A Corpulent Few Means A Skinny Bunch

China is set to build a huge eco-city from scratch, where none of the estimated 80,000 residents will need to drive. The master planning of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture envisages a romantic eco-space, in which homes nest amidst public green spaces. Eco-parks filter and purify wastewater like Mother Nature does. Automobiles are no longer part and parcel of the eco-landscape.

In this grand new eco-city of 78 million square foot area, humans reside in harmony with nature. “Land outside the city will be reserved for farming.” Every morning, as farm chickens crow the city awake from a long undisturbed night of rest. The city runs on renewable and waste-generated energy, and the residents regale on organic products right off the local farms. In the evenings, sheep baas the city off to sleep, and the last bark of a guard dog fades into the depth of tranquil nights.

However fictitiously romantic and futuristic it may sound, a grand political vision often waters down into mere writing as time passes by and more hands get involved. At the suffocating grips of severe corruption, no design seems to fully translate into construction and meaningful post-construction operation.

It is not only the construction of the city, or piecing together the hardware, raises serious socio-environmental concerns, but also the installation of software (e.g., residents, and post-construction operation and management systems) that demands a closer look into the proposed project’s overall value and feasibility.

Even if some political miracles happen, and the project does survive all the usual embezzlement, material substitution, and construction challenges, the question remains about post-construction end-user behavior. What if the residents of this grand eco-city won’t or do not know how to operate the city as it is designed? What if the building managers are not fully capable of grasping, let along handling, such cutting edge new builds? Remember, long-term success in energy saving and emissions reduction depend more on green practices rather than green designs.

As one of my friends used to say, eco-friendliness is a lived process rather than a set of patterns. How will the project designers, contactors, and managers address the inevitable knowledge gap among the invested parties? How will they ensure that eco-friendly designs and constructions will translate into meaningful environmentally friendly practices? Who will be living in this city when and if it gets built? Will it be an eco-city for all or a holiday resort for the few?

The scale of the proposed project also raises other concerns, such as land use change, cost concerns (not only financial, but social and environmental). Where will China build this city? What about the site’s residents and biodiversity? What about the environmental footprint of implementing such a massive project?

I am also concerned about the fact that allocating unreasonable large sum of fund and political preference to a few obnoxiously giant projects will only end up starving a greater number of competing projects, disrupting many ongoing smaller, but essential green efforts, and creating false GDP figures that reflect more of money wasted on unsustainable construction projects, rather than living conditions improved.

The speed of today’s development and innovation forbids any rigid and long-term green prescriptions. What may seem eco-friendly and energy-saving today may no longer hold true five or ten years down the line. The author of this news piece puts forward the ultimate question, which asks if this project will “stand the test of time.”

In short, feeding a few unreasonably fat will only leave the majority undernourished.

11/05/12
Chad T.

Wire Hanger Stove

Ecochunk recently published a piece on eco-friendly dung stove made using recycled wire hangers (http://www.ecochunk.com/3498/2012/10/29/thab-eco-friendly-dung-stove-made-using-recycled-wire-hangers/#more-3498). As a nomad and environmentalist myself, I feel obligated to voice against misrepresentation of my culture and dilution of the global effort to go green.

Recycled-Wire-Hangers-Stove for Tibetan nomads, is this some type of Halloween cold jokes? Come on, you got to be pulling everyone’s legs here. First of all, let’s not be fooled with the catchy Eco friendly title, and be carried away with the scary indoor toxic fumes in Tibet, and be stupefied with the billions of wire hungers ended up in the U.S. landfills every year.

While I salute to the creativity and eco-mindedness of folks involved here, let’s not paint the cliché racially biased picture of primal nomads freezing in the plateau blizzard, and then there comes the savior wealthy ones. The latter’s trash becomes the former’s treasure, and everyone lives happily ever after.

First, how eco-friendly could shipping American wire hungers off on “dwindling and carbon-emitting fuels” to the Tibetan plateau be? Let’s be realistic, it’s not eco-friendly, period.

Second, how socio-economically sensible is it to transport these wire-stoves overseas? Are the invested parties going to transport them by ship or airfreight? It doesn’t take an economist to figure out the cost if a village’s worth supply is to be transported. Wouldn’t it make more sense to reallocate the cost to raise health-related awareness, to hold basic medical training sessions, or to come up with something more levelheaded?

Third, how culturally acceptable can it be to propose the introduction of a wire-bound pile to hot rocks in one’s residence? When you are stressed over the possibility of your kids run into designer kid-friendly soft edge furniture, please do not forget the very families you are trying to save with your hangers also have little ones to worry about.

The list goes on, but I hope you got my points.

May I have a cup of coffee, please?

So here I come, ready to embrace a productive day, but only find the clumsy chick at the café keeps folks waiting. Five, ten, fifteen minute gone by, finally it’s my turn. “What are you getting today?” asks the colorful headed hippie, who wears more colors in her hair than a rainbow does.

“A large cup of regular coffee, please.” “Sure. Give me a minute” says the Ms. Fashionable and walks away to attend the bakery, and then the overflowing sink. I gave her five more minutes, and that’s it.

“A-hum (fake cough), excuse me. Hello, excuse me.”

“O, why don’t you go to the other side, and they will get your order,” says the Ms. F.

I mean it’s ten in the morning. A population of folks lined up on the other side of the counter to break their fast.

She got to be kidding. “You mean on that side?”

She nods.

“With all those folks?”

She nods again.

“Can I just get a cup? It’s two bucks.”

“You just want the coffee?” she finally wakes up.

“Yes, madam.”

“O, here you go. Enjoy.”