Second, well-managed cities are also leaders in global sustainability. Their density allows them to share infrastructure more efficiently, and supports more public goods. As a result, cities generally have much lower greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions per capita than suburbs and rural areas. New York City, for example, with 8.4 million inhabitants, is more populous than most states but uses less energy than any of them. That’s the efficiency of “natural capital” that we want to see everywhere.
Third, cities are generally more progressive in their values than other areas. Because they rely more on nonmilitary public goods, they are more supportive of those goods. Because they have enormous diversity, they are more welcoming of diversity, including that of the new immigrants that usually enter this country through them. Because their functioning requires accommodation of very different people in close proximity, they are more tolerant of difference. Because they are at the cutting edge of the economy and culture, they are less threatened by the new. Cities are also better organized to advance and defend such values.
For all these reasons—their wealth, their greater sustainability, and their democratic values and organization—cities are the natural pillars of the high-road economy and society that we want to build. That’s their promise.
Joel Rogers is the founder and director of COWS and its multiple projects, including the Mayors Innovation Project, Efficiency Cities Network, State Smart Transportation Initiative, Center for State Innovation, and American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange, or ALICE. Satya Rhodes-Conway is a senior associate at COWS and the managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project.