Rethinking the City by PolisPlan
UHI is a symptom of a bigger problem. Reorganise the city using circular economy, closed water and food cycles and local energy production.
The urban heat island effect cannot be resolved in isolation and without considering other environmental, social and economic issues that we face today ... all caused by the way we think about cities (the human habitat). UHI is a symptom of a bigger problem.
We currently think of cities as a cog in an enormous global machine. We extract and import food, materials and energy from 'other places' and discharge sewerage, wastes and pollutants to 'somewhere else'. We should strive to manage at least water, food and energy systems locally. There are many benefits to re-localising including improved community resilience and connections, creation of a sense of place, increased availability of fresh food, reduction in transport and associated time savings, reduced energy demand, increased green spaces, water flowing through the community and ... reduced urban heat.
Each city or area will need to be managed according to its local conditions and climate but using principles of 'water sensitive cities' is an important aspect. This is about thinking of the entire water cycle, how much water falls on the city, how it can be captured, stored and distributed, how it can be cleaned and recycled through the city and how and where it is discharged. Rather than thinking of sewerage as waste, it can be seen as nutrients or potential energy (biomass). Rather than using chemicals, use natural systems. Essentially this is about re-integrating the city with the natural environment. Enhance the local natural environment so that it is able to support a collection of people in that place.
Category of the action
Who will take these actions?
We are all key actors in the sense that we all need to change the way we think about cities and encourage governments to support actions for relocalising.
Once we have accepted this mindset, the key actors will vary depending on the local conditions. In a city that has a river or stream flowing through it with plenty of public land, the key players will be government authorities. Many water supply authorities are now starting to think in terms of water sensitive cities. Perhaps their systems are the place to start, integrating them with food systems and natural cleansing systems. Governments could also do more to encourage water capture at a household scale and food production in neighbourhoods.
Ultimately, though, it will be individuals acting collectively, for the common good, that will create and sustain the change but this needs to be supported by technical expertise and overarching strategic guidance so that we do not build a patchwork of unconnected outcomes but rather a holistic city system.
What are other key benefits?
I have previously indicated that:
"There are many benefits to re-localising including improved community resilience and connections, creation of a sense of place, increased availability of fresh food, reduction in transport and associated time savings, reduced energy demand, increased green spaces, water flowing through the community and ... reduced urban heat."
What are the proposal’s costs?
The total economic costs to the society as a whole will be significantly reduced. This proposal is not about a single project but rather a change in direction. It is changing the way we do things so that our essential needs are sourced locally and do not have to be imported. This reduces the 'terms of trade' for the community as a whole. By improving water systems and green space and producing fresh produce, the viability and livability of the city improves.
As described, this is an ongoing process of change and the actions will depend on the local conditions in each location.
Our website www.polisplan.com.au
My book 'Rethinking the City' describes the origins of our existing social systems, how they were created shortly after the introduction of coins primarily by Cyrus the Great of Persia, and why these are being fundamentally transformed by the internet.
Coins demanded a town centre as a place to trade goods and so this became the place for socialising and ultimately political power. Coins were therefore a centralising force.
The internet is a decentralising force, allowing us to satisfy our needs without traveling to the town centre. The internet is a decentralised network, similar in many ways to natural systems. This means that instead of viewing the global economy as a single complex system, we should view it as a global network of local communities, where each strives towards self-sufficiency for its basic needs (food, water, energy) and each also contributes some more complex skills or goods to the global network.