Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Natural PATH to ‘Smart Cities’ 
takes Advanced Human Habitat on the Road

Image Collage by Gensis Eco Fund: The Natural PATH to Smart Cities 

Recently, Upworthy posted an article entitled I never realized how dumb our cities are until I saw what a smart one looks like. The blog post included snippets and commentary about a 20-minute report by CBC News, The National on “How Cities Make us Sick.” We have included the complete video, below.

Video: How Cities Make Us Sick 

Now, we are not refuting the questioning of so-called “obesogenic environments;” that is, cities being designed around cars, fundamentally antithetical to regular physical activity, and essentially major contributors to the obesity epidemic.

However, better transportation does not a healthy city make. And the idea that a ‘smart city’ is one which promotes physical activity is just another in a long series of oversimplifications and ‘magic-bullet’ solutions that humanity is so enamoured by and prone to fall for—until they reveal their inadequacies.

If we take a biomimetic, ecosystem view (and at Genesis Eco Fund we know there is no better approach to take to solve questions of environment and human health, since inherent human health is defined by biology, environment and natural law), we must look at a community at a more fundamental level.

A community is an ecosystem--a super-organism—which is itself a collection of smaller organisms. Expressed on a smaller scale, a community is a functioning organ made up of many smaller cells. The overall health of the organ is dependent on the health of its cells. True, a handful of cells can be damaged or diseased without the organ collapsing; but a cascading mass failure of cells will result in organ failure.

Now, it is also true that organs have inter-cellular systems, including transport and energy systems. And, it is also true that failure of these systems can also produce organ failure: for instance, blockage of an artery in the heart will most likely result in a heart attack. It so happens in the case of the heart that transportation is a primary key to heart health. But free-flowing arteries do not alone make a healthy heart. What if, for instance, the blood cells themselves are diseased?

This is the point we are discussing here today. While it could be argued that the movement of people from A to B is a primary necessity of a well-functioning city, what if the people being moved from A to B are “sick?” So here we return to the first premise, that the chosen mode of transportation in most cities—the automobile—promotes obesity.

But this is still only looking at one aspect of the city…transportation. What about the health of the rest of the environment these ‘blood cells’—people—spend their time?

What about toxic sick buildings? What about stressful home, work, school, healthcare environments? No matter how much time we travel to and fro within the city, we spend far more time at various destinations than we do on the journey. To say that a smart city is defined solely by its transportation system ignores the cellular nature of all cities. If people are literally “the lifeblood” of a city, their home, office, school, etc. are the other “cells” they nourish (and are nourished by). Getting them from one cell to the next is an afterthought.

Ecosystems create Advanced Human Habitats—cleaner air, more relaxing, less stressful living spaces, spaces of harmony and symbiosis which boost mental function, psychological wellbeing, energy, vitality and immune system. You’re going to eat much healthier and make healthier lifestyle choices once you live in Advanced Human Habitat…because the environment supports Advanced Humans.

Video: Fitch Street Living Wall EcoSystem 6-Month Update

Want people to walk more and ride their bicycles in Toronto, even in the dead of winter? Make more underground walkways and cycling paths and line them with rainforest ecosystems. Just imagine riding your bike to work past an ecosystem like the one above. It’s not as expensive to do walkways and cycle paths as it is road tunnels or subways, and the health and wellness benefits are many.

These underground walkways (like the PATH, downtown) are also much cooler in the summer (the ecosystem will help with that), and it will be that much easier for someone to hop on a bike or trike and ride across town when they are in a refreshing cool transportation artery when it’s 30 degrees Celsius and humid above ground.     

Image: PATH, Toronto 

(There has been talk of expanding the PATH, like this article from 2011 in The Globe and Mail: Toronto mulls plan to expand world's longest underground shopping complex. )

And when you arrive at work or at school? Imagine being greeted with the same refreshing, clean, oxygenating, relaxing, rejuvenating atmosphere as your ecosystem-lined “PATH” was.

Just imagine how incredible that would be.

And how ‘smart.’

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