Resilience and ruggedness: Why faster, bigger and more complex may be better

Alex Steffen at Worldchanging goes, perhaps, heretical, saying future sustainability depends on building compact cities where you don’t need a car to get around.

We want density, we want a lot more density. Compact cities are the key to sustainable transportation. Suffused with technology, they’re they key to post-ownership prosperity. Urban infrastructure is used by more people, making it more efficient to operate and more cost-effective to redevelop along new lines.

He says cities can be designed to be zero-footprint with less dependence on global transportation. They also provide cultural energy and innovation. The vision of a sustainable future where people live in the semi-country growing their own veggies isn’t practical on a large-scale because, among other problems, it requires you have vehicles and use them a lot. Plus, it’s kind of a 19th century bucolic fantasy, isn’t it? It’s great for some, but on a mass scale, unworkable.

I am pretty sure that to do that, we’ll need to be almost the opposite of what we’ve thought we need to be: we’ll need to get faster and more creative, not slower and more traditional; we’ll need to get bigger and more systemic, not smaller and more spread out; we’re need to get networked and more complex, not simpler and more isolated.

At some point in this process you bump up against our political system, which is deeply beholden to corporations and which cares little about the long-term future. It will need to be changed too.

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