Humanity is hurtling towards the future; both utopian and dystopian visions for our cities are possible. One moment there is an international treaty proposed for control of greenhouse gasses, the next all hope is dashed as the talks end yet again without a solution. Wonderful projects with green visions are announced, and then international financial crises shelve the projects indefinitely. It seems like our fate hangs in the balance.
The cities of today come in various forms; some are filled with gleaming towers of inequality, some are humble green modifications of ancient cities, and some are colorful bizarre twisting alleys of the human condition. Although it’s possible to live perfectly contented lives, many people would agree that today’s cities could be improved. Modernism has sanitized many environments, making wealthy citizens hunger for a sense of place. Disorganized growth fills up streets and airways with traffic and pollution, tearing away at nerves and health. To cap it all, our civilization is faced with another threat.
New research supports the growing body of evidence that history is beginning to repeat itself. (Climate News Network, 2014). Studies show that a 200-year drought caused the end of the Mesopotamian civilization and it is theorized that a series of droughts also caused the end of the Mayan civilization. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted a faltering of the monsoon that is vital for India’s ability to feed itself. In Australia, the drought years have also been the result of interruptions in ocean currents and El nino patterns. Although international supply chains have made global systems more robust against local collapse, the problems we face are bigger than a few droughts. It is more like a perfect storm of population growth, a depleted natural environment, and more extreme weather.
Which of our current city forms will preserve our civilization when inundated with more extreme weather events, pressure on supply chains, and more hungry mouths to feed? Probably none of our current cities are up to the challenge. It will happen only with radical modification of our urban form, in order to create resilient infrastructure and distributed production of provisions such as food and energy. Should we be putting our energy into making brand-new cities, or retrofitting and making more sustainable our existing cities? Either way cities of the future will look quite different if they are to overcome the challenges facing us.
This is part one of a five part series examining the trends facing our cities, solutions, and a vision of the future.
Keep reading to see what tomorrows cities will look like.
Climate News Network. (2014, 08 14). Climate change heralds end of civilisations. Retrieved 05 01, 2015 from Eco-Business: http://www.eco-business.com/news/climate-change-heralds-end-civilisations/