Urban sprawl is seen around the world as a by-product of our growing populations and corporate-run, capitalist economies. We have more cities than every before and the cities themselves are expanding to keep up with our growth at huge cost to the environment.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve lived in an urban environment at least once in your life. You might be sat at a computer next to a window plagued by pigeons while sirens scream by in the distance as you digest this very sentence. But if, like me, you found it all just a bit too much and decided to retire somewhere less dirty and crowded, you now read this from the quiet confines of the countryside where you can hear the trees sway and the birds sing.
It’s a shame really, because cities really do have so much potential. So much excitement and opportunity. But often there’s a dark side in the form of smog, noise, light pollution and quite a lot of loneliness.
We’re faced with an interesting challenge as we cruise on through the 21st century. In the western world, old folks are living longer than ever before. We’re also seeing a decrease in infant mortality and overall a better quality of life than we saw in the 1900’s. That’s not to say that we don’t now face a different set of problems (cue: climate change, air pollution, loneliness, depression, obesity etc.), but in terms of years spent alive and roaming the planet, there has been a definite increase.
And that’s great. And inevitable. We humans are thrilled with a project; a conundrum; a challenge. If there’s a way we can find a cure for something and make our lives better in some way, we’ll damn well persist until we’ve achieved it. It’s a beautiful thing, really. The forever quest to utopia.
But the problem is that we’re not improving our habitats as quickly as we need to, in order to support an increasing and ageing population. By habitat I’m referring to that which we – humans – live in. Our neighbourhoods. Our communities. We’re running on old-school logic in a modern world that needs more and better. And what does it come down to, at its most basic level? The economy. That’s the crux. That’s the awkward thing that no one wants to talk about, so of course I’m going to touch upon it here. It’s what I do.
A capitalist economy worked for a while. It got us to where we are today and in many ways I’m incredibly grateful for that. But it’s also limiting in so many ways. At its core, a capitalist economy is based on the owning of resources. Every business is created and run with a profit motive, offering goods or services in exchange for monetary gain. The problems come when the distribution of important resources required by the masses are controlled by only a select few. Sometimes we refer to this collective as “the 1%”. We might be dealing with a free market, but wealth distribution is anything but even throughout society. This, of course, is what results in a class system. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single good thing that comes from a class system.
In this current, capitalist regime, the emphasis is on jobs. Everyone’s got to have a job they can work at so they can make an income to spend on those things that they need, along with (wait for it) those things that corporations convince us that we need (cue: advertising). The more we spend, the more debt we find ourselves in, the more money we need, the harder we work, the more we spend to comfort ourselves. It’s an almighty viscious cycle.
The rich get richer and the poor die trying.
In a capitalist economy, the ulimate goal is to maximise profits – at whatever the cost. This may have worked for a while. But the thing is, it’s now 2018 and we’re at crisis point with our environment (you know, that thing that GIVES US LIFE?!) We’ve supported economic growth without considering the repurcussions. It’d be easy to put it down to a lack of education which, sure, was indeed the problem 100 years ago. But we have a whole host of incredibly bright and competent scientists around the globe throwing the figures at governments to no avail.
By this point you might be like, “OK, yadda yadda yadda Kat, what alternative is there?”
To which I respond, “Well, DUH, a resource-based economy!” (Cue: The Venus Project)
In a resource-based economy, the highest levels of technology are fully utilised and the resources we need distributed to all. At present, the very best technology to increase efficiency of transport, housing, crop growth, education, healthcare and all other areas of society only have one barrier between being put to use and remaining in a research facility: capital.
I’m not saying it’s an easy feat. It sure as hell isn’t. To breakdown everything that we’ve come to identify as normal and replace with something that isn’t such a struggle is bound to induce messy transition period. But it’s an absolute necessity worth striving for if we are to have any hope of a happy and healthy future.
The result is a city lifestyle that isn’t bathed in toxic air or filled with money-driven crime. It doesn’t have sky-high rent rates or inefficient public transport and endless traffic jams. The result is cities that are actually, well, pleasant, because there’s no pressure to own anything and have status because the concept is redundant. They boast all the perks of living in such a high concentration of people: the culture, the cuisine, the opportunities and amenities, but none of the cons.
I don’t know about you, but that’s an environment worth striving for, I think.
If this sounds like something you want to work towards too, I suggest starting here. And when you’re done with that, consider focusing your time and effort on living as sustainably as you can while operating in our current economy. Reduce your waste. Support businesses striving for circular economies. Work towards financial freedom so that you can make better decisions. And above all else, talk about it! Share this information with others and educate yourself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.