It’s Time For The Creative Class To Grow Up

The urban theorist discusses the need for new social systems, more inclusion, and why we need to pay attention to the service industry.

It’s been nearly 15 years since Richard Florida released The Rise of the Creative Class—and just as he predicted, knowledge workers have become proven drivers of economic and cultural progress. The biggest surprise, he says, is what’s happening to the rest of the American workforce.

After the Great Recession, the pendulum swung in favor of independent workers, the ones who figured out how to mix and match income. But even though we have the internet and work is now global, creative networks still gravitate to big cities.

The first move you’ll make—if you’re young, ambitious, and hope to establish your career—might be to a creative hub or tech center like San Francisco, even if this means paying a lot for housing and getting roommates. But once you partner up or start a family, things get harder. The data shows a certain kind of suburb is becoming more attractive: one connected to a big city by transit and with a walkable downtown. Think of cities like Hudson, Hoboken, or Jersey City near the New York metropolitan area. College towns are also doing well. Ann Arbor, Boulder, Austin—they all offer character, heritage, and authenticity.

Many more metro areas today meet a threshold of amenities that appeal to knowledge workers than even 15 or 20 years ago. That’s what the rise of the creative class was all about: Telling smaller cities that if you make yourself a bit more interesting and open-minded—encourage artists to open galleries, zone for street-level cafés, create enough urban energy—talented people will say, “Oh, there’s enough here for me.”

Members of the creative class, even the struggling artists or journalists among us, are doing pretty well. We’re not exactly the one percent, but we’re making a living. And if we can’t afford to live in Manhattan, we can find what we’re looking for in Montclair, New Jersey, some nice part of Los Angeles, or, by god, Detroit. It’s the working people, the service class, who are falling further and further behind.

To me, what’s been most surprising over the last decade is the class divide. The rise of Trump. About 60 or 70 million Americans—45 to 50 percent of the workforce—are getting pushed out of cities, and I think they started to blame everyone in the snobby universe: the professor, the tax-collecting government bureaucrat, the gay people partying it up downtown, the young people who looked like they didn’t have to work. The blue-collar workers just got angrier.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]We need a more inclusive society, a more diverse society, a better world for everyone.[/quote]

To be frank, I’m a middle-aged white man, and there are middle-aged white men who can’t keep up skills-wise. They’re getting laid off. When I left college in the late 1970s, there were no “cool” jobs. You went to work on Wall Street or in a corporate bureaucracy. I would have had to cut my hair, shave my beard, pull my earring out. Now, there’s nonprofit work, there are NGOs, there are startups. Not only high-tech startups—civic and social center startups. Personally, I went into academia partly because I was intellectually curious, but also because it was the only profession where I felt like I could be myself.

It’s time for the creative class to grow up and stop thinking all you need to do to build a better community is make your neighborhood “so cool.” We need a more inclusive society, a more diverse society, a better world for everyone. We can’t do that just by following our passions and finding meaning in our work. Sooner or later, people will understand that you can build a bigger movement on the backs of the creative class—give the service workers a social safety net, build a coalition of knowledge workers and single moms and minority people who can find common ground. The fight for a $15 minimum wage in expensive cities may be a sign that we’re going to get there.

New social systems and political awareness take a lot of time. It took 100 years for the New Deal to come about after the Industrial Revolution. Lags between new economic systems and safety nets are what I call “Great Resets.” I think it’ll happen—the United States has always been resilient. In the short-term, though, it’s going to be messy.


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

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