Thursday, November 18, 2010

Greener Cities

At the first Carbon Conversation (being run by Transition Edinburgh South) I went to on Monday, one of the things we discussed how we imagined a low-carbon future would be like. We also discussed current or aspiring carbon-neutral cities and this got me thinking. Being a city girl from birth myself, I love the idea of living in a city that is carbon-neutral; a city that is more conscious of its impact and improving the quality of life of all its inhabitants both human, animal and plants.

To borrow some buzz words from a good introductory article on the subject,
Rise of the Carbon Neutral City by Matt Vella, carbon-neutral cities or more environmentally-conscious cities would also be the fore-runners of major new green innovations that would stretch the imaginations and capabilities of engineers and urban planners. It is probably a very exciting time to be an engineer or urban planner, talk about “carte-blanc-motivation”! (I just made that phrase up – rather proud of myself, now!) But the biggest contribution of these aspiring cities would be information sharing; not only the ideas that work well, but more critically those that don’t. Making existing cities more carbon-neutral is possible and involves retrofitting or greening existing structures, sometimes something as simple as better insulation.

For more introductory information on the subject
World Changing’s video from their recent Future City Event is good viewing. (There are quite a few videos and mostly focus on the hosting city of Seattle, but the first video has a good general introduction, if you’re short on time…or concentration?).

Whilst researching this I also came across what I think will quickly become the next big movement in Architecture:
Vegitecture. In a nutshell vegetated architecture, I’m a fan!

Here are also some slide-show lists to carbon-neutral cities. A more serious version from
Business Week, while PopSci.com has a quirky and cheerful round-up of the Nine Most Promising Carbon-Neutral Communities complete with fast facts and some great pixel art (below). Their categories include; the Holiest, Most Urgent, Smallest and Most Expensive.




Which means of course I couldn’t help doing my own:

Closest to Home:
BedZED, England Already carbon-neutral, Beddington Zero Energy Development a.k.a BedZED is not so much a city as a micro community within London making it the world’s first functional small-scale carbon-neutral successes.

Gives me a warm feeling: Costa RicaYes, Costa Rica, the whole country! They are aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2021 in honor of the countries 200th birthday. Check out their office site by CLICKING HERE.

The one I want to succeed the most: MaldivesThe Maldives are aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2020 as they are already threatened by the effects of climate change. For a country whose a little more than two meters above sea level, rising sea levels are a big deal to the Maldives. Quoting Chris Goodall from the
Guardian article: "The Maldives could just give up. Its people could declare themselves climate change refugees and ask for sanctuary elsewhere. But the new government is taking a stand”.

Already a success story: Vancouver, CanadaSince the 1970s, Vancouver has had a 100-year plan for clean and green living and the city is able to manage it population growth whilst minimizing it environmental impact, doing this primary through effective public transport and renewable energy sources. Why isn’t this success celebrated more? Let's move to Canada!


Scariest artist’s depictions: Masdar, Abu DhabiMy intention is not to bad-mouth any project as I think if a city or country want to be carbon-neutral they should be congratulated and encouraged, but the pictures from this mammoth project so slightly remind me of a greener version of the opening sequences of Blade Runner…but maybe that’s just me.

And then just plan bizarre…Once again not bad-mouthing, but these two project are veering on weird vibes:H2PIA : A Danish project to be the world’s first hydrogen city has some pretty bad artist depiction, with some very random human activity.

Arcosanti an experimental green village outside of Phoenix started in the 1970 and is still under construction…the website is also in need of some re-construction.

And finally below are some images about what I think my very own carbon-neutral city would look like. Some are fictional, some are real, but I’d like to think one day their amalgamation might become a reality.


Chiho Aoshima



Peter Doig


Skansen, Sweden




Ghibli Studios
 

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