How will our cities need to be transformed to shift us from our current parasitically harmful relationship with our natural environment to a regenerative, symbiotic relationship?
This was one of the first questions that we asked after developing the definition of a Regenerative Symbiotic City. In answering this question, we agreed that such transformations would need to be ones that underpinned the basic needs of human habitation: shelter, food, energy, access to resources, mobility, and ecosystems services. We believe that these transformations must be grounded in reality and can only be implemented if existing political and economic resources were effectively marshaled. These transformations must be both "economically rational” and be deployable within a time frame that would allow them to begin to have real impact within the next decade.
Most importantly, these transformations should be rational and practical extensions of existing science and technologies. For example, shifting from gasoline powered to electric powered cars would not require the immediate and complete dislocation of existing transportation systems although this may ultimately be achieved.
We have focused on the following 7 mutually supportive transformations that we think will have the greatest impact, and are the most important to facilitating the transformation of our cites from parasitic to symbiotic cities:
- Transformation to Net-Zero Carbon Energy Economy
- Ecosystem Services Infrastructure Development
- High-density, Complete Community Planning
- Regenerative Building Fabric Transformation
- Local Urban Food Production
- Infinite Material and Resource Recycling
- Socio-Economic Transformation
We have made a number of key assumptions in putting forward the above transformations, including:
- History is not pre-determined: Our civiliztion is not necessarily locked into doing things the way we are doing them now, nor how we have done things in the past. If we were, then there would indeed be no hope and no viable future! We do not believe in a pre-determined, Hegelian path for history, and do not think that societies and civiliztions move in pre-determined cycles, rising and then falling in some regular fashion. Instead, we think that, as Niall Ferguson notes in his book Civiliztion - The West and the Rest, civilizations "...operate somewhere between oder and disorder - on the 'edge of chaos' in the phrase of computer scientist Chritopher Langton. Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time, apparrently in equilibrium, in reality constantly adapting. But there comes a moment when they 'go critical'. A slight perturbation can set off a 'phase transition' from a benign equilibrium to a crisis..."[page 299-230] It is therefore our job as a species to find a more successful course for our future, and the means of implementing it.
- Our problems are not caused by "others": We do not believe that our poblems are caused by "others" (other races, other cultures, other nations, other political parties). Although it is often easy to blame others for our problems, in reality, we think that the most difficult problems we face are the result of our deep-seated human nature that manifests itself in both positive and negative ways. Moreover, we think that the above described transformations can only be successful if we find ways to implement them that take into account the realities of our human nature. The implementation of these transformations, then, must appear "reasonable" from a great many perspectives - which will indeed be one of the great challenges facing us in implementing these transformations.
- The transformations must be rational and based on facts and sound science: We think that, even though the transformations must be understood as relevant in many cultural contexts, they must nevertheless be entirely rational, logical and based on sound science. We are entering an era where our species' future success will very much depend on our ability to use our now vast understanding of the natural and physical world in creative and effective ways, but also an era that will, by the very nature of some of the future shocks and stresses we face, make it much more difficult to escape the counter-productive behaviours associated with the irrational side of human nature that is much amplified during times of stress.
- Transformations must be individually effective AND mutually supportive and reinforcing: We think that in order to be implemented, these transformations must be effective in and of themselves, and not require other tranformations to be implemented as precursors. It should be noted here, however, the implementation of multiple transformations will have synergies and positive feedbacks that individual transformatiosn may not have on their own.