Cities as constructed ecosystems

This article actually reads quite a bit like a manifesto so it’s hard and perhaps a disservice to the author to try summarizing it, but let’s highlight a few points. In Reinventing our cities as constructed ecosystems, Ken Yeang, a Malaysian architect who describes himself as “ecologist first, architect second,” considers the various systems human society is built on, especially the natural ones, and what we need to change in facing the climate crisis.

He proposes three main factors we can see as our infrastructures: humanity’s social-economic-political-institutional systems, its built environment and technological systems, its hydrological systems and nature and its systems.

We need to envision a different type of world and built environment than what currently exists, an ‘ecotopia’—where human society and all of its systems are in symbiotic harmony with nature—and then make it happen.

Fixing our current predicament and going forward in a more regenerative way doesn’t start with technology.

Addressing the problems concerning the current environmental crisis do not start with technological systems, but with us, the human beings that create these systems. What we need to rethink and change are complex societal social-economic-political-institutional systems and our customs and cultures so that all of these act benignly with nature. […]

We need to rethink and change crucial aspects of our existing social-economic-political-institutional systems to give critical consideration to the natural environment.

Never forget externalities.

Our existing technological systems impact not just the ecosystems and land upon which they take place, but also because their solid, liquid and gaseous emissions contaminate their environments. The legacy is pollution, and these emissions persist well into the future. […]

We need to ensure that all of humanity’s acts do not have a negative irreversible impact on nature, but are ecologically positive. It is crucial that all of humanity’s activities, built systems and technological systems are carried out in an ecocentric way guided by the planet’s ecology.

These are just some brief outtakes, I encourage you to read the whole piece.

Illustration: Toni Demuro for the World Majlis series of essays.