Cities at a Turning Point

by |April 23, 2009
Temple of Athena, Priene, Turkey

Temple of Athena, Priene, Turkey

Scientists warn that many cities around the world may soon face big climate-change challenges: rising seas; shrinking water supplies; killer summer heat waves; rises in water-borne diseases as temperatures go up and sewers are swamped. No one is predicting that, say, London or Miami will simply drop beneath the waves–but these and other cities will probably have to be redesigned if they are to maintain their viability and vitality. A new book, Urban Climate Change Crossroads, explores what it might take to keep these places going. Published by the Earth Institute’s Urban Design Lab, with chapters by 18 contributors, the book was launched at this month’s Ecopolis conference in Rome.

In the lead chapter, architect Richard Plunz, head of the Urban Design Lab, writes: The gamble for ecological survival has always been reliant on technology and design–and when the technological limits are obvious, the design adaptation has to be made. … The design imperative appeared with Katrina in New Orleans. Now New York faces a moment of truth with hurricanes and sea-level rise. So does Bangkok, which is sinking as the sea rises. So does Quito, which is losing its water supply as the glaciers melt (fifteen years out). … [but] how adaptation occurs goes beyond building seawalls; moving from flood plains; inventing more robust infrastructures.

Plunz argues that cities can thrive only if economics is united with science–especially ecology. He says also that urban architecture needs to rethink its obsession with high fashion and good looks, and return to the basics of engineering structures that are sustainable.  Some examples of failed design he mentions: not modern places, but rather the ancient Greek cities of Miletus, Ephesus and Priene. These were along what is now the southwest coast of Turkey, and were originally sited on excellent harbors in the Aegean Sea. But the cities were stranded inland some 2,000 years ago when the harbors silted in due to poor farming practices that washed soil down from the uplands, and unstoppable natural tectonic uplift, which simply raised the land itself higher above sea level. Today, Miletus , Ephesus and Priene are fantastical, isolated ruins, largely surrounded by flat farm fields, and the sea is only glimmer in the distance. With the prospect of the sea’s reapproach, it might be worth reflecting on their long-ago lessons.

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nackte frauenKeith Teakellhalensmith01JenniferDiego Molano Recent comment authors
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Dr J G Ray
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Dr J G Ray

Its quite true that cities are at a cruial turning point. Ecofriendly designs can definitely help humans to sustain a happy life for ever on the earth. However, if humans do not accept the limit to comforts and materialistic pleasures for the sustenance of resources which are essential for human life, no designs would be beneficial. Without geting convinced of ‘real happiness’ humans cannot think of limiting the conventional comforts and materialistic pleasures. Materialistic thinking won’t provide this conviction. Mahatma Gandhi rightly noticed a 100 years ago that the ‘Earth has everything to meet everybody’s need, but not have enough… Read more »

Diego Molano
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Diego Molano

Cities in a turning point within the context of climate change must also consider cities in the developing world. Most of capital cities, and intermediate cities have triple their population in the last 20 years. The majority of this population located in marginalized areas, in river basins or affected by floods. The challenges imposed by climate change not also has to consider redesign of cities or a new mindset but also has to be consider as an opportunity to overcome past problems in the development of our cities in the developing world. In the city preparedness for climate change, actiosn… Read more »

Jennifer
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I appreciate that numerous people don’t judge that education expenses belongs there, but to me it’s very positive that $100 billion can shore up education during a downturn that would otherwise have overwhelmed America’s schools. I also veer into the research on what works and doesn’t work in schooling. What strikes me is the facts that the instructor outweighs all — you’re much better off with a skillful teacher in a gigantic class in a flawed school than with a bad teacher in a tiny class in an first-rate school. Yet, we consistently reserve the greatest teachers for the advantaged… Read more »

halensmith01
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halensmith01

Its quite true that cities are at a cruial turning point. Ecofriendly designs can definitely help humans to sustain a happy life for ever on the earth.Cities in a turning point within the context of climate change must also consider cities in the developing world. Most of capital cities, and intermediate cities have triple their population in the last 20 years.

Keith Teakell
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Great post! keep on updating us, you are doing splendid job!

nackte frauen
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If people delay to do everything until you’re positive it’s right, you will probably never do much of anything