ANOTHER LONDON: VISIONS OF A FUTURE CITY
The most abrupt change, at least to the human eye, is the greening. The Green Layer of natural roofing radically improves air quality at street level. New architecture supports tiered cathedrals of growth. Pedestrians pause to savour the early spring day. It’s considered acceptable to stop, to breathe. Appreciating the seasons is part of a set of constantly reinforced cultural stories the public appropriation of the media has gifted the population. It got pretty hostile on Fleet Street, but it was worth it. The public interest, at last, gets served.
With delight, the population watch the pedestrianised streets erupting into life after the winter. From the air, London seems a labyrinth of gardens. Every semi-flat surface larger than a tea cup is planted extensively. From the roots to the canopy, edible forests bear the fruit of a massive tree-planting initiative. Brownfield sites, the ongoing narrative edges between humans and nature, are constantly utilised as community orchards that boast rich layers of companion-planted berries and fruit trees. Wherever roots can be supported, new trees leap skyward. The first berries of the spring hang heavy on the branches.
Street-level permaculture has boomed in influence and popularity, forming a curriculum subject as prominent as maths and English. Pavements, no longer necessary due to the ban on public cars inside the city perimeter, are turned over exclusively to the cultivation of vegetables and flowers. The sleeping soil beneath city realises its dormant fertility, the pavement cracks. Encouraged by the integration of agriculture, the streets hum with plant and animal biodiversity. Native and heritage planting causes many old plants to be readopted into cuisine. Each street has a comprehensive herb garden for herbal lore is passed from parents to children, from family to family. It is quite normal for a dish to include wild garlic, fat hen or hawthorn berry jam.
Reflecting the species-by-species health and diversity analysis known as the Reconsideration of Beyond-Human Rights Act, parks have become increasingly wild open-access monuments for observation and education, havens for bird and animal life further aided by corridors of intense wildness raised above the city that link each major green space with places beyond the city. Every second bridge across the Thames serves as a corridor for the passage of animals and birds into and out of London. This artery system provides throughflow of large, rewilded animals. Trophic cascades pulse with a forgotten vitality.
Biodiversity soars to levels not seen for hundreds of years. Small animal and bird populations return with startling abundance. A pond in Primrose Hill crawls with young Natterjack toads, an osprey clutches a brown trout from the Regent’s Canal and returns to feed her chicks. In the depths of Hampstead Heath, the howl of a wolf may sometimes be heard across a city devoid of cars. The dialogue between humans and the more-than-human world is readjusted. We are listening. Animal equality is a pervasive and thriving attitude.
The lost rivers of London (such as the Fleet, the Neckinger, the Effra) have been freed from their concrete chambers and new waterways have been created as close to their original courses as possible. Wastewater and sewage systems are linked into a vast subsurface fertilisation and heating resource. The carefully planned streams have become havens for suddenly burgeoning species such as otters and kingfishers. Reintroduction of river fish stocks sees record fish stocks.
Every few hundred metres, linked aquaculture centres help to supply each street with an entirely local and healthy food supply. Low-impact gondola tours help to fund conservation and new system innovations. At each end of the Thames gigantic ultraviolet purification filters bring pure water through the city. The return of flourishing flora and fauna on the banks of the river indicate this return to balance and health.
Zoos are obsolete and the notion seems absurd but covered corridors provide specifically designed conservation habitats. The children of London can always find rapid exposure to a wild environment, for it is integrated in their daily existence. The smaller parks in the city are designated for education of the young, ensuring that connection with nature is never threatened and the importance of ecological awareness grows in attention and popularity. It is now considered cool to care, to be aware, to be connected, for both young people and old.
Education of the young is an integral systemic change. Recognising that the world does not need further uneconomic growth (that which damages quality of life and planet), educational priorities shift to put a major emphasis on ecoliteracy, ecology and environmental education. This major syllabus shift is reflected in the very nature of school classrooms, which are redesigned with a far greater integration with nature. Key questions are returned to: What does it mean to be a good global citizen? What is a life well lived? How can we be healthy on a sick planet?
