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12 - Architectural Actions: Bicycle Revolution

By 2040 about one third of the world population would struggle due to lack of food and drinking water. At the moment (this text was revised in 2018) it is one fourth. Many will migrate to safer areas, far from coasts or rivers. If Global Warming continues, by 2030 we would face a (minimum) 3 degrees temperature rise, where crops start to fail, and not far from the dangerous 6 degrees massive extinction limit. We are about to enter the second degree rise, and after the expected ice-free Arctic, one more degree will be added. This is happening right now. There are three scenarios. The first one: if the warming continues, migrations in all continents and particularly in some latitudes will be unavoidable due to famine because of crops failure and non-adequate shelter. Mini-migrations started about 2010, where settlements in India, China, Peru, Brazil, exposed to sever floods, forced a considerably number of people to rebuilt their 'homes' a few hundred or kilometres from the affected areas. The second: if warming stops, it will confirm the temperature is regulated mostly by the Sun. I follow this principle. It is strange that the Sun is rarely mentioned in Climate Change researches, particularly in papers from the last three decades: in the previous ones it was mentioned more frequently. It now well known that Climate Change as such was an issue initiated in the UK when Margarett Thatcher was fighting against coal mine unions. Most of the data was originated in a minor university that received funds to do so, the East Anglia University, information later taken by Washington and the UN. To my view, this happened both for commercial convenience and also good genuine reasons. In any case, it is not really relevant, because according to solar cycles experts (there are not many and have no major presence in media) we should be entering what is known as "mini Ice Age" right now, and it does not seem to happen. And finall, the third scenario: if global warming slowly stops but a "global cooling" does not occur, it would mean that Man-made Global Warming is affecting the effect of solar cycles more than we expected. In any case, any of the three are conservative scenarios, not the worst, and they have been anticipated by experts and scientists from NOOA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce), NASA ( National Aeronautics and Space Administration Administration), Max Planck Institute, JMA (Japan Meteorogical Agency) and thousands of researchers in other institutes, in many countries. The worst scenario is called Abrupt Climate Change, which basically means that what should be happening in thousand of years happens in months. What is the relation of this panorama with the use of bikes? If in the early twenty century we did not replace bikes for cars, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be less than half of what it is today. Particularly, if cities mobility and transportation were designed based on bikes and public transport, the pollution in our planet would have been significantly less. One billion cars running every day are deteriorating our fresh air till unimaginable levels. Cars have also destroyed, as we mentioned many times in previous chapters, our habitat both in cities and countryside. Wherever a highway or route is built, ground suffocation (soil cannot breath and dies), instant contamination, violent occupation of the land and subsequent forest destruction of the surroundings comes immediately. I bring here an interesting example.

Disneyland under construction, 1955, aerial photo: photographer unknown, courtesy of www.yesterland.com

The aerial photo above from June 1955 is a peculiar example of how we thought and developed in the 20th and 21st centuries a concept for an ideal urbanisation or futurist city "model"; it is the original and wonderful -why not- Disneyland under construction. An area of 160-acre or 65 ha (about 8 square kilometres) was bought by Walt Disney, who personally supervised the design. This large piece of land used to have a variety of crops and fruit trees; an old forest was chopped down and lead to urbanisation and zoning as follows: 15% for the actual performing space itself, directly offered to the visitors (amusement park with all the attractions, where guests spend the day), 15% for backstage services (training, maintenance, repairs, storage, seasonal depots, emergency technicians), 25% for car parking, 5% for the access highway and internal streets, 30% for surrounding gardens and about 10% for backstage cargo streets.

Disneyland under construction, 1956, aerial photo from South-West, Hotel at the foreground. Kelly, Howard D. courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library.

Out of the total, about 40% is a car urbanisation. This is the same proportion than any city in the Americas. The original Disneyland Hotel, a five two-story guest room complexes, opened on 1955. Over the years, the hotel grew in size. In 1999, the original structures seen here were demolished during the creation of new resort parking areas and Downtown Disney. Above, the aerial view shows Disneyland. At this time, a few of the amusement park's now famous attractions existed. The Disneyland Hotel (foreground) is surrounded by citrus groves. The experimental and nice futurist Monorail from 1959, that for years, in updated versions, is circulating all over the park was a fine piece of engineering. It is a pity that they did not build a "real" one to bring people from the city of Orlando: instead, a huge wave of cars and buses arrive every sinble day -Interstate 5 passes directly behind Disneyland- from US visitors all over the world, since its opening till today. We have to be fair: back in the fifties, Walt Disney and his team was not more aware of habitat and ecology than any contemporary architect or scientist. In fact, Disneyland has only one problem: cars. For the rest, it helped to disperse people from big cities (again, they arrive by cars rather than trains), the proportion and integration of buildings is satisfactory, once there pedestrians feel they can walk freely and quietly, the urban site plan is organicist and quite interesting, and visitors, almost without exception, felt and feel a good balance between small and larger entertainment areas, shows, services, surrounded by gardens and flowers.

Disneyland, Tomorrowland in 1959, the Mark I Monorail. Photo: Fred M. Nelson, Sr., 1959, courtesy of www.yesterland.com

The combination of pedestrian areas and small, light vehicles with aerial trains is interesting because it frees the ground, even if in this case most of the soil has been suffocated with cement -we can imagine a more friendly system that allows soil breathing, at least in part- but when we see the picture below, close to one of the parking lots, it is clear that the king of Disneyland was not Micky Mouse or Donald, but the car. About 30 million visitors reach the resort every year, from which almost 94% arrive in cars.

Disneyland, 1961, Monorail on the parking area. Photo: Charles R. Lympany, c.1961, courtesy of Chris Taylor and www.yesterland.com

In the context of Habitat Change our industrial civilisation must address three main issues: energy, transport and housing, and in that order. We must transform 200 years of delirious fossil-fuel infrastructure and machinery more and more concentrated in large cities, into de-concentrated towns based on solar, wind and gravity power; unefficient, bulky, disruptive and polluting mobility systems (cars, buses, diesel tranes, planes) must be replaced by efficient, light mobility mono-vehicles. Tankers will be banned. A new generation of extremely sophisticated sailing ships will be back. Regarding energy, our Organicist Habitat follows three power generating principles: decentralization, miniaturization and polarization.

Decentralization: in the close future each house and each buidling will have to produce its own energy, low voltage, like a ship or a vehicle. No more mad high voltage lines crossing whole regions and countries loosing up to 55% of generated power in transmition lines, 10% in lifting power stations, and another 10% in each devices transformer that loses large amounts of energy as heat.

Miniaturization: small devices are cheaper, easy to produce, to fix, to clean, to monitor, to replace, to recycle and to transport. What is the purpose of manufacturing, transporting prefabricated walls that weight ten tons each, then place them with large cranes? The future will be smart and light. Except masterpieces and historical buildings prior to 1900, existing modern buildings should be indeed reused, till the point it is cheaper to build a new one. Then we will create light modular constructions. However, unless self-energy and ecological materials are proved, new towers must be banned, and old ones demolished one by one: lifts, water distribution and air conditioning are absolutely anti-ecological, not to mention the psychological effect: antisocial. Miniaturisation also affects artefacts and objects in general. Here, the modern movement (mostly Bauhaus) pointed the right direction.

Polarisation: construction and insulation materials will be pushed till their limit; for example, if we have air chambers in wall panels, we must design and set as many cavities as possible, in different layers, exploring new materials and combinations to improve insulation, thinking of extreme temperatures, hot and cold. In the last five years we have been recording temperatures in summer over 50 degrees in many places, including the Middle East, India, California, Argentina. The anomaly observed in the Arctic is extreme: it has been registered temperatures of more than 15 degrees above average in winter.

About mobility, it is clear that people will have to use bikes, light small green mono-vehicles with no batteries, and trains. For instance, unlike what people believe, the old steam locomotives fed by organic coal where greener than the diesel ones: when we burn wood efficiently we do not add new carbon dioxide to the air, we re-release the one absorbed by those trees, so if we cut one and plant more, we can burn wood. What we must stop doing is burning oil and coal that was buried in the deeps, releasing enormous extra amounts of carbon dioxide that is not supposed to be in the atmosphere. The power of a new generation of locomotives and large power engines should be provided by solar power and wind, and of course those trains will be much lighter and slower. There is no hurry if we want to enjoy the landscape.

In relation with architecture and shelter, a temporary and permanent heat-wind-water-resistant building system will be needed both for humid and dry regions, most of it manufactured in simple assembly lines, pressed in cold. Considering the incoming lack of energy and resources - we will not be able to transport materials in trucks but small lorries- those lines will have a limited production, because each Survival City or group of cities will have or share one factory, mostly for local use, and not composed by extreme robotic automatisation but skilled workers with high expertise in wood, fibers, metals, recycling and carpentry with the necessary tools and abilities to create new tools. It will be imperative to consider that these new sophisticated factories will work with small amounts of electricity. There are many solutions for that, whose details are described in the Organicist Habitat Book.

Go to the next chapter, here.

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Background photo: Dutch Bike Infantry during WWII, courtesy Dutch Army archives.

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