Masdar City makes waves

So I decided to take a little break from the ole’ computer screen and it seems as though in a single week everything has gone wild…

For instance, NASA actually decided to bomb the moon, honestly, was this really necessary!  Is Iraq and Afghanistan not enough space for the US government to bomb that they need to waste 79 million dollars by crashing a useless probe into moon? Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize all the while considering how many troops to commit to two illegal and unnecessary wars!  I guess he got the award for promising to do work around nuclear non-proliferation.  If I promised to bring about everlasting world peace could I win a Nobel?  Most interestingly though, Geoff Lawton, permaculture expert of greening the desert fame was featured by CNN news in their “green section”.  Congrats to Geoff and big WTF!! to Obama.

Geoff Lawton is currently a key landscape consultant on Masdar city a futuristic supposedly zero waste carbon neutral city slated to be build in Abu Dhabi which is part of the UAE.  Interestingly, the per capita ecological ecological foot print of Abu Dhabi also happens to be one of the highest in the world and though now being called a hub of sustainability don’t expect the UAE to move away from oil extraction anytime soon.  Loads of companies have signed onto Masdar and the city will be a proving ground for some the the most intelligently designed and profitable green ideas and smart products to come in the next few years.  Masdar plans to feature the latest in renewable energy, high tech transportation, and pedestrian oriented streets. The main problem I have with big eco city developments like these is that instead of starting small and building up organically they try to master plan everything and the people most likely left out of the plan are the poor and disenfranchised.

Recently, the gulf states have been using their surplus oil money to go on a building spree so that they’ll be able to leverage the equity accumulated to continue to make investments when demand deflates.  Financing a massive project like this is another issue too, Masdar City is currently set to cost a mere 15-35 billion and right now their looking for 600 million in investment financing for the start of construction….good luck!  .  In order to finance they’ll have to sell a whole lot of real estate, especially ritzy real estate, like luxury eco condos, hotels, malls, and conference centers and this type of blatant eco classism will create multiple social divisions.   Let us all remember that conspicuous consumption labeled green is still conspicuous consumption.  This is the crucial paradox around building idealized eco utopias if you don’t address salient social issues then you’re just simply sowing the seeds of inequity wrapped up in a nice little green package.  Personally, I like ingenious projects that can be scalable to various sizes, create community resilience and reliance, use natural building, and don’t cost billions of dollars, but hey thats just me (see: Gaviotas, Columbia and Curitiba, Brazil).  I would be curious to know exactly what Geoff’s true opinion of the whole thing is and whether he see some true substance in the midst of all the hype .   Just like Obama’s Noble we shouldn’t be awarding accolades simple for promises yet to be fulfilled…

For some really great and well balanced ecocity guru discussions on Masdar City see this treehugger post.