Furthermore, recognising the damaging influence of a lack of rites of passage amongst young people, in both urban and rural areas, every adolescent regardless of sex, race, religion or creed participates in a state-sponsored vision quest, a four-day nature rite as they reach adulthood. The phenomenal impact of this on community relations and ecological consciousness has a radical influence on society, generation by generation. The policy reflects the importance of looking beyond the now, of investing in the future of our children. Rites of passage, carefully curated by older generations, powerfully influence the growth of community amongst young people. Gang-related violence and community tensions are the immediate beneficiaries.
The de-abstraction of the food supply chain is complete. Attitudes towards rights for other species have been radically revised. School curriculums teach care, compassion and understanding of more-than-human species. Earth jurisprudence forms the backbone of the legal system. Children are allowed to respond to animals, insects and plants naturally. Rather than being suppressed, virtualised or scoffed at, this emotion is nurtured and encouraged. Novel biotech solutions replace the need for intensive meat production. Manufactured meat, nutritionally identical and indistinguishable in taste, is ubiquitous.
The transfer of life and giving of energy between one creature and another is again considered sacred. Humans still eat meat, though it is much less common, but they do so with mindfulness of what has occurred to bring it to their table. The educational system encourages proximity to rearing, care and slaughtering. Animals raised with anything but kindness are no longer legally allowed to be eaten. Battery chickens, factory farms, intensive dairies are all ugly aspects of an unenlightened past.
The type of food sold in shops has also changed entirely. The idea that a corporation would fill a food with sugar and toxic chemicals is completely abhorrent to an informed society. Those corporations that profited mercilessly by making people unhealthy have been brought to justice, their contributions to a local food system part of their penance. Products of all nature still exist, but a law known as The Benefit of Living Planet clause means that supplying products that damage members of society and the earth is extremely illegal. Ecocide is widely viewed as the most heinous of crimes. Due to the changing nature of food, levels of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes plummet, saving the health service billions. By eating right and consuming different cultural stories, people foster a critical ecological intelligence, a broad public awareness.
This education is an ever-evolving and ongoing public debate. Each street corner now has open-access buildings that serve as integral community spaces. During the day these areas serve as informal councils for the maintenance of a peaceful society, by night they become entertainment centres, lit by locally produced renewable power and candlelight fuelled by wax from a massive initiative of bee hive allotments. At dusk, all electricity throughout the city powers down due to the importance of circadian rhythms. It is normal to be asleep shortly after dusk and up with the light during the winter months. The dawn chorus, uninterrupted by ambient noise, is resplendent.
Centralised buildings deal with individual, community (street and borough) and administrative issues. Local economies, linked between streets and boroughs, are managed by trusted and appointed elders. The priority is to eternally grow the National Happiness of the population, something now recognised as having little to do with material wealth. Local currencies, barter and skillsharing help keep the fabric of community tight. This closeness of Community itself is the greatest transition. Every penny of currency that people spend is visibly and transparently put back into their local community. People not only work for themselves, they work for their local environment. The success of this shift is represented virtually and publicly.
Entertainment is no longer deified, there are no stages. Live and public music and entertainment events are considered part of the fabric of urban life, rather than a special event that must be paid for. Streets see public drumming, classical concerts and live music in an ongoing festival of sound. Public and free ambisonic chambers play healing frequencies. Vast collective groups of musicians unite daily throughout the streets, coming together for free and informal concerts at which the audience show their support with gifts and blessing. Musicians, performers and speakers from other cultures are venerated as a source of education. To house these events, which are continuous and ongoing, whole streets are covered and transformed into garden-biomes. The warmth of these areas, heated and lit by solar furnaces, keeps them busy.
A radical program of aesthetic enhancement has been commissioned by the government involving poets, painters, sculptors and photographers. The goal is beyond even the beautification of public space, collective creativity is driven to enhance the very essence of the lived experience. The role of art in progressing and inspiring consciousness is well-recognised and publicly encouraged. This is part of an overall re-evaluation of the importance of creativity within our culture. Once considered a form of madness, a creative mind becomes highly valued. Poets, recognised for their evolutionary sensitivity, receive a stipend to focus on their peculiar art.
