When I am able to blank out the last thirty five years, during which I have continuously despised and fought against the automobile (even when I owned one myself…yes, I’m talking about that rattling death-trap of a 1967 Ford Falcon!), when I can forget all that, it does my heart good to hear people talking about Ecocities. Richard Register has a decent column in Foreign Policy in Focus this week, advocating for more sustainable cities built around better transit systems and less automobile traffic. His points are well taken and straightforward, building upon his books on the subject (from 2001 and 2006): Switch to a pedestrian and transit-oriented infrastructure, built around compact centers designed for pedestrians and transit; Roll back sprawl development while vigorously restoring nature and agriculture; Integrate renewable energy systems while using non-toxic materials and technologies and promoting recycling. Which he follows immediately by pointing out the major obstacles to achieving this dream: A major difficulty in moving toward ecocities is that cars have influenced urban design for 100 years. Many of us caught in this infrastructure find it extremely difficult to get around in anything but the car. The distances are just too great for bicycles, the densities just too low to allow efficient, affordable transit.
Attending Antonio Di Mambro‘s lecture last night at Boston Public Library, it was amazing to see the giant crowd that packed Rabb Lecture Hall. Who would have thought that an urban planning talk — stoked with dire warnings and gloomy facts — would bring out such a vibrant cross-section of the city? It is almost as if, after thirty years of vapid hand-wringing and self-gratifying acts of “green” living, the mass of architects, planners, designers, and technocrats are beginning to realize that if they do not actually change the way America is built starting immediately, that our cities are literally going to fall apart. Cities can only take so much pillaging by the greed heads, then they go belly up.