In ranking disasters, the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference tops '9/11', stated the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in his speech at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen: "the 21st century starts with the debacle of 19th of December 2009. Everything that pretends to be in charge is from now on an empty ‘Ancien Régime’."
What Copenhagen shows is the professionalizing of the politics. Almost everybody has a bit of moral, especially when it won‘t cost and in private life. But in business where the professional rules, the only thing that counts is the profit. Fair play is for amateurs; in professional football a tactical foul is accepted! It is not moralism that leads the ones in charge, but their professionalism.
In the mean time the world is getting dirtier. CO2 increases, plastic fragments are all over the planet, shrinking forests, shrinking fish, growing deserts, ...; a wide range of problems in the world can be found on internet today within a few seconds. The solutions are found in just some seconds more, the second and third opinions that propose exactly the opposite, are found in the same time. This makes it very difficult to act. No longer is awareness the issue, the problem is to find a direction to go in the overload of opinions. Since post-modernism we know the truth does not exist, but still we have to find out which direction to go. Like Sloterdijk says, just to continue is criminal, only to abstain from everything is naive, somewhere in-between lies the intelligent directions.
Bruno Latour, the French philosopher, writes: ’political ecology cannot be inserted into the various niches of modernity. On the contrary, it requires to be understood as an alternative to modernization. To do so one has to abandon the false conceit that ecology has anything to do with nature as such. It is understood here as a new way to handle all the objects of human and non-human collective life. Like there is no hygiene party anymore today, there will be no green party left, all political parties, all governments, all citizens will simply add this new layer of behaviour and regulations to their everyday concerns.’
Contemporary architecture has a variety of solutions for a variety of problems, already lying in their drawers. They are only waiting to be called upon; Sloterdijk states. And indeed, decennia of technological improvements show a wide range of solutions. The bad hygiene conditions of the beginning of the nineteenth century are solved with daylight and fresh air in the houses. The pollution like acid rains and dirty rivers are, due to the Club of Rome, solved with technology; filters in the chimneys and purification plants in the cities. All these technological successes made technology to become the goal, not the tool anymore. Today CO2 is the main issue. It causes a solar-panel revolution. But will it save the Climate Change problem? Sloterdijk believes in a modernistic approach, where we know that every solution causes new problems. To go for just a technical solution is the easygoing way, an escapism where everybody only takes a tiny part of his professional responsibility. But escapism won’t do anymore. In the Risk-society, Ulrich Beck, German sociologist, describes that money won’t be able to buy safety anymore. Like nuclear pollution or terrorism, also the climate change effects are beyond money-boundaries. No gated community, no eco-valley will be able to stand these problems alone.
the production of an eco-goal
If the goal is ranking, to compete with Curitiba, Masdar or other known eco-valleys and make the most ‘eco’ of the world, then it is only to find a topic related to ‘eco’ which is not covered yet,or take an already occupied topics and become the biggest;
the most green energy region,
the most waste recycling region,
the most CO2 reducing region,
the most ...
This is in the professional politic-business quit easy, a matter of definition and creative calculation (like there are 3 world leading waterfalls; the highest, the broadest, the one with most water). And it is also clever, to speak with Daniel Burnham, mayor of Chicago, to ‘Make no little plans, they can’t stir ones mind. Make Big Plans.’
Since the Club of Rome and its limits of growth, ecothinking is about abstain, about reduction; reduction of waste, reduction of energy consumption, of traffic, reduction of CO2. It is about rigorous moral behaviour which is not nice, which is never enough, which is against our natural behaviour of development and, as we proved last decennia, which is not working. Some succeeding attempts, the earth-ship experiments of the sixties who establish a self-sufficient small scale society, have in the globalized world no validity anymore. Self sufficiency doesn’t fit with global internet-knowledge, like an ancient farmer who only provides food for his own family to survive doesn’t bring the world any further. In contemporary living, farming is about production and make others don’t have to worry about food, so they can concentrate on other activities (the first rule of the citylife).
