing exponentially as an economic model and has an impact on economic activity and the potential to transform cities”. The political participants agreed on the high level of legal limitations in the local area, focusing on municipalities’ need for more leadership. Joan Subirats from Barcelona en Comú said that cities cannot use lack of skills as an excuse, they must act: “Barcelona City Council has been involved with the Sharing Cities summit for the past four years. The municipal potential will take it into areas that affect the lives of citizens and promote alternative models”. Biel Figueres, of Junts per Catalunya, expressed reservations regarding the usefulness of creating alliances between cities and suggested increasing the tourist tax. The creation of a body of complementary work inspectors to detect irregularities was proposed by Eva Baró (ERC). Ballarín, of PSC, believes that the digital economy is a source of job opportunities and backed a minimum salary of 1,200 euros and increased labour inspections. Ricard Vilalta, of the CUP, stated that people’s rights need to be prioritized when regulating the platform economy.

How can we deal with the disruptive impacts of digital platforms?

In the second part, Mayo Fuster contextualized the socioeconomic impact that platforms such as Cabify, Uber, Airbnb, HomeExchange, Glovo and Deliveroo are having in Barcelona, as well as the social movements that have been organized in this regard. For example, the strikes called for the relationship between taxis and vehicles for hire. With respect to regulation, all of the candidates present agreed that platform economy companies must respect local laws, understanding the diversity of contexts. The candidate for CUP defended the creation of a strong public sector that guarantees decent working conditions. According to CUP, “the definition of employee is broad enough and only current legislation must be enforced”. Vilalta proposed prohibiting housing for tourist use and initiating a housing emergency plan. Ballarín (PSC) pointed out that certain regulations depend on the European Union and highlighted the value of the alliance in Barcelona between nearly 50 cities who have signed the Sharing Cities declaration. The socialist candidate added the need to create an information point for the public about personal data policies and the creation of a finalist rate for the last mile–the delivery of products purchased on platforms–to boost local trade and reduce the negative impact on the environment. Eva Baró of ERC called for ad-hoc solutions, proposing a shock plan to identify illegal tourist accommodation, reinforcing the team of inspectors and monitors to carry out surveillance regarding regulation and how it is applied to shared homes. Biel Figueres (JxC) suggested increasing the tourist tax and fixing tourist use only for primary residences. Joan Subirats, from BCN en Comú, emphasized the difficult task of regulating the platform economy and explained that strategic sectors are being platformed and underlined that “the capacity for regulation is more difficult”. For the candidate, “housing, mobility and distribution are key issues for the city council”, which is why “we have closed 4,900 illegal tourist flats and supported platforms like Fairbnb (a sustainable holiday rental platform), which have a positive impact“.

Business and occupational model

The last block addressed what public innovations they would like to promote, highlighting the municipal task of improving living conditions in the city. Joan Subirats understands that the institutions must be used as tools for social transformation and mentioned the citizen action platform in the neighbourhoods, Decidim Barcelona, that has been incorporated during this last term. With a long-term view, Biel Figueras proposed an extension of the future T-Mobility, which includes digital economy platforms for public transportation and taxis. Eva Baró claimed that the first step in making a collaborative policy is to transform structures, creating synergies between administrations, “always for the benefit of the citizens”. The ERC proposes establishing a collaborative economy stamp of quality with the Generalitat to identify “the platforms that respect labour rights and data use”. On the other hand, Montserrat Ballarín looked at Barcelona’s talent and how the city council can contribute to its development, “because the Facebook or Google of the future will be created in Barcelona”. Ricard Vilalta added that “it is essential to break down the dynamics of extractive platforms by promoting digital empowerment and technological sovereignty measures”.

Mayo Fuster took the opportunity to invite the candidates to a post-election meeting at the Smart City Expo World Congress 2019, which will be held from November 19 to 21. Researchers, organizations, governments and civil society will participate in the activities of the Sharing Cities Stand Lab 2019 to define the 2020 Action Plan on platform and collaborative economies.

