By the year 2050, we will be interconnected with our planet, our communities, and our resources. Today though, it feels like an ambitious goal to change how we live and how we design our urban environments. But, this new city is possible, and it all starts with a vision.
Think of this vision as a compass, not a map. We believe that providing a tangible and positive image of what a city could look like in the future can bring different groups together to build the right conditions and drive the actions to achieve it.
During a global pandemic, now more than ever, we are feeling the consequences of a flawed global economy characterized by the destruction and exploitation of nature, overuse of our global commons, wealth and income inequality, fragile supply chains, and governance failures. This has contributed to a fundamental breakdown in how we connect to each other, and how we connect to the natural ecosystems that we depend on. Global urbanization trends show that cities will not only house more humans, but they will also require more land, resources, and energy. Cities are powerfully positioned to break this pattern of uncoordinated, unregulated, and extractive linear economies that put us in this mess. They are high-impact ‘leverage points.’ Transforming the way we live in cities has the potential to not only improve the quality of life of the majority of the planet's (future) urban population, but will also help bring our global economy within planetary boundaries.
At Metabolic, we have reimagined futures with sustainability leaders, governments, urban designers, titans in the construction sector, community members rooted in their neighborhoods, and experts on critical urban systems, including food, energy, and water. Building on our experiences working in 50 cities around the world, we have created this vision of what our world will look like in 30 years.
Now, let’s explore our own interconnected urban future.
We explore how our future city is based on interconnections with nature, communities, and resources in three chapters. Read more about these connections in the following chapters, or dive into our full vision by downloading the PDF.
Our vision is not a prediction nor a prescription, but instead a conversation starter to inspire further collaborative thinking. It is also not the first attempt. We are inspired by many sources and thinkers and build on existing vision and theories ranging from the 15-minute city to Kate Raworth’s doughnut city, plus many more.
As 2021 draws to a close, it is critical that we get moving. Given their massive ecological footprint and impact on human wellbeing, cities must operate within planetary boundaries. German geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt already realized this in the 1800s when he wrote about the long-term effects of humankind’s activities on the environment. He called out deforestation, wasteful irrigation, and, perhaps most prophetically, the ‘great masses of steam and gas’ produced in industrial centers.
With the disappointing commitments from COP26 still fresh in our minds, it becomes even more urgent that we do whatever it takes to transition our global economy to a fundamentally sustainable state. But, aligning on this "what" is the next crucial step. Knowing that the current urban model benefits few and in fact contributes to widespread harm, and that cities will continue to grow, systemic change is vital and imperative.
You might also wonder how it fits your city. Maybe it doesn’t. Agreeing on a single universal vision for cities is impossible; every city context is different, as are the needs of its people and other species. We know that, and we encourage urban residents around the world to think about what will work for them. That is exactly what we hope to do with this vision. We invite you to build on this vision, take elements from it, or propose new visions. We hope our ideas ignite conversation and most importantly, action.
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