In January, the United Arab Emirates unveiled its plans for the future Masdar City, a completely carbon-neutral town. The plan calls for a new kind of city, one that is totally sustainable. The project consists in a total reorganization of urbanism, a rethinking of the interaction between the city dwellers and their environment. In the future Masdar City, the inhabitants won’t use cars and efforts will be put on public transportation (an electric light-rail system will be built to connect the population of the city to the center of Abu Dhabi); the inhabitants will be provided with organic food (cultivated locally); a recycling plan will be organized (taking into account garbage and waste water – a solar-powered desalination plant will be used to make water drinkable and waste will be purified and recycled to grow plants that could be converted as biofuels); and the energy will be generated by solar power (the buildings will be provided in energy by a solar-photovoltaic power plant). Masdar City is supposed to host 50, 000 people and 1, 500 companies which will form a new “Silicon Valley for renewable energy sector” said Khaled Awad, development director for Masdar. People are scheduled to move there by 2009 and the project will be completed around 2015.
Masdar City is not the first initiative of this kind. Somewhat similar projects exist all around the world. The existence and progressive proliferation of “ecovillages” originates from the 1992 Rio Summit, which raised awareness about sustainable development issues and environmental problems. Some organizations, companies and individuals trying to implement the famous Agenda 21, decided to work in collaboration to build “Eco Villages”. The Global Ecovillage Network, born in that period, has never stopped expanding. Mont Radar (Quebec), Vegan Ecovillage (France), Bedzed (England), Auroville (India), Crystal Waters (Australia), The Farm (United States), Findhorn (Scotland), HuehueCoyoti (Mexico), Thlolego (South Africa) are some of those villages which share the same principle: “integrating a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life” by integrating “various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more” (Global Ecovillage Network’s definition of “Ecovillage”).
It is important to keep in mind that these villages are exceptional. They are concrete examples that another way of life is possible, that is more respectful of the environment. Indeed, they have to be considered as inspirational and must guide the other cities in the world toward more eco-friendly destinations, so to speak. It is impossible to “rebuild” every town in the world, and we can’t rely on the existence of few carbon-zero cities to stop global warming. However we can hope that those initiatives will give us and community officials some ideas to rethink urbanism! But, if you are thinking about changing your way of life and (why not!), think about moving to an Eco-Village!