Category: Positionality

Copenhagen & Nairobi

The main similarity that I can see is the role of the community at large and how they facilitated these positive policies. In Copenhagen, through bike-friendly changes in the city’s infrastructure and other sustainable investments, citizens are now empowered and feel its their duty to contribute to the city’s sustainable changes. I sensed this was similar to the water development project in Nairobi because while it received subsidies from the World Bank, it needed a local bank to take the risk and front the 6 million USD. It can be assumed that an investment of 6 million USD is not something banks take lightly. The fact that it was purposefully invested in the community shows a transition in the behavioral decisions of private businesses that are essential for the development of these cities. Its almost as if its…. all interdependent?

I believe that while Copenhagen definitely has a head start because of it’s developed infrastructure, Nairobi has immense opportunities to implement policies and create a general culture that influences the behavioral decisions of its communities to create positive change within their communities. These projects not only add additional money into the pockets of regular citizens, they enable the development of larger, more complex projects that will be necessary if cities are to be truly climate-resilient. It also creates opportunities for innovation because the city’s infrastructure and systems can think outside of having to be dependent on fossil fuels for their end goals.

Sustainable Development Never Ends

A comparison of the videos about Copenhagen and Nairobi highlights two facts about sustainability: that sustainability does not refer solely to environmental health and that sustainability is dynamic. The FreeThink video shows the process behind Copenhagen’s impressive act of reducing carbon emissions while growing in population size. It portrays how the collaborative efforts between private sector companies, local government and citizens can have amazing results regarding the sustainable development goals. It also proves that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Similarly, the World Bank video tells the story of the Nairobi Sanitation Project, detailing how connections between international organizations, local financial institutions and community leaders led to accessible clean water and sanitation in the settlement. The parallels between the two projects are obvious, as each showcase that interdependence is a necessary component in effective and sustainable change. While the statistics regarding Copenhagen’s carbon footprint are impressive, it is important to keep in mind Danish people’s positionality, as they are privileged with the ability to invest time, money and resources to tackle climate issues. Therefore socio-economic disparities between the two cities cannot be ignored.

Despite the success of the Nairobi Sanitation Project, the hurdles the community had to jump to reach that success are indicative of the hegemonic global norms that keep people in poverty worldwide. The World Bank video was made to show the great work that the organization does in order to fight poverty. However, I found the “output based aid” subsidy problematic. If the bank had decided not to provide the $6M loan, then that community would still be facing health and water access problems. I understand that this is a way to combat possible corruption, however, asking a community where $12 a day is the normal pay for skilled labor to raise $6M dollars is strange. Also important to keep in mind is that while clean sanitation and water access is only a part of what is needed to end poverty in this community,  that relatively small change made a very significant difference in the livelihoods of the community.

Sustainable Development: Copenhagen and Nairobi

Copenhagen and Nairobi are two very different cities, one lies in Denmark, Northern Europe, and the other in Kenya, East Africa. These cities differ in their geography, climate, national wealth, and culture. These differences shape the behavioral choices that their citizens make in regards to sustainability.

Copenhagen is striving to become the most sustainable city, with a net carbon emission of zero. Both Copenhagen and the environmental organization’s resources are going towards addressing environmental issues by developing sustainable solutions. Many of the issues Copenhagen faces are not unique to Denmark, so the technologies they create can be used by other cities. For example, an air quality meter developed in Copenhagen is being shipped across the globe for use in the U.S., Mexico and Greece among many others. Denmark is able to find solutions to environmental issues mostly due to the wealth of the country. Copenhagen is improving its sustainability, while also working toward global sustainability.

Nairobi, however, is working to ensure that citizens have access to clean water and sanitation throughout the city. Kenya has significantly less wealth than Denmark, and a repeated history of exploitation due to European colonization. Nairob’s sustainability efforts are greatly different from those in Denmark due to the difference in wealth. Although these efforts are being handled with vastly different economies, both cities are taking major strides in improving their sustainability and quality of life.

Copenhagen and Nairobi demonstrate different ways interdependence can take shape globally. Copenhagen is working to develop technologies to advance sustainability. However, they would not be able to do so without the support of its citizens, and the technologies and resources around the world. Nairobi depends on loans from both local banks and the World Bank in order to finance its water and sanitation infrastructure. The residents of Nairobi benefit from these advancements which will lay the framework to continue taking steps forward in sustainability.

analysis of videos

Although the sustainability initiatives shown in these videos differ as the initiative in Copenhagen focuses on UN sustainability goal 11 and the initiative in Nairobi focuses on UN sustainability goal 6, they are similar in the ways they impact the economy, the society, those who live in it and their health. Both sustainability initiatives bolster the economy by creating more jobs while also impacting the society by changing the infrastructure and social norms. The initiatives in Copenhagen create more jobs as they require people to research and figure out how to implement them while also making it easier and normative to use renewable resources and energy efficient transportation. In comparison, the clean water initiative in Nairobi creates manual labor jobs while also making it normal to have access to clean water and sanitation systems. Both the initiatives in Copenhagen and Nairobi elevate the cities they take place in while also promoting social change through the way they change the infrastructure and social practices in the two cities.

These initiatives also impact those who live in the communities by impacting the way they think of themselves. In the video, it was stated that the sustainability initiatives in Copenhagen would not be possible if the citizens did not do their part. By doing their part and because they are surrounded by sustainability, Copenhagen’s citizens are likely to incorporate sustainability into their self-concept. In comparison, Nairobi’s citizens are more likely to feel as though they have more dignity as a result of the sustainability initiatives that took place in their city (this was communicated in the interviews). Though the way that the sustainability initiatives impact people’s self-concept, they are impacting the city’s citizen’s personal identities. Finally, because these initiatives impact the air quality and cleanliness of Copenhagen and Nairobi’s citizens respectively, they are positively impacting the health of the city’s citizens.

Positionality and Behavioral Choices

These two videos clearly show the importance of having resources available to invest in sustainability. I believe that it is a privilege to be able to actively consider living sustainably, when at the same time people globally continue to live below the poverty line. In the video on Copenhagen as the sustainable city of the future the mayor explained that the residents of Copenhagen were actively involved in transforming the city into a carbon neutral city. However, Denmark has the resources to be able to invest in initiatives to help this green transformation. I think the situation in many cities in the Global South is very different. Whereas in the Global North people might move to cities because of employment opportunities, in the Global South it seems that people often move due to rural poverty and desperation. As a result, this leads to ‘pseudo-urbanisation’ (a term coined by Bhaswati Ray in an article on the “quality of life in selected slums in Kolkata”, 2017). Pseudo-urbanization means that a city might be expanding, but there is no expansion in infrastructure to support this greater urbanization. As a result, informal settlements might be enlarging, but this is not coupled with an increase in facilities and employment options, leading to a degradation in the quality of urban life. In the case of pseudo-urbanization, behavioral choices are severely limited by a lack of a supporting infrastructure, as in Nairobi. Copenhagen, in contrast, as a city has the resources to set up sustainable infrastructures, and its residents have the resources to invest in behavioral choices. Our behavioral choices are influenced by the way various states interact with each other and are dependent upon each other. One’s positionality within this web of interdependence thus influences one’s behavior.

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