White Rhino, who currently is lost in the woods of the Left Coast, forwarded this post from the Cool Hunter about Dongtan, a new 100% eco-city being built in China. The pedestrian-oriented city will get all its energy from renewables, and the only greenhouse gases it will produce will come from its exhaling residents. All waste will be reused, composted, or otherwise recycled.
With the planet’s population becoming increasingly urban and therefore increasingly in need of solutions exactly like this, I don’t think there’s anybody who’ll argue that this isn’t a grand idea. Still, I have to admit that I find the idea of building a whole city essentially overnight from scratch is a little odd. I don’t doubt that in regions with exploding populations such “instant” cities are needed, and obviously going green is the way to go as far as that’s concerned. But in my personal Amer-Euro tradition, cities grow more slowly and more organically. Their parts arise according to need and therefore are assured of meeting those needs that actually exist. This means those cities actually get lived in and used. It’s an if-we-build-it-we-will-stay proposition versus a more expectant if-you-build-it-they-will-come strategy. So I just hope that amidst all the grand designs for recycling plants and carbon-free transportation systems that there’s some thought being given to the human element. Because great cities are ultimately made from people not blueprints.
But I don’t see that as the main idea here. What Dongtan is really saying is that we can do this. We can build cities that are 100% sustainable. We have the technology. Ending the climate crisis is not a pipe dream. We have the tools. When our pinheaded national leadership calls for yet another summit on climate change, as they did the other day, they’re just fiddling while the Earth burns and revealing the true and frighteningly limited nature of their dreadfully unimaginative minds in the process.
What’s to talk about? The time for conversation is over. Over. The time for action has come. Dongtan says we can do this thing. It’s the proof in the pudding that the dream can come true. We can live in a modern society with all (or most) of the bells and whistles and not torch the whole place in the process. And really why wouldn’t we want to? Because in the end, isn’t environmentalism really about aesthetics? Isn’t it about the ultimate nature of the performance piece we call life? Who wants to have our role in that performance be that of vermin fouling it all up. Who wants to live like self-consumed pigs hurling our crap everywhere. That’s what monkeys in trees do. Surely we’re a little more evolved. We don’t really want to leave a big giant stinking mess where once there was a verdant paradise, do we? Don’t we want to do things better, cleaner, and with more style if only for the sake of the beauty we both preserve and manifest by doing so?