Archive for September 17th, 2021

Cities Forever

September 17, 2021

In the wealthiest countries, many fled to nature and the Internet during the pandemic, and came to question the existence of cities. However, more than half of humanity lives in cities. Thus the question is: why do we have cities?

We have cities because they are the easiest and used to be the only way, to expand the essence of humanity, which is intelligence. Cities enabled people to meet, face to face, and thus debate. From debate spring more clever solutions to any problem.

Yes, many of our fasciscizing leaders say we do not need a face, we just need a mask. Wrong is their ways, heavy will be their punishment in the light of history. It is not just chords and tongues which speak, but also faces and expressions, including body language.

Cities also enable to assemble manpower at high density, thus high impact. After the collapse of the Roman state, cities rose again, because they enabled to gather, and hence exponentiate, expertise: as early as 1200, the greatest industry in Paris, then Europe’s largest city, seems to have been the university. 

Now one can debate over the Internet, zooming in from afar, so it would seem one of the main advantages of cities was lost. 

But maybe not. Maybe new ways of interacting can be found. In Paris, Europe’s densest city, 300 lives were recently rescued from cardiac arrest, including a 12 day old baby, by an Internet application which can teach any citizen to become a rescuer in the few minutes before professional rescuers arrive on the scene. So the Internet can find new ways to bind and facilitate human contacts in a way only high density living provides…. In Paris again, more than 100 large museums enable you to go around and learn, as no Internet can provide. Thus cities, to survive will have to become more livable, and when they do, nothing can beat them. New York has splendid natural assets: the beaches, rivers and the Palisades, which could be more integrated in city life.  

Cities also provide more efficient ecology, a must considering the climate catastrophe. The newest buildings can be made energy positive. The entire population of the planet cannot live US style, in a median house 2,500 square feet (~ 230 square meters)… and moreover poorly insulated, because energy is cheap in the world’s biggest producer of fossil fuels.

As Augustine pointed out, there are two cities: the physical city, and the city of the mind. But the latter owes nearly everything to the former.

Patrice Ayme

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