Envisioning the ecocity: urban environments for the post-oil age.

Author:Wiberg, Krister

In the 1960s we humans first became aware of our global impact.

Rachel Carson, with her book Silent Spring, depicted a world without birds. A lot of poets, artists, and authors instinctively understood what was happening. The Club of Rome, a group of scientists, published Limits to Growth in 1971; later came The Third Wave. Both were convincing at the time. U.S. President Jimmy Carter's Global 2000 Report (1980) confirmed the prognoses, and today the reports of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change follow the same track.

Another wake-up call was the oil embargoes of 1973 and 1979. These crises highlighted the severe dependency of the Western world on oil, as much of industry and transport ground to a halt and the downside of urban sprawl became painfully clear. These events also showcased the links between our way of life and climate change, as carbon dioxide emissions dropped.

Now, when I gather material from my years as a teacher and researcher with a focus on urban sustainability, I single out four interesting case studies that are still useful today. I and my colleague scientists and students developed solutions that are both possible and globally realistic. Stopping C[O.sub.2] emissions now seems impossible and some kind of disaster will certainly occur. The real problem is to understand what the world will look like in that event, and to find ways to cope with it. Actually, we recognize two problems--climate change and urban sprawl--and try to find weapons to attack them. The two are intimately connected. It is evident that we are trapped in an entropic world, a prison totally dependent on fossil fuel.

The four case studies, or design exercises, are all logical and realistic, even if they seem radical. They are:

Railway Nodes--changing transport and lifestyle in a medium-size Swedish city of 30,000.

Shrinking City--a medium-size city of 60,000 inhabitants in Denmark.

Polycentric City--an application of the Factor 10 principles of boosting energy and resource productivity to a city of 100,000.

Vitalizing Infill--application of architectural and specifically social sustainability ideas in a big city, following ecological rules.





Railway Nodes

The concept underlying our study for Landskrona, Sweden, (30,000 inhabitants) is a grid of new railroads and station nodes every 1 kilometer. These nodes, each with a 500-meter radius, consist of housing and daily life services and commerce. Distances are walkable and safe, as auto traffic is largely separated on parallel avenues. Small apartments are close to the...

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