Climate change will take us into a low energy future, forcing upon us new ways of living that demand innovation from urban designers – and a willingness by the broader population to embrace a revolutionary way of living. No longer will we be able travel by private vehicle long distances to work; no longer will we all be able to live in spacious communities with just one house and one family to a traditional building block; no longer will we be able to consume at an alarming rate; no longer will we be able to rely on fossil fuelled energy to sustain the wasteful lifestyle to which we have become accustomed; and no longer can we turn to, or look to, technology as our saviour.
Importance of community
Survival revolves around a few fundamental elements and one of those is community that provides a sense of belonging, something that good urban designers understand. Charged with the responsibility of creating place, most good urban designers know that a truly friendly and people conscious built environment will help in creating a welcoming community that works within the prescribed boundaries of a low energy future and a wholly different economic system.
A community assembled with the welfare of people ahead of machines allows for the creation of a workable and practical informal economy that actually bolsters that which our Taxation Department considers formal.
In creating communities, designers need to aware of the philosophy that all of us need to ‘Live Where We Live’ – that is our homes, our work, our recreation, our shopping, our friends, family, and our leisure all need to be within easy walking, or cycling distance, or quickly accessible by a sophisticated public transit system. Decades or pursing the great Australian dream – an individual house on an individual block – has left us with culture deeply entrenched with the military-industrial complex. That culture, the modern ‘Western’ way of living, is failing and wholly unprepared to address the containment that awaits in the looming low-energy future.
Food security is an issue that communities need to address, and the present iron-like grip of world-wide food corporations can be weakened substantially through the creation of community gardens. Anyone who doubts that should first examine what happened in Cuba in the final decade of last century, following the collapse of the USSR combined with an American trade embargo. Through community and home gardens, the community survived a peak oil situation and now is stronger, and healthier, than ever.
The world is evolving toward difficult times, but among those who have some of the answers stand urban designers, architects and others in similar professions. The “bigger is better” idea was ill-founded and has brought only trouble, and so the time is right for us to pursue E.F. Schumacher’s philosophy that small is beautiful. Community designers need to now step forward and help us build a better world.