Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Unzooing Civilisation. If we're building cities that affect the entire planet, maybe it's time to start thinking like one.

 Here's a couple of articles that go nicely together. The first is an NZ Herald piece sketching a picture of the near future for us in Auckland City, human zoo style.  (The “zoo” is a modern, global and growing phenomenon generated by the powerful combination of social conventions, technological environment and commercial pressures).

Welcome to 2024




You get up and put on your exoskeleton suit. There are two million Aucklanders getting ready for work so you’re thankful that most do it from home and the daily commute is largely a quaint relic. You glance at the interior of your glasses to check the sports results and weather, your heart rate and whether your holiday booking for a week in space has been confirmed. Welcome to life in the future.
It's a predictive mishmash of powered exoskeletons, technology stepping in where our bodies have failed,  genome sequencing, living longer - and consequently a greater focus on the quality of life..(yeah right).
Rising populations -  more city gravitation versus de population of smaller regions, everything people use will be connected, from their watch to their car and their fridge, buying products will literally be at our fingertips; bathroom mirrors will prompt us when our product is getting low and pop a replacement in our shopping basket. Driverless cars - by 2024, we won't need a test because all the cars will be self-drive.

What is this really? I see key elements of the human zoo - technological environment and commercial pressures, disconnecting human evolution from nature and true human nature. 

Great. So here's the next article, which asks:


Is civilization natural?


So, there's the city and then there's the country, the built environment and the wilderness, nature and civilization. Whatever name the dichotomy goes by, we usually think of the world humans create and the world outside their creations as separate and unequal.
But as we enter the Anthropocene — an era in which human activity represents a principle driver of planetary changes — it may be time to rethink this ancient polarity. It's a question that has more than academic importance. How we resolve this split may have a lot to do with our chances for creating a technological society that can last for more than a century or so. That's because the Anthropocene is really the "Age of the City."
Here's the nutshell:
By 2050, more than 80 percent of all human beings will be living in urban areas.
The way we've been drawing these resources from nature and into the cities is simply not sustainable. An urbanized planet will need more energy, but it is crucial we get it in different ways: that is possible but requires massive change.
Our polar ideas of nature vs. civilization may be the first thing that needs to go. It's about human and natural systems evolving together.
 This possibility of "co-evolution" means cities will need to become far more responsive to what used to be thought of as nature lying outside their domains. It means recognizing how deeply the city relies on natural systems and thinking creatively about working with those systems rather than paving everything over.

One concrete strategy for addressing this issue of sustainability and resilience is to make cities act more like nature. Think about how forests get everything they need from whatever moves through where they stand. Building cities that use this principle is called biomimicry — and it means bringing more of the services nature provides to the city back within its confines.

With all our city building, it's the entire planet that we're changing now. And once we get to that scale, the distinction between nature and not-nature has to get updated. We need a perspective that's more sustainable and more resilient if we're going to make it for another 100, 500 or 5,000 years.

So I guess cities are not natural, yet. But they could be. They should be. That's Unzooing Civilisation.
 I compare the gist of the first article versus the second, and I can see we still have a long way to go. Paleo may be getting more trendy now and natural movement the next big fitness craze on the horizon, but the big picture still waits.