Cities as a climate survival mechanism

In this short article by Kim Stanley Robinson for Bloomberg Green, the sci-fi author and climate thinker writes about the “30 by 30” plan to protect 30% of land by 2030, which a growing number of countries are joining, and how it echoes “the preeminent conservation biologist of our time”, E.O. Wilson who advocated for the protection of 50% of land on the planet “for the sake of the thousands of species now in danger of extinction.”

To achieve anywhere close to this, the migration to cities will have to keep going and our cities to transform. It’s somewhat the same premise as Fab Cities; the need to change how we live in cities and how we build them, as well as how everything used needs to be sourced as locally as possible, and otherwise as fairly and sustainably as possible.

Although Robinson’s vision for what’s needed of these cities might be different than others’, for example in his focus on high-rise and high-tech, the goals and some of the solutions he highlights are solid.

The climate city will need to be compact but with green space. It will have to be energy-efficient but also home to a great deal of industrial production. Instead of being carbon hot spots, belching out emissions, it would be better if cities were carbon-neutral heat sinks, helping to cool the planet. […]

And while a good deal of agriculture and even animal husbandry should take place in cities, to help empty more of the country, our urban spaces should also feel pleasant and parklike for their human inhabitants.

He’s also likely right in the needs for measurement and efficiency mentioned here:

Talk of “smart cities” is a little bit overblown, part of the AI craze, because the smarts in cities are always going to remain human. But a highly systematized, quantified, and automated coordination of city functions, not just transport but also inputs and outputs of all kinds of supplies and wastes, will help cities achieve the good efficiencies necessary to make them superior in carbon-burn terms.

However, in this short piece KSR doesn’t mention the importance of what is measured, why, and by whom. Top down smart cities are not only overblown, they are usually a corporate vision with the goal of selling equipment. A Fab City would emphasize needs first, citizen-led goals, community ownership of data, and be respectful of various communities and privacy rights.