The solution is not a new technical utopia of how it could be if we start all over. The solution is not a nostalgic restart of an earlier version of society either. The solution lays in hypermodern research which shows what elements of history are worth to implement in our contemporary society, to be mixed up with new technologies and redesign them to fit in our contemporary globalized world. The first hypermodern goal, just because of our globalized knowledge and awareness, is to develop a region where you can stay undisturbed and free of guilt in a tradition of european slow-country lifestyle. To create a region where time, space and action are synchronized. These should provide the basic qualities of life. This doesn’t mean a nostalgic traditionalism, this doesn’t mean a back to the sixties, but a hypermodern research to what was good in the past and try to re-use and adapt this in our contemporary world. The possible solutions are to be found in a direction of regional authenticity; the program can be densified with free range local markets, informal workers, CO2 forests, aquaponic fish- and vegetable farming, solar energy plants, water-recycling-machines combining wellness area with car wash, drinking water production with water power, etc. etc, and, of course, fair-trade consumption. The consumer-society is changing, as Nico Stehr, German sociologist states, consumers are getting aware and are about to choose. As an example he mentioned the growing group of LOHAS, people living a Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.
the production of a slow development plan
On an urban level, the implementation of a moral economy is a complex question. In a broad welfare model, (which is a cumbersome question, as prof. dr. Arnold Heertje, University of Amsterdam, replied to this proposal) all aspects of lifecycle are taking into account. Energy demand, waste, expulsion, transport, etc. which comes up at the production and the consumption of a product are part of the costs. This moral economy will attract new people and businesses who wants to show of their conscience lifestyle. The existing rules and regulations of the VAR area are grown over the last centuries. An integral approach was rather uncommon; the urban tradition was more divided into different facets. Single disciplines made rules to solve a particular problem, without a broader view.
A slow urban planning brings up new rules from a more holistic approach and transforms the area into the production of well being. This slow development plan challenges new ways of ‘green’ and ‘fair’ development.
If you take this example in it’s extreme, the slow development plan could look like:
1. On every plot it is allowed to have max. 3 swimming pools, if you re-use rain and sewage water.(1 for swimming, 1 for water recycling, 1 for aquaponic).
2. On every plot it is allowed to cover with translucent solar panels. The amount of light coming through should give enough light to grow vegetables and stay healthy.
3. On every plot it is allowed to keep 2 free range pigs, if you plant 10 oak trees.
4. On every plot it is allowed to hire an illegal/refugee to take care for the production of free range products, paid according to law.
5. Who wants to drive a car has to plant 1 tree a year.
In a slow urban planning, not the equality of individuals is the goal, but the variety and diversity of possibilities.
The proposed development shows extremes in density. A high dense urban area with a lot of potential for high technological eco-solutions, and low dense ‘jungle’ where deep ecological solutions seems to fit better.
The high density on the one hand side verses low density on the other, demands there own specific ecological treatment. The model creates gradients, a strong basis for a variety of biotopes where all kind of species, new and existing, will find their niche. Not only on biological, but also on social aspects in Urban Planning.
Implementation of ‘eco’thinking in all aspects of urban development, as Bruna Latour stated, leads to a wide variety of environments. Eco is not defined by just one set of rules, but by a wide variety of specific rules and regulations fit to the local circumstances.
The maximum production of biotopes: nature preserve biotope, parking lot biotope, swimming pool biotope, residential area biotope, university biotope, airport biotope, industry biotope, highway biotope, etc. Every biotope has their own specific conditions on how to produce energy, how to produce clean water, how to produce health, to produce food, etc. Not as a modernistic truth, not as a fixed set of rules and regulations, but as an hypermodern research to the possibilities of the Production of Well Being.
Ton Matton and Harmen van de Wal
(tutors of the design studio The Production of Well Being, september - december 2011,
the presentation is part of "Parallel Cases 2, Smart Cities” at the IABR 2012 in the NAi.)