World, China and Binhai EcoCity

| Eero Paloheimo’s lecture in Binhai Forum, China, 23rd September 2011 |

*1* Ladies and gentlemen,
*2* Our world and the planet are – as we all know – in a serious crisis. I don’t mean the economical crisis in America or Europe but the much more dangerous catastrophe, which can be presented as a combination of environmental and social processes. Extinction of species is an environmental failure but starvation of people is a social one. If we would be threatened by any of these dangers alone the situation would not be so crucial. The serious danger is not evident to all people and not even to the politicians. The most serious issue is the common effect of the different phenomena. They strengthen mutually each other. This means that our planet is in a so called labile state. What does that mean?
*3* When two or more factors strengthen each other mutually, the process is accelerating. I’ll take a very simple example; a stick or a column standing on its sharp point. The example is 1 km high. It takes about 81 seconds when it falls. The important detail in this example is, that during the first 30 seconds nothing drastic seems to happen, only a declination of 5 degrees. The acceleration is tremendous and two thirds of the event happens during the last 10 seconds. This process seems to be common to labile structures and it is evident that our planet is already on its way. It is a falling stick standing on its point. We are in a hurry. Very strong actions should now be taken already to avoid a total catastrophe.
*4* The planet is a patient. The mankind should not be the disease but the doctor. We need three actions simultaneously. As first aid I suggest the joining of all armies. The military forces are the most effective and disciplined part of all nations. They together could have the capacity and ability to realize large and radical projects, such as reforestation of Sahara’s. The defence costs of the world are about six times as high as the reforestation of Sahara. The second act would take longer, some decades. It is a new industrial revolution. This means that we should turn totally to a new kind of clean technology, avoid both pollution and overusing the resources. This means that the goals of the production would change radically. The third and slowest of my suggestions is that the values that we have today have to be changed from blind respect of money towards more spiritual values. This will not happen in decades but it will take three or four generations.
*5* Now about the necessary new industrial revolution. All the different branches of industry need a renewal. New kinds of traffic, energy production and recycling technologies are all needed. I assume this is easier for China than for Europe or America. The long period of industrialisation in west has created dependence, which is not easy to resolve. It is apparently easier for China than for west to make deep, general and radical changes to the structures of production. This is why eco-cities are necessary. In an EcoCity the different new technical innovations are automatically adapted to each other and their mutual dependence is thus considered.
*6* This is – of course – not all. There are deeper interactions than the technical ones only. In a real EcoCity all; life-style, education and environment are different from the traditional city. The solutions are not based only on new technology. I believe that even these changes are easier to realize in China than in western countries.
*7* A radical and real EcoCity fulfils the basic imperatives which all direct at the protection of nature and environment. This does – of course – mean that an EcoCity must also be beautiful, functional, healthy and pleasant to live in.
*8* The theoretical requirements lead to many practical solutions, which you can see here. They change the appearance of a conventional city totally.
*9* The proposal for the prototype of EcoCity was very modest in concern of size but not in concern of quality. It only had 20.000 inhabitants and the proposed area was 100 km2. This idealistic EcoCity had 200 inhabitants/km2. The city was self-sustainable in concerns of food, water, clean energy, recreation areas and even production of industrial timber.
*10* The basic ideas began to realize very quickly. In June 2007 China and Singapore decided to build in Tianjin the Binhai EcoCity, as first in the world. In March of 2008, not only the planning, but even the construction was already going on. For a westerner that was quite amazing. The construction was going on 7 days weekly, 24 hours daily.
*11* In many details the project was not like the original idea. Firstly: 20.000 people was too little for the Chinese ambitions. The density was about 10-times higher than even the constructed area of the original example. The city will not produce its timber, food or clean energy inside its own area. The houses did not have their own small backyards. But we must admit that the EcoCities are like fishes: they may be very different from each other, but anyhow, they are all fishes.
*12* This is why I took part with a Finnish group in an international competition in Tianjin two years ago. Our proposal also had multi-storey buildings, the food production was not self-sustainable and lots of energy was imported.
In spite of this, we should remember two principles. Firstly: To build EcoCities is not only business, in which the goal is to make much money. Secondly: EcoCities are not usual architecture, for which appearance is the main goal. EcoCities are built because we want to save the world from environmental disaster. If this criterion is not fulfilled, we should not speak of an EcoCity.
Every EcoCity is bound to its background, culture, landscape, tradition and money. They are not clones of each other. This is why we should greet Binhai EcoCity with great applauses. It is a fine beginning. Not yet a perfect EcoCity, but a huge step towards the right direction.

You will find an illustrated version of this article in the homepage of Oy Eero Paloheimo Ecocity Ltd (EPECC) .