Quest for a Brave New Metropolis: 10 Ways a Megacity Can Fight the Future. (Technology & Culture)

The premise of The Terminator, the 1984 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is his role as an assassin robot from the future, sent back in time to kill the mother of a resistance fighter.  That particular timeline was a result of A.I. going out of control, unleashed and turned against ourselves, sparking off a nuclear holocaust.  The likelihood of this actually happening in a real life scenario isn’t probably likely, at least I hope.

The truth is, our demise is less likely to originate not from something as exotic as AI run amuck, or an alien invasion, or even an old fashioned, straight up zombie epidemic, however Hollywood might hypothesize.  It’s far more likely to be a human problem, like pollution or climate change, that might spell our end of days.  But that doesn’t mean we necessarily need to give up without putting up a fight. One of my favourite quotes from Terminator is from Kyle Reese, sent back in time to stop the Terminator from achieving his goal and saving Sarah Connor, mother of the future resistance leader.  He says: “The future has not been written.  There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

Concept art for James Cameron’s 1984 film Terminator

In 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, which are projected to emit 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.  But what if we could re-design a city while it develops into a megacity?  How do we make it sustainable?  How do we make it stronger, faster and better? In short, how do we prevent an apocalypse from happening?  Here are 10 ways to re-design cities to acommodate and sustain.

1. Make Renewable Energy More Readily Available. Common sense dictates the need for more solar and wind energy.  On Monday Jan.29, New York state released it’s plan to build wind turbines along it’s East coast, with the goal of achieving it’s 50% pledge of renewable power by 2030. Megacities also need a network of quick charge stations for the soon to be new standard: the electric car.

2. Get Creative With Green Spaces.  Parks are important, not just in terms of oxygen producing plants and trees. They have also proven to make us feel better.

. Artist rendering of “The Bentway” a project under the Gardiner Expressway, in Toronto.

3. Make a Public Transportation System That Works. This is a complex issue that needs complex solutions which meet the needs for individual megacities. Dedicated bike lanes and bike sharing programs are only the beginnings of a broader solution, whether it’s building subways or widening roads; it won’t come cheap.  But it’s not just a way to save us from traffic congestion and quicker commute times; better roads with wider sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes save lives.

4. Make Water Renewable. Water is a potentially compromised precious resource due to overpopulation and climate change.  It’s important for cities to figure out how to renew waste water so it’s less likely they will run out of a tall glass of H2O.  Singapore’s NEWater project has now achieved 55% reclaimed water.

5. End Homelessness.  It’s no longer a pipe dream. Thanks to a plethora of studies and real life scenarios, it’s time we need to execute our plan of action. Not only will it save lives, ending homelessness will keep our cities a safe and happy place for everyone.

6. Build Better Buildings.  2016 saw 406 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)  Certifications in Toronto; the gold standard of green building. The current total of green projects certified in Canada is 3138. Of the 3138 certified projects in Canada, 1248 are in Ontario. With buildings currently estimated at accounting for 40% of climate change, it’s crucial for new buildings to be built with the environment in mind starting with the planning stage.

7.  Stay Connected with Smart City Networks.   Smart cities mean a vast network of sensors and cameras built into it’s infrastructure, constantly responding to real-time stimuli.  Like how a muscle knows when to contract when lifting a set a weights at the gym.  Or if you’re like me, when to lift something smaller, like maybe a cup of coffee. The Quayside Project on Toronto’s waterfront is one such example.  Quayside is the brainchild of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and is slated to transform a 12 acre chunk of Toronto’s Eastern port into the world of tomorrow.

Artist rendering of the Waterfront Innovation Center, Toronto.  Courtesy of Menkes Developments

8. Access to More Sustainable Food.  Weekly farmer’s markets showcasing local produce is one way we’re already headed in this direction. Green roofs and community gardens for growing your own veggies is something that citizens can do for themselves. And you don’t necessarily need access to the outdoors, there are plenty of herbs and vegetables that any condo dweller can grow.

9. Eliminate Air Pollution. Air quality is killing millions a year and the problem is only getting worse in cities.  Fewer fossil fuel cars can be part of the solution along with air quality controls. Some of this might be alleviated with carpooling, tolls, road space rationing; all options that need to be explored to ease congestion and improve air quality.  Avoiding wood and charcoal burning and switching from gas powered devices to electric are also ways citizens can commit to clean air.

Photo taken in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Tom Fakler for Anita’s Feast

10. Good Governance. Past, present or future, we don’t get ahead without good captains at the helm to stay the course. We need governance that represents all of us; whether it’s a night mayor keeping watch for night owls or a minister of loneliness for those increasingly house bound – a city’s greatest asset are it’s citizens and they need to be heard.  Municipal leadership also needs to figure out the balance of protecting the data of it’s populous and respecting it’s privacy.  Making public spaces engaging, exciting and accessible to all should also be a priority. Fostering creativity ensures a bright future for everyone. Integrating neighbourhoods with affordable housing means having a balanced, diverse population that promotes tolerance; a key feature to any successful, thriving metropolis.

Technology doesn’t necessarily mean our destruction. In the James Cameron sequel to The Terminator, the killer robot returns,  but this time it’s programmed by the resistance.  Just like the movie, it’s good programming that just might save us from ourselves.


Top, featured photograph by Colm Hogan.  Original artwork by Phlegm





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