The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has just released its first report on US Cities Sustainable Development Goals Index 2017. The report ranks US cities against the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be attained by 2030 as adopted by the UN in 2015.

SDG Goal 11 was to create resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities and the SDSN has designed a report rating US cities to encourage them to organize themselves around the 17 Goals as a framework for strategic sustainable change.

The report has an impressive traffic light dashboard reporting on all 17 goals for 100 US Cities (Metro Statistical Areas).

Criticism of SDG’s

Much criticism of the 17 SDG Goals has ensued since publication (not the least of which has resulted in the US 2017 withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord which was derived from the SDG’s – and which might explain why Goal 13  – Climate Action shows up as universally red/requiring action in all 100 US cities).

Wikipedia reports both negative and the positive critques of the SDG’s.

Negative: The SDGs have …  inherent shortcomings in the very concept of sustainable development and the inability of … to either stabilize rising carbon dioxide concentration or ensure environmental harmony.

Positive: The SDGs were the first outcome from a UN conference that was not criticized by any major Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). …. The MDGs dealt with the problems, the SDGs deal with the causes of the problems. … Finally, the MDGs used a silo approach to problems, while the SDGs take into account the inter-linkages.

Nearly all stakeholders engaged in negotiations to develop the SDGs agreed that 17 goals were justified because the agenda they address is all encompassing.

Evolutionary World Threat Analysis

Because Integral City has analysed the predecessor set of Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) against our proposition that sustainability must be viewed from an evolutionary lens, we were curious how the 17 SDG’s would measure up against the same filter.

To provide the background for our observations (which are being incorporated into Chapter 15 of our Book 3 in the Integral City series) we introduce our graphic analysis of World Threats in terms of the 6 evolutionary levels contained in the Anthroposphere and Biosphere (based on Dr. Brian Eddy’s Integral Geographic analysis of world evolution).

Our evolutionary analysis reveals that the SDG’s certainly emphasized goals related to the Anthroposphere or psycho-cultural-social domains – where 12/17 of the goals reside. And we are encouraged to see that the other 5 geological plates have SDG’s assigned to them (some of which overlap more than one level) as set out below.

The SDG’s map out against the World Threat Analysis as summarized here – (with the references in the Anthropospere section to the quadrants of the Integral City Map 1).

SDG Evolutionary Threat Analysis

  1. Psycho-Cultural-Social – Anthroposphere

UL Goal 4: Quality Education

LL Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

LL, LR Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

LL Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

LL, LR Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

UR Goal 5: Gender Equality

UR, LR Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

LR Goal 1: No Poverty

LR Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

LR Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

LR Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities (work, pay)

LR Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

  1. Bio-Genetic-Ecological – Biosphere

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Goal 14: Life Below Water

Goal 15: Life on Land

  1. Food Scarcity – Biosphere

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

  1. Climate – Atmosphere

Goal 13: Climate Action

  1. Water – Hydrosphere

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Goal 14: Life Below Water

  1. Energy – Lithosphere

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Goal 15: Life on Land

Beyond this initial analysis, it is fascinating to see who were the Top 10 US Cities and Bottom 10 Cities in the US (as shown in the following tables).

How do Worldviews Translate Placecaring & Placemaking into SDG’s?

The question we are most curious about, is how the cities and their indices are linked to the worldviews of the 4 Voices of each city – the Civic Managers, Citizens, Business and Civil Society  – who call one of those 100 cities “my place”. How will their worldviews impact the use they make of resources, setting intentions and making decisions for sustainably developing their cities?

That is where the consciousness and culture of the cities will translate the SDG framework into a city where placecaring and placemaking can result in truly sustainable development. And that is why such a framework as the SDG’s must be understood not only in the evolutionary terms of a World Threat Analysis – but applied in developmental human terms. For without understanding the natural sequencing of human development, we are highly unlikely to achieve the targets set for 2030. (This will apply to both the USA and all the rest of the world’s cities using these indices.)

The bottom line from an Integral City perspective is that SDG’s can only be achieved if the 4 Voices of the city work together through inquiry and action to design sustainable impact. That will require the tough love of placecaring and the natural designs of placemaking. (See Book 2).