While today we tend to discard self-sufficiency for being a failed, backward concept. At Pukika we believe it is a higher stage of civilization, one that technology such as the Internet and 3D printing are bringing upon us. Self-sufficiency presents two strengths to solve the population and environmental crisis we face.
First, only a self-sufficient city can take the health of its ecosystem seriously. As long as a city can outsource production elsewhere, people will think that sorting out the trash, riding a bicycle or driving an electric car is doing their part to keep the planet healthy. Not at all. That helps, but one’s impact on pollution and the depletion of resources is directly connected to every item one consumes. The wealthier a city, the higher its consumption per capita, and therefore, the higher it’s pollution and resources depletion footprint per capita. On the other hand, if a city is self-sufficient, its residents will see with their own eyes the impact that their consumption has on their ecosystem.
Second, we have 2.5 billion people coming our way—most of them in developing countries. We can build a few dynamic, business-friendly cities here and there, but not hundreds of them. The ghost towns we see today in China show us that the problem is not building a new city, but creating an economy that attracts people. Pukika’s self-sufficient model is designed so that, after construction, the city doesn’t require further capital injections and it can offer all its citizens a decent quality of life. Pukika doesn’t promise the opportunity of becoming stinking rich, but it secures a comfortable life nonetheless.
Yes. The difference is that Pukika implements a multidimensional monetary system, and 4 of the 5 dimensions are not suitable for accumulation because they are pegged to the natural and human resources present in the ecosystem. The last dimension is open for accumulation, and people earn this money according to their level within the sector where they work, the success of the projects they work on, and their personal performance. One way of looking at it is that everyone gets the same basic salary (which pays for basic survival and social needs) and a performance bonus. People can accumulate this bonus and that’s what drives competition in Pukika.
Pukika would be built from scratch in a developing country to be defined at a later stage. If the development model works, it could be replicated elsewhere, offering a scalable and affordable solution to environmental degradation, poverty and humanitarian crises. The importance of building it in a developing country is that we must be able to replicate the development model, so building a city in, let’s say, peaceful, rich Norway would not be addressing the issues developing countries face.
Conventional wisdom tells us that small, gradual changes are more desirable than sudden, drastic changes. However, species (or individuals) sometimes need to leapfrog in order to overcome an imminent challenge. The population explosion has put us in such a situation.
The economic model that allowed us to become so successful is now impeding us to develop in harmony with nature. This model worked wonderfully when there were still continents to conquer and ecosystems were able to absorb our pollution. Today, the scale of resources extracted and the pollution levels call for a thorough exercise of reverse engineering of how to have 11 billion humans living and letting other species live on this planet. So many aspects are interconnected in the modern world, that Pukika’s Development Model had to be designed from the ground up.
Volunteers populate Pukika. Prior to moving to the city, they learn how the city operates and they sign a contract that stipulates their duties and rights. They can leave the city at any time by presenting a resignation letter—just like quitting a job.
Pukika embraces the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the freedoms of speech, religion, sexuality, press, assembly, private property ownership and migration.
Pukika will adhere to the laws of the host country where the city will be located.
The need to house 5 billion people means that any real solution must have a reasonable scale. Second, and perhaps more important, most of these new urbanites are going to be young people in developing countries, who would move to cities in search for opportunities or are born there and aspire to have a modern urban lifestyle.
Pukika (or cities built with its development model) must attract people, we can’t force them to go there. People migrate to cities where they believe they will find opportunities to get ahead and enjoy a good quality of life. If a city is too small, it may not be able to attract people.
Also, small cities are not likely to be self-sufficient in all aspects. For example, a small town may not have an open-heart surgeon or enough material engineering researchers to produce the technology they need. So the city would need to outsource those services, and we end up with the same problem cities face today: how to pay for imported goods and services when you are part of the billions from developing countries trying to make ends meet.
Everyone in Pukika signs a Social Contract that stipulates the citizens’ rights and duties. Being part of the labour force, one is bound by this contract to work a few hours a month on one’s Democratic Duty. This work consists of informing oneself about the decisions and policies pertinent to the sector where one works, and then participating in referendums and elections. Voting is frequent and it is about issues that pertain to one’s line of work.
Voting in Pukika is not optional, it’s a duty and you get paid to do it. Abstinence and blank votes are not allowed, just like you can’t tell your boss: “Hey, I don’t give a rat’s ass about that report, I’m not writing, good luck with it.”
For example, a nurse works 2 hours per week to understand the challenges the health Sector in the city faces, and then votes on what policies and projects should be implemented; she also elects the Health Sector Committee that leads the city’s health.
The idea of integrating business, government and people into one body is to reduce the risk of corruption and lack of implementation. In developing countries, many initiatives on sustainability have failed because of these ailments. Pukika’s model aims to make citizens take full responsibility of developing their city, to take the politics out of government, and to align businesses with the imperative of preserving the ecosystem.
After the Second World War, we lived in a world where only a few developed Western countries and Japan had a healthy middle-class that was driving global consumption. Today, developing countries have narrowed the gap, bringing hundreds of millions into the global middle-class. If globalisation and capitalism actually deliver on their promise of trickle-down economics, we’ll end up with 11 billion people living the American dream. Imagine the potential for business, but also visualise the pollution and destruction of ecosystems that we will cause. It will be ugly, stinky and unhealthy.
On the other hand, if globalisation and capitalism fail to curb poverty, we could end up with 4 or 5 or 7 billion people living in poverty. Today, there are 2 billion people living under 3 dollars a day.* This is after three decades of great advances in developing countries. But a severe economic downturn can send billions back into poverty. Our population is increasing, but the earth is not growing any bigger. This means that competition for limited resources will become fierce, in some places deadly, and it’s going to make the cost of living more expensive for everyone.
The Pukika Development Model does not intended to change the economic model in existing cities or to affect the lifestyle of those who profit from our economic system. Pukika’s goal is to offer an option to house, feed and hire with dignity part of the increasing human population, and to do it without straining the environment even further.
So while Pukika will never affect your lifestyle or wealth aspirations, you have to think what will the environmental impact of a consumer society of 11 billion people be like.
Today, our current goal is economic growth, not keeping ecosystems in equilibrium. We embrace competition when it yields economic growth, when it offers more products to buy and opportunities to make money. From this perspective, self-sufficiency and the preservation of the ecosystem seem to be detrimental to innovation and economic growth.
Pukika’s development model has a different success reward mechanism and the imperatives of self-sufficiency and equilibrium of the ecosystem would yield a different type of competition. In Pukika companies would compete for the allocation of resources to launch projects, and they would compete to see how efficient they are at executing these projects. For example, companies would compete to meet production targets while minimising the resources needed or extending the life cycle of the products. Today, companies are only rewarded if they can translate their innovations into more sales.