Cities from time immemorial were conceived as a response to human lifestyle, determined by the social, political and economic context. They were thought to adapt and grow along with time while maintaining a balance between its various intrinsic components. However, technology outpaced the ability of the city to meet human expectation, which when coupled with “hubris”, have led to burgeoning boundaries of several cities in a manner threatening to its very roots. Nature exists on the principle of balance. While it can be concurred that cities do have to meet demands, the human attitude reflects abuse, and it can be observed that the decay and challenges we face in cities today is nature’s counter to bring back the balance.
There seems to be a greater misalignment in what we expect from cities and what we give back to it. We are grappling with issues of climate change, limited resources, mounting infrastructure costs, pollution to name a few all because of our inability to differentiate between “need” and “want”. Cities clearly do have a great enduring capacity, given their ability to support life despite these challenges, but the only way to make it sustainable from this point forward primarily has to deal with a ‘lifestyle and value’ change of the human race. As both Bateson and Calthorpe reflect, the idea of a “community” should generate, where collective strategies to live a “greener” life should be initiated, collaborated by an efficient use of technology. Focus on walking, public transport, mixed use development and a vibrant public domain filled with opportunity seems key to reducing dependency on a fuel based individualistic lifestyle. More importantly, these ideas should be inclusive to all spheres of life, beginning right at the basic educational level, upto mandatory inclusion in official and government policies, as change is possible only through committed human will. Only then may we have a chance to shape our cities into flourishing sustainable places in the future.
Peter Calthorpe, 2010- Urbanism in the age of Climate Change – Chapter 1- Urbanism and Climate Change Gregory Bateson.2000. Steps to An ecology of Mind. ” The roots of ecological crisis”