The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow become super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of Katun City in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia.
The Altai are the peoples surrounding the Altai Mountains; a high range that marks the border between Russia, Mongolia and China. They’ve inhabited this area for over one-thousand years since their ancestors moved from the other areas in Western Asia. Today, in the early 21st century, there are three cities with the name Altai located within three provinces of the same name; one in Russia, one in Mongolia and one in China.
In each separate Altai province, the Altai people have been pressured, regulated, assimilated, and outnumbered by the dominant Russians, Mongolians and Han Chinese. Altai ethnic nationalism in turn has been suppressed in a number of ways:
a) by denying they have a common heritage,
b) by dividing them from each other, and
c) by disallowing their Burkhanist religion.
The Altai have also suffered from environmental injustices, their homelands being pitted with mines and dirty factories. Maybe, in the coming century, they will keep dealing with this as best they can. Or maybe, as they detect domestic discord that weakens Russian, Mongolian or Chinese management of the area, they will band together to mark out an independent territory.
In this scenario, Altai people organize to push into the mountains near the border between the three countries. Here they begin to build a new city, calling it Katun, named for one of their sacred glaciers in the Altai mountains. (Katun City isn’t actually anywhere near Katun glacier but that works to confuse policing agents as to the city’s whereabouts).
The city is so deep in impenetrable mountains, and so shrouded in snow and an ever-present mist, it’s invisible from the air and inaccessible by vehicle. If any one of the three nations send in an anti-Katun brigade, the Altai know they can walk a few hundred yards to escape over the border to the next nation. They also know it’s extremely unlikely that all Russia, Mongolia and China could cooperate to advance on Katun at the same time.
The Altai mountains may seem like a far too challenging a place to found a new city but it is one of the few areas of the world acknowledged as being unaffected by climate change. Whilst the Russian and Mongolian grasslands shrivel for lack of water, and China’s super-monsoons occasionally flood the land with too much water, the Altai peoples will live peacefully in a predictable natural environment.