Bring Best Of The City-Side "Home" To The Countryside
It is important to remember that our real home, where we all stem from, is the countryside. For many thousands of years, with a few exceptions, humans lived in small communities. Cities have only grown in a very short timespan, they grew as centers of trade, empire building, but more than anything with industrial production. This meant powerful machinery, that allowed for mass production. Mass employment and mass consumption were elementary conditions and drew people to the cities.
This concentration of humanity in cities was connected to an intensive industralisation and mechanisation of agriculture replacing people; together with the feedback cycles within the cities functions - between production, administration, communication and services - this led to more growth and a demographic imbalance of historical dimensions. In 2007, the treshold of more than half the worlds population living in cities was crossed - whilst many of these cities are monstrously expanding to urban agglomerations of unprecedented size. And there seems to be no end to this trend.
For a long time, cities were the engines of wealth and productivity. They gave place to an ever accelerating economy of scale, and only recently we found out that this economy of scale is now destroying its own foundations. Mankind has outgrown the growth paradigm. An interplay of high volume automation and global competition brings the prices of mass-produced goods down (the Zero Marginal Costs trap), while the necessary investments on growing scales makes production increasingly unprofitable. Automation also brings underemployment and precarity. These problems are even worse in the developing world.
As a consequence, urbanisation nowadays poses more problems that it can solve. Just some of them are:
the problem of shere size: overcrowding and vast demands on infrastructure, transport, waste disposal, sewerage etc.
the problem of rising unemployment and social neglect, accumulation of poverty and crime
the problem of large resource footprint (reversal of the original urban effect by increasing marginal costs of resources not available locally, e.g. water)
the problem of affordable housing
the problem of anonymity and psychological depletion.
the problem of increasing volatility of global competition and shrinking resilience.
In this situation, on the rural side we are also feeling the deep impact that the migration of poiulation away from peripheral areas has on the quality of landscape and soil. Industrial agriculture is far less sustainable than the intelligent interplay of small farming and nature.
So, if we look at all these facts, it may be time for a new era in the history of human settlements. More and more people are imagining something fundamentally different from today's urbanisation:
"If we take what we’ve developed in terms of information technology and begin a shift towards decentralisation of our urban populations we can start to build a hybrid of the highly localised pre-industrial economy and associated low impact systems for producing food, energy and goods, and the highly globalised information economy." (Iain Dooley, Australia)
This hybrid form that takes the best from city and village and turns it into a smart and durable habitat is what we call "Global Villages".
What we will bring with us from the City
It is essential to recognize the many progresses that the city has brought to human civilisation. The sophistication of technology, the patterns of intensive communication and collaboration, the possibility for the individual to learn from an encounter of cultures - all this we do not necessarily have to compromise. We just need to bring it into a different form.
Density. We need not live on lone farms, but could well establish a minituarized city pattern which allows us to mostly do without cars and commuting. Small Towns can be very charming and diverse, but new patterns of building show us that you can miniaturize even more, and still gain quality.
Establishing a rich circular local exchange rather than export orientation; diversify what we do for each other, bringing proiduction and consumption closer to each other.
The freedom to choose. Cities seem to boast with local choices and diversity, but often this comes at the cost of originality and quality. In local economies, there seems to be lesser choice, but what is really important that we choose an environment and people that really reflect our values. Villages or small towns can be connected to cultural themes as inner rationale of settlements. The foundation of villages will be based on intentions, developed in a participatory way. Neighboring settlements can have complementing themes to bring an "urban effect" to fruition outside the cities.
Use of automation in its truest sense to reduce the burden of work and free us for creativity. Automation will include ecosystems, it will work with them, not against them. We will also build enhanced ecosystems like aquaponics and other forms of hydroculture. There will be no waste, but reuse of almost everything based on a chemistry of plants. Our whole settlements might often look like big living beings.
and there is one more thing that we consider the most important for our work and mission:
A global mindset. We can use powerful media for global knowledge exchange and cooperation, informing ourselves in real time as how any human problem can be solved. This type of knowledge based economy will lead to unprecedented synergy on a global scale. And one could say: we bring the city with us, we always have it handy when we need it. And the real cities of today will have a role to play in this, as hubs and noodes of knowledge and as service and tool providers, provided they understand that knowledge is not a product, but a commons.
What We Need To Make it Reality
Intentional cultural communities and enlightened municipaliies which thrive in diversity - develop local themes, connect to each other in global networks.
Pilot cases: we need to study, experiment, improve in real life.
Focus on education: we need to build a virtual university of the villages.
not only architects, planners, technicians - we need all professionals and "artisans" who are crucial to this process forming global networks, like medieval guilds, to improve our practical local abilities.
Lets work together on this on a global scale and form a network of village builders that is neither hostile nor self-righteous, but constructive and determined.