Last week I published Book 2 in what has now become a series on Integral Cities. Book 2 is Integral City Inquiry & Action: Designing Impact for the Human Hive. It brings to readers the field work, that our community of practice has developed from the theory of Book 1 in the last decade. It explores the holarchies of human systems that are embedded in cities as individuals, families, groups, workplaces/organizations, sectors and communities.

Over the decade, since I started Book 1, Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive, I have been following Geoffrey West’s work.  It has become increasingly clear to me – especially with his publication of Scale –  that Geoffrey West considers cities to be the critical scale for human systems to make a difference to all life on earth. As I have written elsewhere I have dubbed the contribution of cities to the wellbeing of our planet, to be “Gaia’s Reflective Organs” (a term coined by James Lovelock).

In thinking about the evolution of cities, I have formulated the Integral City as a paradigm that transcends and includes Resilient Cities, Smart Cities and Traditional Cities. An Integral City not only embraces the city as a complex adaptive system, but also sees it as a living human system at a fractal scale that includes organizations and individuals and that can be understood through the integration of realities that co-arise through the bio-psycho-cultural-structural systems of the human hive. For me, the importance of the city (and its eco-regions) to our planet, is that it has become the system of consciousness, culture, biology and physics/chemistry that stands as Gaia’s greatest evolutionary opportunity while also being her greatest evolutionary threat.

In reading Scale, I was most inspired to learn, that West (and his research teams) search for the Science of Cities lead him into discoveries about the heart of what I believe to be the most complex system created by humans – the city. Unlike me, however, West (and co-researchers) has had the scientific, academic, institutional and funding support to explore the wealth of data that has emerged in multiple disciplines around the world, as the evidence to demonstrate the universal laws of growth that govern cities and their sustainability and resilience.

The results of their scientific examination of the plethora of data that abounds in cities around the world proves my long-held contention that we are not lacking in evidence to make better sense of our cities – just the will and resources to examine and interpret it. So, West et al, can make a strong case for proposing and unpacking the “The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies”.

But I wonder if the West team, by concentrating on the objective and interobjective data that form the scalar properties of biology and physics/chemistry may have been blind to the holarchic subjective and intersubjective properties that underlie the aesthetic and social sciences? And if so, what might Integral City perspectives add to the research methodology and results of a science of cities?