The original version in Catalan is available here and the Spanish version here


– Declaration of the Procomuns forum on the co-creation of collaborative economy public policies, 2016 http://procomuns.net/ca/politiques/

– Declaration of principles and commitments of cities towards the sharing city, resulting from the Sharing Cities Summit, Barcelona 2018. http://www.share.barcelona/declaration/

– Research in the field: Dimmons. Fuster Morell, M. ed. (2019) Sharing Cities: Una visió global de les ciutats i local de Barcelona sobre polítiques d’economia de plataforma i col·laborativa [Sharing Cities: A global vision of cities and local vision of Barcelona on platform and collaborative economy policies]. Editorial UOC. http://dimmons.net/llibresharingcities/

– 47 Measures for digital empowerment in municipalities: https://apoderamentdigital.cat/

“ReinvenTIAMO Roma” an urban project to give new life to the capital

“ReinvenTIAMO Roma” an urban project to give new life to the capital

By Annacarmen Bernardo, student at Luiss Guido Carli University

“ReinvenTIAMO Roma” is a project meant to revitalize the city starting from the recovery of existing buildings through clear rules and common objectives. The project aims to select areas and public buildings to be regenerated to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants and thus contribute to a real sustainable urban innovation. It was inspired by the initiative”Reinventer Paris” launched by the French capital in 2014 and which is linked to the international call for tenders “Reinventing Cities” started by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the network of cities around the world committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fourteen ‘pilot’ sites, ranging from degraded or abandoned places to buildings, will be transformed into services for citizens, cultural centers or ‘non-traditional’ housing projects. All focusing on collaboration between public administration and private individuals. This is the heart of this plan for the regeneration of the capital. This new approach to the city is based on the enhancement of existing public and private building stock. It will be developed through a call for innovative projects including a competitive procedure for investors, operators and designers in dialogue with the public administration and the communities. The objective is to identify the best instruments to transform the identified places into shared, sustainable spaces, from an economic, social and environmental point of view. In the publication of the announcement, candidates will be invited to express their interest in one or more sites on a dedicated web platform (expression of interest) followed by an online consultation and voting session open to citizens. Finally, a commission will select a short list and then reach the binding offer which will include: architectural project, management project, economic and financial plan, economic offer, bank guarantees. By December 2020 the winning projects will be selecte

The pillars that must remain “invariant” to each project, real boundaries set by the administration, are innovation, social inclusion, architectural quality, energy efficiency and participation.

The Administration’s strategy proposes an innovative vision of city making from an environmental, social and cultural point of view:

  • The environmental challenge focuses on high-efficiency projects with the reduction of the amount of energy for heating, lighting, ventilation; with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; with innovative solutions to tackle climate change from biodiversity, urban re-vegetation and agriculture.
  • The social challenge focuses on social inclusion and participation-based projects with widespread access to services and a quality architectural approach.
  • The cultural challenge focuses on projects to promote historical and cultural heritage, to spread knowledge and to integrate it into the contemporary environment.

The starting points are 14 properties selected on the basis of “immediate availability” and “proximity to public transport”. The list includes four “urban spheres”: Bastogi, Ex Miralanza, Viale Castrense (ex Filanda) Ama via Crispi; and ten “public buildings”, mostly formerly disused schools. Real non-places that “ReinvenTIAMO Roma” aims to make lively spaces in agreement with the territory. In illustrating the project, the mayor Virginia Raggi said: “Rome returns to rule its territory with a vision: regenerate the urban fabric starting from the redevelopment of abandoned spaces within the city, to harmonize them with the existing building stock and to avoid further soil consumption “.

