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Ethical Cities

A website which may be unknown to many however extremely useful may be the ‘Future Learn’ website, it offers a range of free online courses in many different subjects from psychology to law, each with small modules of interest, these courses run over a period of weeks for a number of hours, they’re great to put on your UCAS and was recommended by the UK Government. A course which is of interest to me is the Ethical Cities course which is quite self-explanatory. New principals and ideas to adapt to the changing world

Week one

The course looks at the ‘Ethical City’ from the leadership, planning, businesses and our individual role. It also covers ethical and unethical practises which may affect the city. This specific course is covered by Dr Brendan Barrette and Professor Ralph Horne, they describe themselves as urban specialists. Professor Wendy Steele covers this topic. She talks about how society is a reflection of us as a group even through values. While there are good structures such as creativity there are also bad elements such as poverty. Without ethical values then our societies will have little direction.

Leaders face ‘high unemployment, income inequalities, crime, homelessness, lack of access to affordable housing, slums, failing infrastructure, congested streets and uncontrollable urban sprawl.’ Our cities future is uncertain and unsecure. Ethics are beyond what we want to like or not, they are choices which have the best consequences for all involved. Two broad streams of ethics are consequentialism (Focusses on goals not how we achieve them) and deontological (It is not about the ends it is about the process). Having an ethical approach may have negative consequences such as costs or choice, we must assess these consequences and whether they outweigh the good. People who may do something unethical may try to justify it to reduce their discomfort, ‘engine of self-justification’. The un focuses on four areas, ‘Human rights, Fair and Decent work, Environmental sustainability and anti-corruption’



Past Ethics

  • Athens- To become a citizen you must swear an oath which states that you must follow the ethics of the society
  • Venice-Most of their ethics were driven by religion however this is less relevant due to increasing secularisation (Loss of religion in a country)
  • Tokyo-Tokyo was defined by social structures such as class structure which although seems strange, it allows the city to function.
  • Cape Town-This city stated that their society was connected as they could not function alone

Week Two


Tokyo has a population of 13 million people which makes it a mega city. However, there is a lot of corruption within the government however it is the 18th least corrupted country in the world which shows how far corruption is rooted into our society. Corruption often involves political corruption in the form of bribery or extortion. Corruption may have dramatic effects on everyone within society. $2.6 trillion dollars is lost to corruption each year, over $1 trillion are bribes. The most corrupt places are listed as Sudan, Afghanistan, north Korea and Somalia. Corruption usually takes place due to little ethical leadership, lack of transparency and little accountability. People may have cognitive dissonance which means they do not hold themselves accountable for their actions. An example of this may have been Tony Blair when approaching the Iraq war. Some argue that to reduce corruption we must have the citizens input to ensure any human errors made can be corrected.

When looking at previous ideas, Plato theorised that a leader should not partake in their role for honour or payment which is stated in his book, the republic (Continuing updating the blog as an overview of this book will be soon). Three ethical actions are critique, justice, care. These create a moral framework which shape the actions of leaders. However, there are ethical leaders within the world such as the mayor of Barcelona who’s first act was to reduce her own salary. Continuing on with the theme of Spain, there are many political movements to tackle the inequality which they feel are in their society. Moving onto Melbourne, which is often praised for its ethical behaviour through the rank of the ‘most liveable city’ six years in a row. The Lord Mayor practises transparency and sustainability which links back to the ethics of critique and justice. This was done by a ten year financial plan and a response to the extreme heat

Week 3

Planning an ethical city

Planning issues include development control which is the choice of which buildings and factories are okay and not okay, nother issue to look at is the shape of a city in the future even when considering a population and changing society. The biggest issues, it could be argued, is respect and co-existence within society and finding an ethical grounding which appeals to the majority. This may even be through an extreme example of gangs ruling streets or areas such as the Crips versus Bloods in LA or the drug wars in Columbia such as in the city of Medellin. Jane Jacobs is an activist in New York who exposes the negative aspects of society. Her campaigning has directly influenced New York through the importance of the loss of neighbourhoods along with development projects and importance of looking at society in order to create a more ethical city. Another example of activism is through Darlene Marzari who campaigned in Vancouver to relocate families and convince them to stand up for themselves which helped save their community. Societies must protect their future through goals and policies, an example of this is in the picture which shows Melbourne’s future goals

Week 4

The triple bottom line focuses on social, financial and environmental performance. This theory was conceived by John Elkington who states that businesses have more of a responsibility than making money. Such as in Plymouth who asked their residents for £50 to invest in green energy and they raised £600,00 and allowed renewable energy sources to be created. Another big issue which cities often face is housing, however some governments help their citizens, the majority do not. Buying into the housing market can seem almost impossible for the youth of today, and presumably the people reading this article. As previously discussed, Melbourne seems to have a good ethical standing however it is known as one of the least affordable places in the world. A suggested solution to this may be the ‘nightingale’ which is known as Australia’s ‘most sustainable apartment building’ which focusing on housing individuals rather than obtaining profit, it also uses renewable energy and car usage went down due to the little access to carparks it had. It could be argued that more architects should study the nightingale and use some its attributes in future designs, along with this, the city should be more engaged as well as recognising that everyone needs housing, it is not a luxury. Cities need to consider businesses and the space they may need, the environment which they are in also needs to be considered. Businesses should take on a view through an ethical lens to ensure that their practises are useful and good for the community, ways they can do this is shown in the picture. Another element to buissness is the need for a shared value approach which states that buissnesses should create products which meet social needs, understand how to change environemental issues such as reducing packaging and connect with local supplies to increase a sense of conntection and community. By surveying the citizens within a city and showing the problems which it may economically face can allow solutions to be created. If you want to make an induvidual difference the it would be valuable to your community to support local buissness as it is often reinvested into your community so ,therefore, it benefits you. Another basic need linking to the housing which was previously discussed is basic minimum wage. Although in more first world countries it may seem too little, it seems to do the most help in poorer countries such as india

Week 5

The ethical citizen

An ethical citizen is defined by Thom Brooks as ‘grounded in the concept of social recognition where individuals come to recognize their shared commitments and obligations’. Some may argue that as a society we are high disengaged in our society which creates a negative cycle. There are many types of citizens such as the common citizen who is interested in our planet as a whole. A participating citizen who is focused on how we should live and may even protest and finally, a private citizen who mainly cares about their own possessions rather than other people. Sherry Arnstein identifies a hierarchy of approaches which can be seen in the picture. Manipulation is through the thought that we have input, therapy views our lack of power as a mental illness rather than addressing the causes. Informing citizens should be one way. Consultation involves the opinions of citizens. Placation allows people to have a wider input on projects. Partnership Allows citizens and public agencies to work together. Delegated power means that citizens can freely make choices and finally Citizen control means that citizens have control. Participatory budgeting means that citizens can choose how a budget is spent which allows trust to be built and it may reduce inequality. Unethical cities become chaotic and therefore cities should pay attention to the importance of ethics.