The City as "Closed Loop"

Dickson Despommier says that the goal of cities today should be to be a "closed loop" ecosystem, where everything that is needed to support the city - energy, food, etc. - is contained within its borders.

Despommier looks to the natural world as a model for urban growth management:

"I would encourage all city planners and developers to take a long, hard look into the ways in which ecosystems behave. It is the model for how we should be handling things like water management, energy utilization, and the recycling of waste into usable resources. In an ecosystem, assemblages of plants and animals are linked together by a common thread: the sharing of nutrients, the transfer of energy from sunlight to plants and then to animals, and the recycling of all the elements needed to ensure the survival of the next generation of those living within the boundaries of that geographically defined area."

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This guy isn't serious, is he?

Cities should not rely on nearby farmland, but instead build inefficient vertical farms?

wrong lines on the map

This is a classic case of failing to think regionally. Cities have always relied on their hinterlands for food production, and the symbiotic relationship between the fertile countryside and the urban center does resemble an ecosystem in some ways. Yet this author wants to draw the geographical lines of the closed loop system so tightly that ag production must go vertical, and therefor must become disassociated from land. This is too radically unrealistic, and will likely backfire - however well-intentioned the goal of "urban farming" may be.

Presenting the alternative of a global food system as a food system literally contained within city limits is a false choice. There can be regional food systems.

Vertical farming, EROEI, and comedy.

You can track the phone calls that Despommier makes that get him face time with a reporter. Every few months he gets play.

Nonetheless, the amount of ink spilled on his ideas does not go toward understanding of EROEI and the fact that the technology to make this idea actually work is many decades away, if it comes at all. What technology is this? The technology to make energy much more dense and much cheaper than fossil fuel. Or maybe the technology to get 100% sunshine to each plant in a skyscraper without frying them.

It is an interesting thought experiment, but is it doable? Operational in any meaningful way on any meaningful time scale?

Srsly? Frreals?



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