Today, many historians, anthropologists and scientists would argue that we exist in an entirely different era than those that have taken place in our planet’s history. According to official historical records, we have been in the Holocene for the past 11,700 years. This time period represents the shift in the Earth’s physical characteristics since the last ice age. However, our presence here has altered the surface of the Earth and its climate, therefore, many would say we have “created our own age”. The Anthropocene has been proposed as the “age of humans” and represents the disruptive physical changes that we have caused. The idea of a “good Anthropocene” is contingent upon the way we develop and combat the wicked problems, such as climate change, that we face today. As we have slowly come to realize the degrading effects of our own lifestyles, efforts have been made to through technology, architecture, etc. to help shift our way of life towards that of a more sustainable future.
As our population continues to grow, cities are becoming more and more popular. Their compact designs and upward vs. outward expansion is ideal. However, cities require a lot of infrastructural and concrete grey spaces. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for natural elements, which has negative environmental effects. In Singapore, the WOHA architectural firm has created new ways to create dense, environmentally friendly ways of urban living. Project designs include that of skyscrapers that are surrounded by vegetation. Gardens and parks both encompass the buildings and line them. The atmosphere and services given by these green walls and rooftop plants create social and sustainable infrastructure. These designs are classified as “biophilic” and stem from the rationale that we need to generate more places for nature as cities become more prominent.
While WOHA’s designs are centered around the delight that comes from living in a more beautiful, calm and peaceful place, the ecosystem services that these designs provide play a key role in their purpose. The multifunctional skyscrapers offer more than just an aesthetic shelter; they also serve as a way for natural systems to take place in an urbanized landscape. The features of these buildings help with pollution mitigation, storm water management and heat island reduction. The vegetation traps water, reducing surface runoff and ground pollution that cities create. The plants also take C02 out of the atmosphere to help combat excessive greenhouse gas effects that metropolitan areas contribute to by way of production and other forms of high human activity.
Incorporating these types of designs into future development and urban expansion can help us not only move towards a more environmentally beneficial way of living, but can also help us break down the barriers that separate society and nature. By bringing nature’s presence back into our every day lives, we can hopefully stop looking at it as a commodity and start appreciating it for intrinsic values, improving our ecological consciousness. This will help us better respect the natural boundaries that we live within and continue to make progress in addressing climate change and other environmental problems. Only by doing things like this can we create a “good Anthropocene”.
While I respect the purpose of developing ecocities such as the ones that these designs push for, I think the message behind them is contradictory. In my opinion, what will ultimately alter our path and make a difference in the long run is our attitude towards climate change and our willingness to make sacrifices. The way these cities are often advertised is as a luxurious lifestyle where one can still “have it all”. It does not suggest that we need to limit our consumption or change the way we manage our resources. These designs and cities will help us do that, but we also need to recognize it ourselves, not hide behind our existing habits.