The roads, now much narrower due to only being used by police and emergency services, are fringed by wide, safe cycle lanes and pedestrian pathways. The private motor vehicle has largely disappeared; streets are pedestrianized with a vast free flotilla of wooden bicycles. For those unable to peddle themselves, public service rickshaws and punts are in constant motion. The petrol and diesel car no longer exists, all cars run on combinations of electricity and renewable hydrogen.
Beneath the streets, electric tubes still run, but they are now freely available to all people. Major train stations also operate, but journeys are free. Air travel is available, but it is expensive apart from in instances of community need. Direct communication between the nationalised airlines and communities allow those that need to travel by air to do so, if they are prepared to offset their carbon.
Shops are largely redundant due to community 3D printing. However, there is a soaring resurgence of local skills - the importance of reusing and mending are recognised. The strange psychic burden of consumer waste is recognised as part of the de-abstraction of our supply chain. The participants in this process – supermarkets and chain stores – are forced to pay for the relocalisation of community services, in which they take minority shares. Each street reopens a bakery, a carpenter, a hardware store, a tailor, a blacksmith, a cobbler and thousands of other skills. Everything is recycled, upcycled and reused. The idea that something could go into landfill is abhorrent, products of such type are no longer legally allowed to be made.
Self-reliance is widely promoted and land is subdivided according to use. If a tower block has forty flats and needs to feed one hundred people two meals each day, a calculation is made depending on utilising all public space in the vicinity (windowsills, car parks, gardens, pavements, former roads, roof spaces). Whatever cannot be grown is brought in from the suburbs. Imports remain a crucial aspect of feeding the population, but they are only accepted if they help to nurture the planet rather than destroy it.
Architecture has reached a point of radical evolution in which natural growth is entirely synthesised with housing and public buildings. It is normal for houses to contain dozens of plants, for new buildings to entirely harmonise with the natural environment, for rental tenants to decorate their individual space. The smartly groomed suburbs have been completely reimagined to provide an incredibly rich peripheral system of small farms, ranging from lawn-sized to multi-acre smallholdings. Each landowner benefits, as do the local communities. The importance of our farms and farmers is recognised as paramount. Surplus produce from the suburbs is sold and exchanged in farmer’s markets held weekly all over the city. Beyond the suburbs, buildings are so naturally harmonised that the divisions of city, town and village are no longer clearly defined. Nature as the Other is no longer an applicable sentiment – we are of nature.
Technology is firmly integrated within this landscape. London itself is smart and connected, feeding a democratically elected central administration information and flagging problems as they occur. The Internet is a free resource for the global population, the idea of control and profit from technology has become laughable. Technology is purely directed to serve the overall interests of humanity and the planet. That is not to say that research and development in new technology has flagged. Instead, the vast effort of maintaining a consumer supply line of constant new products has been redirected into creating new technologies for the benefit of the way we live our lives. Visions of an intelligent city – multi-layered territories designed to cooperate with the population in learning and innovation are starting to be realised. The recognition that problems can be solved through collaboration of many minds leads to incredibly rapid solutions. Digital spaces are seamlessly designed for people to communicate and interact for maximum problem-solving capacity.
A change has occurred at the corporate level. The idea of corporations being evil has completely disintegrated as their very reason for existence has been altered. All corporations are a series of relationships between people. Those that refuse to work to a new paradigm are simply disbanded. Legislation damns the profit imperative. Businesses, think tanks and councils work in transparent offices where their daily figures and dealings are screened to the street. Each business provides an interpreter at street level who discusses the transactions, answers questions and if necessary escalates any issue that could be considered to lessen the public good. Profit and public wealth have been interchanged as reasons to be. Boardroom notes are transcribed and publicly made accessible to any and all that wish to read them. Individual executives are publicly ranked for their transparency and honesty.
As a consequence, corporations become powerful forces for social good, recognising the fragility. Collective people power ushers in change with mass walkouts, no-work days and democratic board selection practices. Caps on individual earning ensure that all excess capital is reapplied to the ongoing development of the city. Those individuals that break through this barrier are publicly lauded. The profit imperative - the accumulation of wealth for the sake of wealth – is a bad memory. All businesses operate on an updated John Lewis model. Companies are community owned or owned by their employees. Any capitalist enterprise that exceeds a certain size must limit its growth with an intensive program of mentoring, local community improvement and charity donation.
