Let's talk about one of the most fascinating trends - future megacities hosting up to 70% of the population of Earth. Brand-new eco-cities like Masdar or Songdo are significant with the excellent utilization of science and technology creating a zero carbon, self-sustainable urban centers. However, new urban centers lack the main component - citizens. This article opens the topic of building eco-society in megacity.
Building the community of megacity
It is an intuitive statement that it is easier to build a new ecological city with new infrastructure than to rebuild an existing one. Reimbursement projects are successful in cutting down energy and water consumption, as well as providing new identity to the citizens. The best examples of districts reimbursement can be found in Europe. The benchmarks like Stockholm's Hammarby Sjöstad or German Freiburg would not be that great if not the support and readiness of communities to contribute to the change. Some would argue that the success of these green areas is that the population size is far from being a megacity. In order to understand how to utilize European eco city examples for a larger population, let's open up the idea of megacity:
Reportedly, most of the megacities are far from being eco ones. For instance, Tokyo, Delhi, and Shanghai, the top 3 most populated cities in the world, are distant from being called "eco". They are famous for environmental pollution, traffic jams, low life satisfaction. Those megacities were created naturally by an economical attraction of population from nearby suburban and rural areas, and have not been prepared for population increase. As a solution, there are attempts to raise new megacities from the ground. For example, new eco-cities in Asia are directed to attracting businesses to the area. It is expected that creation of the work opportunities will drag in the population. Tianjin and Masdar are located in the proximity to the international airports and a quick connection to nearby cities. Both of them have been designed as international business hubs. In theory, it had to be full with people like Manhattan. However, Tianjin is known for being a disastrous investment that became a ghost town instead of thriving worldwide famous business center. Similarly, while being an amazing concept with driverless cars, smart architecture that cools down the streets, sustainability labs and other forerunning innovations, Masdar barely has citizens, and only couple of office places are busy. Those cities have failed to account for the main mission of the ecocity: make peoples' living ecological and healthy in all meanings of this word. Eco cities have to serve habitats first. So how to build new social infrastructure attractive for new citizens?
Challenge of new
City's infrastructure is what will determine the health of the urban living. Infrastructure affects the communication level, nutrition of the citizens, job provision and crime rates. For example, in Chicago, infrastructure mistake and poor social policies have resulted in gang formation. Creation of the unequal and socially layered areas will guarantee "ghetto" districts and clustering of social groups which in its turn causes inequality and economic shortcomings. As Robert Henkel, president and CEO of Ascension Healthcare, points out: "We all need to care about this [vulnerable communities]. We all need to care about this because people within these communities are part of the society as a whole. We all work together in this country. We all live together. If vulnerable communities are left on their on, the economic consequences for us all are fairly significant. Therefore, this problem is not just for those communities but for society in general." Robert talks about existing problems, like Chicago. In future, when there is a massive migration to the cities, we have to prevent this issue on the stage of habitation.
"Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow." Jane Jacobs, journalist, activist and an author of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities".
The secret is hidden in the architecture of the city. Habitats have to have equal access to the public transport, grocery shop, entertainment, and leisure centers. Moreover, while creating new infrastructure, it has to be accounted for the lifestyle of an ordinary citizen. For example, as there will be less work and as the economy is moving towards universal income, where would habitats spend their free time? Eco megacity has to have open spaces for interaction and activities opportunities. The city has to provide a solid foundation fostering networking and communication. Hubs for working and networking, education zones, parks and common use areas, are integral parts of a healthy urban infrastructure. Also, creating a feeling of identity in the districts of megacity will have an impact on sustainable development of the area. Each citizen will contribute to the city and care for the place. After all, citizen driven change is the one that will last ages.
Building an infrastructure that fosters the communication and citizen empowerment is one the main component of successful development of an eco city. Regardless the fact, whether the city is newly built or an existing hub, it has to serve its habitats. Well operating infrastructure will attract new businesses and create a blooming ecosystem. City officials have to cooperate with business representatives and citizens to create a common goal that is contributed by all partners. Living, constantly evolving ecosystem is the future of eco megacity.