Human Planet

March 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

The city is where civilization happens; but what is civilization now days?
People travelled to other countries bringing -civilization- and colonizing them to impose their culture, is that still happening?
Many say that cities and urban spaces are the ideal place for human beings. The place where communication happens, the place where society lives, where innovation is fostered. But others say that cities as the only solution to the problem of the cities (West, G. 2010) When we take in consideration the development that we are achieving, we should look at the big picture in order to best understand the Human being, and its environment. Because it seems that as population growth, every thing that is related to human society, growth by the same percentage.

There is, of course, a very good reason that animals slow down with size: All that mass requires energy. But the superlinear growth of cities comes with no such inherent constraints. Instead, the urban equations predict a world of ever-increasing resource consumption, as the expansion of cities fuels the expansion of economies. West illustrates the problem by translating human life into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”

What we do in our homes and streets have an effect for the entire planet. Of course we have already realize that there is some things that we need to change if we want to continue to enjoy this planet. There are master plans for cities with 0 emissions and 0 waste, the state of the art in technology!  But we have seen master plans before. So well design, taking every little design in consideration, … Less the fact that is humans who make the cities. As Jane Jacobs insisted, the city isn’ t a mass of buildings but rather a vessel of empty spaces, in which people interacted with other people.

In essence, they arrive at the sensible conclusion that cities are valuable because they facilitate human interactions, as people crammed into a few square miles exchange ideas and start collaborations. “If you ask people why they move to the city, they always give the same reasons,” West says. “They’ve come to get a job or follow their friends or to be at the center of a scene. That’s why we pay the high rent. Cities are all about the people, not the infrastructure.”

We need to understand better what human beings are about, the deep structures in the cities. Even more important, the citizens have to realize what impact have our actions, and that it is up to us where we take it from here.

There are some new challenges and changes coming ahead, and some are strugling because it is difficult to forecast what is what is happening. But as Ben Hammersley says, ” the pain isn’t coming from the change, the pain is coming from the struggling agains the change”.
Maybe the solution is not to have the master minds designing the perfect cities, but to encourage the citizens to design them by them self, to encourage governments to be totally open, so that we all see, and understand what is happening. Maybe designers, architects and policy makers should stop taking the initiative in creating the solutions, but rather couch and help citizens, so that they can make knowledgeable choices.


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