World Science Festival: Radically Green Future Cities

By Tyghe Trimble | May 31, 2008 12:39 pm

Dubai — not exactly the city of the futureForget your Jetsons-like vision of an automated high-rise city with flying cars and robot maids: The future city will need to be sustainable and, consequently, a little dull. Last night at the World Science Fair, panelists took turns talking about their visions for future cities—where, it is projected, fifty percent of the population will live in just a few decades—as pastoral areas of towering efficiency and greenness. If you thought green was not sexy, and sustainable living meant little more than energy conservation (installing lots of insulation) and sacrifice (using fans instead of air conditioning), you wouldn’t be wrong. But sustainable solutions through radical design (taken from the title of this lecture) are not all short showers and insulated attics.

Blaine Brownell, an architect living in Tokyo displayed dozens of materials and products that will be used to build our future cities. Among his wares were micro spheres of photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight from all angles, a wind wall eco curtain that creates power with vertically oriented wind turbines, “zero energy”wallboard that bonds exothermically, a breathing wall that non-mechanically detects levels of gas like CO2 in the air, concrete that purifies the air, barriers for highways that eat smog, an island that announces water quality with glowing probes in urban waterways, and much much more.

Peter Head is working on creating sustainable city right now. He is heading a project in Dongtan, China, where a carbon neutral city for 80,000 is being planned. The entire city will run on renewable energy and all city centers will be reachable by walking, cycling, or public transport. All public transportation—buses, trams, and water taxis—will run on battery of hydrogen fuel cells, all waste and water will be recycled, biomass will be made into energy and any CO2 emission will go to food factories. The sustainable city of the future “needs to collapse the layers and layers of fossil fuel dependence,” says Head. “We need to capture CO2, put local generation in the cities, to bring food production into the city,” he says. “By 2050, we can learn to live a ‘one planet’ lifestyle—even in the U.S.”

MIT’s media lab was present at the event with architect Mitchell Joachim representing. In true media lab form, Joachim came with the most far out idea of the night: Floating megacities. After climate change drowns many of our biggest cities, proposes Joachim, we just pull anchor and float them all to a location at the North Pole to create a “mega mega city.” This means New York, Hong Kong, London, and a dozen more major cities floating on some sort of barge in a dome to live together in harmony (needless to say, the details were fuzzy). Let’s hope we never see the day this plan needs legs.

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  • pissed off black woman

    what about Majora Carter? you talk about all the great things the white men are doing…did you just completely ignore Majora Carter because she’s a black woman? she’s doing incredible things that are actually feasible NOW. why did you ignore her talk???

  • http://none Zeev Reuteman

    …micro spheres of photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight from all angles, a wind wall eco curtain that creates power with vertically oriented wind turbines, “zero energy”wallboard that bonds exothermically, a breathing wall that non-mechanically detects levels of gas like CO2 in the air, concrete that purifies the air, barriers for highways that eat smog, an island that announces water quality with glowing probes in urban waterways, and much much more?

    Well, part of the denial syndrome is to keep sidestepping the fact that all these high-tech pseudo-green gadgets aren’t green at all because they will need zillions of tons of fossil fuel to develop.

    We need to shake the disneyland-party-mindframe off. We better wake wide up. Our only way out is low, real low-tech and self growing food if we really expect to survive. The sooner we face it the less painful it will be.

  • http://www.facebook.com JC Rojales

    I think all cars will be eco friendly, there will be alternatives for jet fuel, and all gadgets, buildings, etc. are eco friendly too!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com JC Rojales

    That would be so cool!!!

  • Pingback: A Floating Home in Manhattan: The Waterpod to Launch Tomorrow | Discoblog | Discover Magazine

  • Ekky J

    we must save our fuel in this world for our future.., do not cuting the tree beside the road and we must making they growing up. and we must to stop burning the tree.

  • Pingback: mavrodim

  • could be considered a critic.

    that is never going to happen. people can say what they want but that doesnt mean they are going to do it. cars that dont need gas have already been created many many years ago but are not allowed on the market because of greedy people who only think of “Right Here Right Now” we are definately running out of fossil fuels that heat our homes because of the idiots who dont look past their noses. so much money could be saved if we used the electric cars. the ozone layer and the well being of the earth are put in danger because of those greedy people. and its going to be them who suffer from it when the price of gas hit $10.00 per gallon and nobody uses their cars and everyone uses electric methods of heating their homes. so if any of those people who made the electric cars or cars that run on water are reading this please say something. i am a young person and its mine and my children’s future that i’m worried about. this article was published 4 years ago now. if what what said was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

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About Tyghe Trimble

I am the news editor for Discover magazine.

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