Eco cities

I’ve been reading a book. Ecocities. This guy (Richard Register) sees the writing on the wall for the fossil fuel industry. He’s quite clear about the high hidden costs to us all globally to sustain our vehicles. Vehicles which only 1 in 10 people on the planet own but all pay for in innumerable insidious ways. Actually the numbers are closer to 1 in 20 when you remove the very young and the very old. I read and hear about the global impact the car has but I see the effects a lot closer to home. Most of my life I have lived in the suburbs except for the time I lived in Italy. Most of them have been been early 60’s. I never really thought about them as sprawl until the last 20 years I saw more and more cookie cutter homes where it felt like just a moment ago there were cows.  More and more I find myself passing enormous tracts of gated communities. There is an odd thing that happens to me. I swear I can feel myself shrink from it. It is as if my artist’s eye sees nothing but mediocrity. I turn within for refuge as my soul holds its breath. In contrast to this there are the remarkable older neighbourhoods in Toronto that are villages unto themselves. The streets are alive, restaurants full. Upstairs above the shops there are gatherings, quiet dinner parties, yoga classes and life. I’m from a small town and I used to joke I could walk from one end of town to the other in 20 min. I loved seeing familiar faces and being a part of something. My shopping habits made a difference. Cities’ neighbourhoods are like that, at least the successful ones are.  Mixed zoning produces vitality. Mono zoning residential I believe was thought to create quiet refuges for the fifties man and his car to return to after a harrowing day in the core. But really what has been created are isolated but cripplingly dependant citizens. It is a cartoon of community lacking all the dimensions that make up a community in reality. The Eco cities proposed are connected and vibrant. Everything is to human scale, walkable or bikable. The density is high but with a sensibility and aesthetics that connect everyone to natural beauty. Alternative energy is sufficient because we don’t require the car. Each ecocity is connected to another or others by trains that are as much about the journey through farmland then wildlands as they are about the destination.  Except for the glass and steel these cities reminded me very much of medieval citie states, practically arranged.  Often I have found myself doodling as urban planner. I never thought of myself as an urban planner but I sure do think about and even draw a lot of what I’d do differently. Maybe we are what we do and not necessarily what we are paid to do…Ah but that thought will keep for another day. Keep the faith.

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One Response to “Eco cities”

  1. david Says:

    The “guy” is Richard Register and the book citation can be found at WorldCat.com at http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/69599381&referer=brief_results

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