Elodia Rossi

The big Urban Trouble


Questo articolo in lingua inglese è una sintesi dei concetti e dei dati che ho riportato nei miei recenti scritti sul più grande dei temi ambientali: le sorti del Pianeta e le responsabilità degli ambienti urbani. Desidero pubblicarlo allo scopo di permettere, a tutti coloro che non parlano l’italiano, di entrare concretamente (e senza l’utilizzo del traduttore automatico) nel tema. Credo fermamente nell’importanza di una presa di coscienza collettiva.

The world city reflects the deception of sustainability. Urban areas consume 75% of the planet’s resources, while occupying an area of less than 5% of emerged land (149,000,000 km). More than 7.516 billion people live here. This value is in exponential growth, since this year – so far – there are more than 72 million children born and less than 30 million people died. The overall world population is distributed over 10% of the emerged lands, ie 14,900,000 km.

By crossing and joining several data, it is reasonable to assert that:

Less than 1% of emerged lands (a quota attributable to highly urbanized areas) is home to 4 billion individuals, with a dramatic and oscillating population density depending on the type of area. Here, among other things, is where slums develop, hosting 1 billion people.

Approximately 4% of emerged lands (the share attributable to the urbanized areas) accommodates 2 billion people,

On the remaining 5% (less-urbanized areas) are hosted 1.5 billion individuals.

The megalopoles, dizzyingly increasing in number (in 2014 the UN estimated that they would be 29 by 2025, but nowadays they are already 37) even exceeded the concept Gottmann had given them. The polynuclear structure seems to no longer exist and agricultural areas – interconnection bearings – are now disappeared in most cases.

These monsters – constantly monitored by the UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory Network (GUO Net) – almost never offer acceptable living conditions. Beyond cases where urban rationalization – derived from effective planning (as in New York) – produces a more fluid form of living, these places attract and generate problems of all kinds.

In short, the city grows to a standstill and the urban needs – both real and ephemeral – follow the pace. Our inability to cope with such demand raises delirium and the outcomes are enormous environmental damage, low standards of life quality (which calls for insecurity, abandonment, traffic, widespread overload, criminality, misery, etc.) to war and early death.

More and more the city is becoming a place of dying living instead of living.

The glitter of night lights, the availability of entertainment venues, the spread of supply services, and all the other apparent benefits are straw fires, and too often they are the cause of great discomfort.

The city is not ready for the change that today’s society has quickly imposed, defining a devastating trajectory. The architectures are inadequate and the political/administrative absurd presumption to internationalize all urban areas is like a knife in the back of global equilibrium. Meanwhile, China is pushing further and, by following a political imperialist thought, launches a plan to build the world’s largest megalopolis: Jing-Jin-Ji, designed to accommodate more than 130 million people. A world domination plan.

Which message? Which answer? What future? What actions to take?

The failure of the Brundtland Report that in 1987 through the WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development) coordinated by Gro Harlem Brundtland proclaimed a concept of sustainability in which “sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” is indisputable despite the good intentions of their premises.

The process of change in which resource exploitation, investment orientation, technology development and institutional changes are made consistent with future needs as well as with the current, as imagined in the Report, has no foundation at all. Suffice to reflect on the limits of some resources. Since 1987, pollutant sources have increased dramatically, as well as intensive breeding (the main cause of the greenhouse effect) has multiplied, and PM10 (and other weeds) emissions have grown. And then land erosion, desertification and the consequent extinction of animal species (one should consider the fundamental importance of the ecosystem balance), and more. And then the exponential growth of conurbations that, as said, absorb 75% of planetary resources. And more, the iniquitous breakdown of wealth that, given the values now reached, seems to slap on the face of the same Brundtland Report, where it expects that by adopting some measures, a more consistent distribution would be achieved, even at national levels.

In short, Our common future: even so the Report is known. But the disasters in which Earth is immersed do not even allow us to glimpse a long-term future, let alone how provocative and lying it may be to talk about a “common” expectation.

However, one point of the Report must be praised: having introduced the importance of everyone’s participation in the processes of change. For this reason, the true propulsion to mitigate the total damage is to be sought in the generation of a collective consciousness that can only be derived from a proper knowledge.

Grazie all’amico e professionista Fabio Autore per la traduzione.

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