The economy is completely reimagined into a steady state. Based on Buddhist economic principles it is focused on reversing ecological damage, healing society and making human impact on the planet positive. Transparency and trust are part of a widespread Hack Everything social movement. Each aspect of our society is placed under intense scrutiny – from education to finance to crime. It is formally recognised that the state is not omnipotent and that the power of governance lies in the hands of the people. Part of each individual’s working day, mandatory for all inhabitants, is to vote on local and global decisions. This forms a process of direct political democracy, consultative systems governed by social justice agendas that have nothing to do with the vested interests of a powerful elite. The undoing of the stranglehold of a small group and the return of decision-making to the majority is protracted and ongoing, but progressing.
Full employment, whilst never quite realised, is far closer than it ever has been before. Economic policy prioritises the development of self-sufficiency. Those people unemployed in the conventional sense have a lifetime of work to benefit their micro-community. The minimum wage is increased and capping of maximum wage introduced. Social inequalities, once accelerating towards a gigantic gulf, are reversed. It is within the financial sector that key changes to affect the redevelopment of the city are key. Banks and funds exist only to serve the common good. Reimagining the economy begins with the taxation of financial transactions.
With all these systemic shifts, individual perception has also changed. With the plummet of capitalism, who we are and what we are doing here has been reconsidered. This is manifested in mass public shifts in consciousness. The idea of growth into an ecozoic era, the sustainocene, becomes widespread and takes hold as a public goal to be worked towards. Everybody knows the word Gaia. It is common and normal for people to define themselves as rational animists or hylozoists. The vital importance of hunter-gatherer cultures, now recognised, provides daily messages for a receptive population. The arrogant idea that humans had evolved beyond this key awakened knowledge is redundant. A smart synthesis between ancient knowledge, ecological consciousness and cutting edge technology has finally been achieved.
The subconscious is recognised as a vital aspect of our evolution. The Institute of Dreams and Imagination spend all day, every day, working to bring the subconscious into the public eye. Dream interpretation becomes an accepted and important aspect of a daily ritual. Dream libraries, catalogues of lived experience, become common.
Language itself has adapted to a new perspective of the world. Esperanza, the international language of peace, has soared in popularity and is a widely spoken way for people to communicate. Public speaking is considered part of the fabric of the city, people are encouraged to speak and communicate. Language tuition is freely available as part of a gift economy. Advanced translation technology allows people to communicate in their native language – the beauty of diverse languages are reflected and appreciated. Linguistic technology is skewed towards social understanding and the erosion of boundaries between different cultures.
Every street has a daily forum one hour before dusk and the idea that one could not know their neighbours has been replaced by powerful community relationships. Unification of communities and the bringing together of diverse people is recognised as absolutely essential for a sustainable future. Government exists to remove divisions between people. This erosion of community borders is reflected in childcare; the phenomenal responsibility of raising a child may be shared, one lesson from intentional communities that has not been discarded.
The idea that with technological progress and scientific development our entire lives should be consumed by work seems laughable. Freedom to enjoy the world is the priority of individuals, families and communities. This radically affects attitudes to the workplace, with individuals free to create their own schedules. There is room for passion, but there is also room for solitary time, family time and community time. Each company develops a bespoke system, but for many working hours take place in a concerted chunk in the middle of the day. This ensures that people have valuable access to being outdoors whatever the season and also makes certain that families have the ability to stay together. There are no weekends, but regular public holidays mean that the population focuses on the enrichment of the community.
