Dirk van der Ven

It must have been fate when I crossed paths with Walas in 2011. It was a revelation to discover that cities are not about buildings and infrastructure, but about people and their wellbeing. In this way, I also came to know a few new teachers, including Umberto Eco, Jan Pen, Jan Tinbergen, Hernando de Soto and last but not least Jane Jacobs.

Our generation will live to see the day when most of the world’s population will live in an urban area. So many people on such a small pieces of land will bring many problems of so many different kinds. And yet, so many people on such a small piece of land will bring together just as many new ideas and creativity. From these ideas and creativity, solutions will come forth for the problems caused by mankind. At least, that is my optimistic view on the world.

I have experienced the complexity and difficulty of working on sustainable urban development. I have experienced that the important things in life and ethics are not always the first priority. We stand at an epic crossroad, maybe the most important one ever in the existence of mankind. It is evident that we need radical changes and a new course towards sustainable urban development:

“…sustainable urban development, rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities through drawing together cooperation with committed partners, relevant stakeholders, and urban actors at all levels of government as well as the private sector.” – Text from The New Urban Agenda

Through my work with Walas, I work with the Earth Charter Cities Manifesto. This document combines the principles of the Earth Charter with the important tools for urban sustainability learned from Jane Jacobs and the principles of placemaking and fair business. Driven and inspired by the Earth Charter, we hope to continuously improve on our sustainability: Inspire to Improve. And cities play a crucial role in the global wellbeing of both people and Earth.
Personally I am quite optimistic about the future and I see it as my calling to contribute to sincere and sustainable cities by collaborating with those close to me.