By Michael Mobbs
One wish for music for the end of time. (1) Seven wishes for the end of cities.
Burr makes these wishes having just read what is forecast for the Earth’s cities in the next 30 years:
“Take all the cities that are currently in the developing world – Mexico City, Calcutta, Mumbai, Bangalore – and build a whole additional copy”. Developing countries (India, China, etc) have to double their existing urban development by 2040. (2) (3)
Are we mad?
Where will the cement (the third largest single source of climate pollution) come from to build cities to house another 490 million humans in developing countries?
How much food growing land, food growing water, and sewage pollution, air pollution, cars, timber, and stuff can these developing countries rip out of their already stretched landscapes?
How much will they rip out of dinky Oz and other “developed” countries which function as open cut mines to ship out the steel, gas, cement and other building materials for the developing bonfires of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, et al?
As much as they can buy and as much as much as we exporting countries can sell; in our own way we are poor, our economy dependent on digging up and shipping out our resources. We are hooked on their growth.
This, for Oz, and for the developing countries is our Gorgon moment (4), when Oz will host the world’s biggest gas mining and sales project (5) and so we will feed the roll out of this huge growth of cities. “In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a vicious monster with sharp fangs. She was a protective deity from early religious concepts. Her power was so strong that anyone who dared to look upon her would be turned to stone.” We’ve put a monster on our lands and she is the city, all consuming.
For this, the time when cities end, that moment when soon, as far as our eyes can see from an airplane lies the self-destructing sweep of urban stuff, I wish seven things for these folk in the developed and developing cities:
First, for all the architects whose egos have soared at the prospect of sustainable design whilet saying, “I’m a strong supporter of sustainability and I try to do it in all my projects but . . .”, then work actively, passively, covertly, overtly to prevent it getting in the way of the cameras and glossy spreads of their artworks, and to do it in such a way that from a last tour in a glass bottomed they may look on their works below, flooded, or burnt, whatever, but uninhabited now except by chaos, nary a camera to be seen.
Second, for all the engineers, planners, council officers and red tape makers who build this stuff: a last quiet chat with your kids when you might carefully explain why you chose not to give the planet the benefit of the doubt and to do them in instead. Do enjoy the pleasure of at last finding your conscience then, albeit in a drawn-out spasmodic session of fear and regret of what you’ve done.
Third, for all the radicals: your understanding of the word and the title you gave yourself, “Conservative”, was wrong; it means “in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs, and against abrupt change”. Conducting your one-off experiment to abruptly change Earth was not conservative.
Fourth, for the “fresh food” folk promoting chain stores: one last year of living dangerously, eating only your “fresh food” – if you can keep it refrigerated that long.
Fifth, for the religions and their franchisees, the tabernacles, churches and whatsits everywhere, the regulators, the ACCCs, the “independent’ pricing tribunals and the experts all of whom sang the same song in so many tracts, turgids (6) and reports (no longer accessible, libraries having become irrelevant to cities) with the words: “The facts support business as usual”. Well, this is what “independent” means: “free from the authority, control, or domination by somebody or something else, especially not controlled by another state or organisation and able to self-govern”. Get it? No. Oh well, plus la change . . .
Sixth, for Mozart, Bach, Leonard Cohen, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Schubert, Schumann, Cormack McCarthy, e e cummings, Anais Nin, Shakespeare, Joyce, Iris Origo, Jacqui French the gardener, Nugget Coombes, Russell Peters, Norman Gunston, Fred Dagg, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, the shearers of the 1890s, Jane Jacobs, Barbara Tuchmann, Lewis Mumford, the carbon farmers . . . and so many more, thanks.
Seventh, for my kids, and for my native stingless bees (I call them my Flower-Walkers), you lovely fearless unarmed warriors of the warm summery airs (6): Sorry. Did our best. Some of us. Had a go. Your go now.
And, for the end of time?
That’s my business.
(1) My thanks to Olivier Messiaen who wrote, Quartet for the end of time. And Schubert’s Death and the Maiden’s been pretty handy for me, too
(2) The urban revolution, Jeb Brugmann, UQP 2009, p185
(3) Such expansionism makes the old Germany and the new Israel’s policies of Lebensraum look like an entirely sensible and rational walk in the park: see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensraum
(4) “In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a vicious monster with sharp fangs. She was a protective deity from early religious concepts. Her power was so strong that anyone who dared to look upon her would be turned to stone. Therefore, such images were put upon items from temples to wine kraters for protection.” Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgon
(6) The Business As Usual nomenclature called them by names like, “environmental impact statements’, whatever
Photo at right: One of Australia’s Easter Island Statues, Giant fridge over 500 m long at Wodonga/Wagga, 56,000 square metes – or 5.6 hectares
This is the face of “fresh food” that’s never screened. The truth lies here, embalmed at below freezing temperatures of -28 degrees. Millions of “fresh” apples, bananas, oranges and fruit and veggies lie in whopper fridges across Australia like this one here for months at a time til they’re trucked to market for “This week’s fresh food specials”.
Or, to quote one adulatory voice, one of its builders: “The scale of the project is hard to comprehend until you stand in the 56,000square metre main building and look along its 500 metre length. The northern third of the main structure comprises a Temperature Controlled component with Banana Ripening Rooms, -28C freezer and 2C, 7C and 13C degree rooms to maintain stock at precise temperatures. Over 50 automated loading docks enable over 10km of pallet racks to be loaded and unloaded whilst 17km of sprinkler piping and 10,500 sprinkler heads protect its value.
“The facility is administered from a two storey office and amenities building incorporating commercial kitchen and staff change rooms. Externally a guardhouse, Transport Contractors Office, Pumphouse and Energy Centre are situated around the main building amongst the 37,000 sq m of concrete pavement, 20,000mw truck parking area and 484 car carpark.” https://www.jossgroup.com.au/construction/industrial/2008726121.htm
PS: Remember when bananas went from ordinary prices to the price of gold within days of the Queensland cyclone? Well the bananas you paid a fortune for then were still being taken out of football sized fridges like this for months after, having been bought for ordinary prices months before. Swinishness is the fly-buy currency of the chainstore culture.
PPS: If you want cheering up and a more positive approach try: https://www.newscientist.com/special/blueprint-for-a-better-world