Public services such as healthcare, education, social security, cultural development, the legal system, retirement, provision for the disabled and ill, public transport have no profit inventive. The idea that a corporation could control energy is preposterous. These services are publicly funded and administered by entirely not-for-profit organisations. New technology has a powerful impact on the way energy is consumed. A new era of free energy is emerging, with the ability of personal devices to provide heat and electricity via wi-fi. Fossil fuel dependence is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
The media has shifted in emphasis. The mass media manipulation of beauty, a trend that profoundly affected what was considered an 'ideal' way to look, has disintegrated. Without young people trained and conditioned to look a certain way, beauty is celebrated differently. The erosion of this type of prejudice helps to reinforce the breaking down of class and race borders. Stigma attached to mental health and disability has evolved out of existence. The knowledge that all prejudice is symbiotic and mutually reinforcing is key to its eradication.
The radical importance of new cultural stories leads to a complete redrawing of the paradigm of us. We evolve to understand and utilise the technology in our hands for its ultimate purpose – to connect with each other and the planet. Abstraction and loneliness caused by digital exposure falls away, we understand the power of what we have in our hands, we use it for intended good. We do not waste our lives numbing each other for the horror at a planet gone wrong.
Ideas of age - how we interact with and treat our elderly – have evolved considerably. The elderly are venerated and encouraged to be involved in the life of the community. It is normal to see three or four generations of people interacting. The power of what the elderly have lived through elevates their stature. Our relationship with death is also redrawn. Those that pass away become a matter of celebration rather than grief. Yet lives well lived inspire gladness, the grieving, those that have lost, may take comfort in that.
Our concept of parenthood is redrawn. Nurture at a young age is considered of paramount importance in the overwhelming good of society. Mandatory paid paternity leave of one year is an obligation for employers. Maternity leave is extended for as long as necessary. Every mother is rewarded for childcare. The horrific stigma, the rank idea that by having children a mother is somehow lowering their chances of success, has been rightfully dismantled and is considered as antique as slavery. Raising children is the most critical task of any the world has ever seen. The gulf between its importance and its reward is narrowing as people look beyond their current generation to the future.
The importance of mapping our experience has not diminished. Maps of inequality matching those who need with those that have are plugged into publically accessible systems. The ability to link individual needs with the means of solving them is now open. Whether a person requires a plumber, a pot of honey or help with their linguistics tuition – virtual maps showing corresponding skills are easy to use and ubiquitous. This key software enables and empowers the post-scarcity gift economy. No longer do we individually struggle for the projected and cultivated fear that we will financially fail, for the community of our fellow people has us and will hold us if necessary. It is normal for unrelated families to eat together, celebrate together and share the tasks of feeding, clothing and education.
At a house management level, there are some tangible differences. Washing up is carried out with a nutrient rich mix directly designed to fertilise kitchen gardens and aquaculture systems to which it is instantly directed. Biomimetic of highly potent rainfall and containing an incredible kelp-based nutrient array, this fertiliser helps to continually renew soils throughout the city.
Individual human health has been powerfully improved by the type of food that is permitted to be sold. Phenomenal tax levied against unhealthy food producers ensures that all financial burdens of sourcing quality ingredients are made affordable. Those companies that continue to create food that damages public health are simply put out of business under the slogan Adapt to Survive. Toxic chemicals, hydrogenated fat, added sugar, E-numbers are all rightfully viewed as part of an unhealthy past. Truly organic food, the definition of which constantly evolves, is considered a basic human right rather than the privilege of the elite.
With improved human health arrives the critical understanding that we, you and I, have a purpose: The reinvention of that which is currently broken. Every single item on this manifesto is possible, each idea already has advanced knowledge and pathways to realisation.
All that we need to do is recognise that our current ways of being in this world are of our choosing. The realisation of our freedom, our ability to reimagine the world – and practically to change it - renders us wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of consumption. The beauty is in the realisation, the unfolding understanding that other worlds are as simple as our device.
Our generation is monumentally important. The world we can imagine is not only possible, it is accelerating towards us. We need to practically plan how we get from here to there and the way we each live our lives is tinder for change. We are not wrong, we are certainly not evil, we have simply been conditioned to expect and accept a world that falls far short of what it could become. In time, the personal statement of your life will reshape institutions, businesses, governments and policy. Never doubt the effectiveness of your personal action, for it is the only way our species has always grown.
Another London curates practical ideas for future landscapes. A second essay, Beyond London, will be released shortly.