Sometime in the future, we could use technology to create a self-sustaining city on Mars. Today, the real-life urban world is a much more complex, and fickle, place. Slums, high rises, massive structures and minor wars destroy each other in an endless dance of urban collapse. A plague of infectious diseases could cause calamity for both humans and humanity as a whole. The survival of our planet and, more important, the survival of humankind, might rely on just how we react.
Modern cities contain characteristics that increase the likelihood of them being attacked, both by nature or man. The accelerating pace of development raises the pressure of urban expansion, increasing human vulnerability to earthquakes, floods and landslides, not to mention the threat of terrorism. Each year, cities suffer from some disease–related epidemic: cholera, black fever, diphtheria, yellow fever, the plague, mumps, malaria, influenza, the flu and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As a result, cities are prime targets for the bacterium that causes modern diseases: Dengue, West Nile, Ebola, Zika, influenza and others are all global superpowers.
In response to infectious disease and global conflicts, architects and urban planners are moving to create cities that are resilient, airtight and sheltered against pathogens. It is especially challenging to design city skylines in high-risk regions, such as the third ring around Jerusalem. Settlements in such regions are outfitted with an array of measures to limit the effects of flying insects, diseased rodents and natural calamities. The eruptions of Mount Saint Helens, Krakatoa and Chernobyl gave us a host of urban hazards, and combined with massive construction of high-rise city-satellites, the health risks could lead to huge costs and rebuilding projects for years to come. It’s a range of choices, and architects and urban planners now are deliberating over solutions to the complex problems of safeguarding a city.
The stakes are high, and the ideas behind their solutions will shape our cities for the next 10, 20 and 30 years.
Where should humanity draw the line?