Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Living City As Ecological Renaissance Rather than As Apocalypse

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Jet Con-Trail Over Lightning-Struck Oak, 2011

IN THE SEPARABLE city, attention to sustainability is increasing.  We “taste” ecology in the bitter form of degrading environmental quality, and yet there is a sense that ecology does not include us.  Nature is envisioned as on the “outside” of human life and moving further away from human life, and reacting negatively to human life.  And we sense that improving environmental quality requires some forfeiture of future human development:  redirecting resources “other nonhuman nations” to which we are linked by a need for material resources and absorption of our waste.  Our language and our subsequent actions describe our longstanding vision of a separation from nature, either as a result of intentionally aspiring to leave it behind or by being excluded from it by literacy and abusive technological development. 

With the living city, our self-perception is radically different:  We perceive ourselves to have always remained inside nature, and now measure being more deeply lost inside it.  “Tasting” our bitter imbalance with the larger Earth ecosystem, we also taste something sweet in that which has seemed to be only a wasteland of our own making.  We begin to aspire to move from a deconstructive pioneering strategy to a constructive post-industrial strategy of residency.

  • We find our cities to be living, ecological adaptations that are already self-designing in response to the conditions of existence. 
  • We begin to sense that urbanization itself is an ecological adaptation.  Rather than the illusion of the end of a separable nature, we now begin to realize the end of our illusion of separation from nature. 
  • We find that we are not post-natural but rather “post-separable,” and that we cannot be healthy and optimize without integrating in the larger Earth community that we have now “peopled.” Rather than trying to enhance a separate nature, we begin to shift from a sense of “intrusion” in nature to try to optimize our inherent “inclusion” in nature.
  • We begin to try to overcome the way we have limited both human and nonhuman life by our misunderstanding of nature. 
  • We begin to imagine that global urbanization is not an apocalypse, but rather a renaissance that is just beginning and that is dramatically altering our understanding of human nature, just as the Italian Renaissance did in bridging the Medieval and the modern.