She adds: “With certain rules the role of the public administration become decisive for the benefit of the well-being of citizens and the improvement of the quality of life. The Capital looks to the future by identifying abandoned buildings and areas that will soon have a new life thanks to projects of high architectural quality, high energy efficiency, social inclusion and heritage promotion. The projects will never go beyond the urban context but will be conceived within it to cater concretely for the citizens’ needs”. The territory and the citizens become an active part in the processes of the city.

To conclude, “ReinvenTIAMO Roma” is a laboratory from which a confrontation and a debate is born to turn abandoned buildings and sites throughout the city into living, open, sustainable and resilient places. Municipal buildings are target as the first fundamental resource from which to restart development, services and projects for the well-being of the community. Reviving these assets is the best way to give new lifeblood for the growth of our territory.

Circular Cities: Learning from Glasgow

Circular Cities: Learning from Glasgow

The Circular economy is an economic model which designs out waste and pollution, keeps materials in use and regenerates natural systems, envisioning every product as being created with the intent of extending its lifespan and adding value wherever possible through this process. Why such a model can constitute a “win-win opportunity”? According to EPA Director General Laura Burke “inefficient consumption and missed opportunities for reuse & recycling leads to more waste and higher greenhouse gas emissions” so a circular economy may constitute an innovative solution to disrupt traditional business models while creating new enterprise opportunities.

The Industrial Revolution laid the foundation for how the economy of today operates. Since 1684, after Thomas Savory’s steam engine discovery kick-started the industrial revolution, goods were mass produced, raw materials and energy were seemingly infinite and ever-available. Until the 17th and 18th centuries, growth was slow, constant and homogeneous both within and between countries, inasmuch as GDP per capita and population size which remained constant too. The first Industrial revolution broke this idyllic stable stationary state. We detect steady rise in GDP and the first diverging growth paths between countries, given by the increase of the stock of production factors. The consumeristic mantra has affected considerably the way we use resources: we take them from the ground to make products, we use them, and then we no longer want them, so we throw them away, underestimating their underutilized potential. This triadic sequence of “take-make-waste” is the blueprint of our spoiled linear economy; it is the direct product of erroneous short-term consumeristic attitudes. Howbeit, if we accept that the natural world’s cyclical model works, we can change our way of thinking and of using resources.

A future oriented mindset would rather try to answer different kinds of questions, which can consequently contribute to the redefinition and redesigning of products themselves. Likewise, what if the goods of today became the resources of tomorrow?

Instead of embedding and rooting in the immediate present the life span of a good or service, a circular economy approach can help us to rethink the operating system itself, to rethink a new concept of ownership, where goods are designed to be disassembled and reused. The Ellen Mc Arthur foundation – which since 2010 aims at accelerating the transition towards a circular economy – attempted to identify three main principles for the redefinition of a new system based on a cyclical (or circular) model. [1] First and foremost, to design out waste and pollution; the latter are de facto direct consequences of decisions made at the design stage, where around 80% of environmental impacts are determined. If we begin to consider waste as a design flaw which potentially harnesses new materials and technologies, we can ensure that waste and pollution are not created in the first place.

Secondly, to keep products and materials in use. Or better, to use things rather than using them up. As we previously mentioned, challenging the composition of goods a priori, by designing them for the sake of being reused, repaired and remanufactured, prevents harsher corrective measures a posteriori.

And finally, the idea of regenerating natural systems. We were underlining formerly how in nature nothing is waste; everything is cyclical and is food for something else. Moreover, this new approach counts conspicuous estimated benefits: around $700 millions per year of material cost-savings in the fast moving consumer goods industry; 48% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030; $550 billion reduction in health care costs associated with the food sector;  €3000 increase in disposable income per annum for EU households and many more spillover effects around the globe. Another backlash commenced by the Industrial Revolution was the internal migration wave, from the rural to the urban areas. Between 1900 and 2015, the urbanized population increased from 14% to 54% and is forecasted to rise to 66% by 2050; so three quarters of us will live in cities. As a natural consequence, urban centers are grappling with the effects of our current take-make-waste detrimental linear economy.

