Sustainable cities of the future- I thought I knew exactly how these urban islands would be. However I am a country boy, so I decided that it might be prudent to do some initial research, just to confirm my theories and to see what city dwelling experts were thinking. To my surprise there is absolutely no consensus on the subject, so although I admit that I am an outsider in this landscape, perhaps that will allow me to think objectively?
My preconception of a sustainable city of the future encompassed all the trappings of my sustainable building background. Low carbon energy efficient structures partially clad in edible vegetation to mitigate the heat island effect; solar-generating glazed facades using advanced super conductors like graphene.
As the solar gain starts to raise internal temperatures above equability, the electricity generated by the glazing responds to the sensors and lowers solar-generating thin film PV blinds whilst also refocusing reflected daylight from integral mirrors to naturally light the interior spaces. Every system is SMART. Waste no longer exists in the city; everything is reused, recycled, composted or converted to its energy base and fed into the district tri-generating energy mains.
Neighborhoods are predominantly green oasis, they are walkable and span no more than a mile in diameter, pocked and criss-crossed by green corridors and blue water features. Bicycles are communally available at no cost and public transport in the city is a number of complimentary systems. At high level there will be a light railway that glides noiselessly, driven by opposing electro magnetic fields. At street level there are interconnecting hop on and off moving pavements with shops and factories supplied by conveyor belts carrying folding modules which arrive just in time to be removed at their destination by robotics.
Food shops grow most perishable items on site often using hydroponics. Habitation is in dense but beautifully designed multi purpose structures- climate controlled, noise attenuated equable homes in vibrant and stimulating cultural centers. These neighborhoods are interlinked by the public transport system, which radiates out to the city boundaries before looping back to the centre as part of a fractal patterned network.
In the future we will have realized that life on earth flourishes and exists because there is both plentiful water and solar energy. In short, we will have learned to tap in to what is provided and to respect and not pollute the resourceful environment. Water treatment and desalination with solar energy is the norm and wars are no longer waged over either fossil fuels or precious water.
I decided to see if there are any examples of human settlements that share the communal dynamics of bees or ants by living together minimally and harmoniously using only what their close surroundings provide. If such ecological settlements exist they will surely be functional places where all community members will co-exist and have an understood and interconnected role to play.
In the natural world there is no waste, everything is recycled or fits into the natural order, where Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ is the evolutionary driver of existence. To my surprise I found many examples that seemed to fit my criteria and they were all in the rapidly expanding cities of what we refer to as ‘Third World Countries’. These human communities were located in shanty towns and slums in places like Calcutta, Mombai and the Favelas of Sao Paulo. Although lacking in modern amenities, these communities were socially successful places, using minimal resources with no unemployment. Through need everyone has an active communal role and function. Living in such close proximity necessitates co-operative behavior.
Here I hit a metaphorical brick wall by now realizing that basic social equality is the driver for the human version of a sustainable ecological community.
What do you think of this vision of future sustainable cities?