This is part 6 of a 6-part series covering “Cities in the Year 2000”, a kids’ book on cities published in 1985. Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. I suggest reading on a desktop, as the screenshots of the pages should be large enough to read (hopefully).
“A problem in the [21st] century could be look-alike cities, places without a clear character of their own”. Perhaps – and this is an ongoing challenge. To me, all of NZ’s cities seem to have their own character and attributes. Maybe that has more to do with the different lifestyles and natural landscapes nearby – whether it’s beaches, rivers or mountains – than our built environment. But they seem distinctive nonetheless.
Outside the central cities and the tourist hotspots, stepping out to the suburbs, then most of the cities probably do look the same – but that’s OK provided they cater for a wide range of needs and wants. Suburbia doesn’t always fit the bill by itself.
Not super applicable to NZ, but the main point here is that people can choose to influence how cities grow and change; we don’t have to be resigned to “cold, unfriendly [cities] where people feel dwarfed by concrete and stone”.
There’s a bit of both here; a solid attempt to raise big issues in a way that’s still accessible and appealing for young people.
“We already have the ability to feed many of the world’s starving people by farming cereals. But because the rich world wants to eat beef steak and hamburgers, cattle is farmed instead. In other words, we may have solutions to world problems but choose not to use them”. Still a problem today, of course!
“The real choices for the future are whether we want faceless cities or more human ones. Do we want to spend money on social problems? Do we want armies and weapons, or hospitals and aid for the poor? Does the rich world want to stay rich at the expense of the poor world, even though in the long-run it will not be able to survive unless the balance of wealth across the globe is made more fair? Remember that if these problems were easy to solve they wouldn’t be there at all.”
Those problems are still all here, and new ones have emerged too. But looking back on the last 30 years, and with an eye to the future, we can also say that there has been much progress.
And that’s the end of the book, everyone – I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along. But we’ve actually got one last surprise in store – I’ve been in touch with David Satterthwaite, the consultant to this book and an expert on cities (especially developing cities and climate change, as detailed in chapter 1). He’s kindly agreed to do an email interview, so we’ll publish that as a post next week. If you have any questions for David, add them as comments below and hopefully he’ll be able to answer some of them.