any last words

andrew malcolm's 2007 portfolio

Author's Notes

As of 2007 we officialy became a planet of cities; our migration is complete. Is there nowhere to go once a migration is completed? Of course there is! Urban culture is a fracture line that cracks habitats and common people into microhabitats and a patchwork of characters. There's nowhere for going forward, but there's always more to explore.

Celebrating Earth Day • in an Age • of Cities

originally published by the island word, may 2007 issue

••• Full Article (PDF)

– Selected Passage –

Comox Valley is growing. Like a teenager, it faces an approaching adulthood – city status – with excitement and angst, questions and confusion. It looks at the other cities and sees every environmental and social problem the world has to offer, and like most teenagers, the Comox Valley doesn’t want to grow up.

Our fears are nothing new. Every nation in the world has made some effort to stop urban development and shift its population growth to rural areas. But the migration continues. By the end of 2008, for the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population will live in an urban area.

More than any other event, Earth Day isn’t about celebrating the present, but creating hope for the future. In the WorldWatch Institutes 2007 report, Janice E. Perlman and Mally O’Meara Sheehan asked three questions concerning our approaching age of cities: What can be done to make our urban future a desirable and sustainable one? What kinds of cities foster conviviality and creativity? How can poverty and environmental degradation be alleviated and a voice for the disenfranchised be ensured?

Answering these questions on a global scale is more than overwhelming, but it’s up to the small fraction of our planet’s population who live in rich, developed nations to find the answers. After all, how can we look down our noses at China’s coal burning, India’s third world populations, or Latin America’s polluted streets, when we, with our immensity of wealth and a fraction of the problems can’t even bring justice or sustainability to a population of 20,000.

My hope for the future is that the Comox Valley will not only become a city, but a global leader in sustainable development. Just as Malmo, Sweden did with the Turning Torso apartment on the Western Harbour, which grinds all organic waste into biogas for cooking and fuel for vehicles; just as Rizhao in Northern China did, with solar water heaters in 99 percent of its households and photovoltaic solar cells powering almost every traffic signal, street light, and park illuminator; just as London did when Mayor Ken Livingstone successfully levied a congestion tax against every car that drove downtown, using the money for external vehicle costs, such as pollution and accidents; and just as Dongtan in China, expected to become the world’s first sustainable city, will do.

By 2010 Dongtan will house 50,000 and 500,000 by 2040. Turf, vegetation, and solar panels will dominate its skyline. Its homes and offices will recycle 80 percent of solid waste and organic waste will be composted or burned for heat. Only vehicles powered by electricity or fuel cells will drive the cities streets. If China, still considered by many to exist in the third world, is building this environmental leader from the ground up, what on Earth can we do?