Having internalized this mode of action, cities consume over 75% of natural resources, produce over 50% of global waste and emit between 60-80% of greenhouse gases. A circular economy becomes a solution inasmuch as it provides a way to ensure a long-term growth and prosperity in the urban context. At the moment, we can count an increasing number of cities which are approaching the circular economy model. Glasgow for example, has instituted a circular economy investment fund; both Brussels, Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam and Paris are taking various initiatives, part of a larger frame which is the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation established in 2010.

Moving outside Europe, we count Bilbao’s action plan, India’s Strategy paper on Resource efficiency, China’s Circular Economy Promotion Law and five-year plans and other initiative taken together with Japan and South Korea. Keeping in mind what we formerly said, namely that the circular economy is able to create new enterprise and business opportunities, Circular Glasgow is a peculiar initiative of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and is delivered in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland. [2] The aim of this movement is to inspire businesses of all sizes to innovate and become future-proof by adopting circular strategies. Practical initiatives have been implemented in order to connect companies across cities, increase competitive advantages and realize financial savings (for instance the “bread to beer” initiative which can be considered archetypal in our case). On a regional scale, focus areas vary from city to city, but broadly align with Scotland’s Circular Economy Strategy 2016 ‘Making Things Last’ which highlights food and drink, bioeconomy, energy infrastructure, and manufacturing as initial centres of interest.

Poster of the Circular Glagow initiative

Cities need to engage in a systematic transition from the linear paradigm of production and consumption to a circular one. We have shown that innovations have already begun in some cities across the world, particularly in sectors like healthcare, waste management and energy. Obviously, this transition ought to be incentivized collectively, requiring collaborative efforts across the value chain, involving individuals, private sector, government and civil society actors. Quite hazardously, it seems as if the decision stage is stuck in a matrix, like in the case of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Defecting or not defecting?

Like in a game theoretical framework, individual behaviors have repercussions both at the individual and at the collective level. The defective outcome of decision-making is attributable to asymmetry of information which constitute a pervasive hindrance in economic theory. An intuitive (and heuristic) argument is that we live in an economic environment characterized by imperfect altruism, which guides utility maximization problems more in general and particularly decisions taken at the household level.

A circular economy oughts to unleash a transition to a more relational stance and future oriented goals, ditching linearity with its rigorous and circumscribed starting and ending points, striving instead towards a more fluid and cyclical model, where end and start become relative nomenclatures, blending together and mystifying themselves.

[1] The mentioned principles have been defined and gauged by the Ellen Mc Arthur foundation; more information
available at : https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/what-is-the-circular-economy

[2] More detailed information are available at: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/Glasgow_- Case-Study_Mar19.pdf

Book Release ! Our Commons: Political ideas for a new Europe

Book Release ! Our Commons: Political ideas for a new Europe

Our Commons: Political Ideas for a New Europe is a collection of essays, case studies and interviews about the commons, published right before the European Elections of May 2019. The book showcases the wealth of transformative ideas that the international commons movement has to offer. With contributions by Kate Raworth, David Bollier, George Monbiot and many others, Our Commons is a political call to arms to all Europeans to embrace the commons and build a new Europe.

Commons Network’s very own Sophie Bloemen and Thomas de Groot worked on this book for almost two years, doing research and interviews, working with academics, policy makers, authors and activists to paint a colourful picture of the commons as the blueprint for a new future, one that is inclusive, ecologically sustainable, equitable, democratic, collaborative, creative and resilient.

Our Commons features reflections on the enclosure of knowledge and the monopolisation of the digital sphere, stories about renewable energy cooperatives and community foodwaste initiatives and urgent pleas to see the city as a commons and to treat health as a common good. The book is first published online as an e-book, free for all to download and share and as a printable PDF. The book will also be available on a wide variety of print-on-demand platforms.

To download #OurCommonsBook: