The phrase, climate change, pushes many buttons.
Fear is the most common. To be sure, the science on climate change gives us a lot to fear: sea level rise, exceptional storms, extinction of species, and troubling questions about the future of humankind. It does not help that there is no certainty on timeline. Depending on whom you ask, we have a narrowing window for action or it may already be too late. That sense of foreboding is amplified by what appears to be inaction by those in charge. In this issue, you will read the response of three cities: Bangkok, Dhaka and Singapore. And while the magnitude of the problem varies in each, the challenges, especially in Bangkok and Dhaka, are clearly more than just technical. Climate is partly a social question: how cities are planned, depending on who is at risk.
Hope is another emotion that we latch onto. We embrace hope that is implicit in new landscapes we see, where the green and blue of nature mask the grey and black of cities, where there seems to be a newfound balance between humans and the natural world. Turn to BIG’s plans for the Manhattan waterfront or SHAU Architects’ master plan for Jakarta Jaya. These will uplift, for sure. BIG and SHAU are eco-modernists of our time: designers who bring together form and technology in new ways in the service of ecology. In the camp of hope, there are also the humanists who advocate a ground-up approach. Check out the floating school in Bangladesh. The focus, they say, must be on poverty, education or jobs—the rest will fall in place.
It has not been easy walking the line between fear and hope. The pages ahead may come across as ambivalent at times, alternating bad news with good. All we can say in defense is that we need a strong dose of both, if only to keep complacency at bay.