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October 29, 2019

Cities: Catalyst or Catastrophe

Cities are changing the face of the earth. But are they catalysts for great things, or are they the face of looming catastrophe? Future Cities Canada Summit has invited passionate urban leaders to make their strongest arguments in an ‘in-fun’ debate exploring whether today’s cities are the problem or the solution. The debate will focus not on whether some cities are better than others, but rather about the things we need to consider as we continue to evolve into an urban planet. 

Cities are displacing nations and nation-states as the central drivers of the global economy. In Canada, more than 80 percent of us live in cities, and according to StatsCan, cities and municipal areas produce more than 70 per cent of Canada’s GDP. Our cities drive regional planning, they forge international trading partnerships, and by nature they foster ideas, opportunities, cultural diversity and productivity. Cities are not just great places to live, work, and play – they are epicenters for creativity, human capital, innovation, political progress, and knowledge sharing. 

But living in cities can also affect our physical and mental health. If left unchecked, cities will be responsible for driving global ecological decline as they consume bio-resources faster than global ecosystems can regenerate. In many Canadian cities, urban sprawl puts pressure on local farms as land is sold to accommodate new developments, and everyday city governments grapple with how to balance the needs for more roadways and funding adequate transit systems. Cities are complex and fraught, and as we continue to flock to them, our futures will be dictated by the choices we make as we continue build and grow them.

Cities: Catalyst or Catastrophe: A Debate is taking place on the Summit’s second day, November 8 at 9:30 a.m. It will be moderated by Shauna Sylvester, Executive Director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, and an award-winning social entrepreneur, facilitator, and commentator. Shauna is a Future Cities Canada Fellow.

CATASTROPHE: Arguing that today’s cities are bad for our health will be public health physician Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed. Professor William Rees, inventor of ecological footprint analysis, will be joining her to argue that cities are inherently unsustainable.

CATALYST: On the opposing side, Zahra Ebrahim, Executive Advisor at Doblin, and Mazyar Mortazavi, President & CEO, TAS will argue that cities are where people want to live and hubs of opportunity, arts and culture.