The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow overcome all the grave environmental challenges our age and grown to become super-Green and super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of Rio de Janeiro.
When the land now settled as Brazil was explored in 1506 by mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci, he characterized the Indian societies living there in utopian terms. Whilst Amerigo was weary of the strange behaviors of some of the natives, Amerigo wrote with admiration of their stateless liberty, communitarian spirit, and freedom from overlords. These descriptions are said to have had an influence on Thomas More’s original Utopia book published a decade later.
Six hundred years later, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro 2121 makes a new attempt at utopia by constructing enormous sea-towers aimed to provide eco-neighborhoods which are ‘future-proofed’ against rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
Each sea-tower can choose to operate either as a self-dependent economy or as a trading economy. In either case, each community is able to independently draw-up their own guiding values. Some sea-towers would likely choose such values like ‘equality’ or ‘self-sufficiency’, or ‘religious commitment’, while others will primarily value a balanced ‘work-life complex’, or cultural diversity, or sexual liberty. It’s assumed that people will like to live in towers with other people who share their values but no sea-tower government would be granted permission to expel those people who do not strictly adhere to these values. If they try to do so, there is still recourse to Brazilian law.
The initial capital cost will be covered by the federal government but after the sea-towers are set up and occupied for a few years, the financial cost of maintaining the infrastructure will be covered by the community itself. No private money will be allowed to be invested or loaned into the community, allowing the community members to live and without a debt-burden and without undue corporate influence. There will, however, be a means-test to insure that all aspiring residents are of a low-income background and anybody who exceeds a certain (community-agreed) limit must forfeit their excess income to the community or move back to the mainland. This will incentivize the community to live in a sharing mode; discouraging poverty and encouraging a community atmosphere and it will also insure that each sea-tower will live within its ecological limits.
(For a Portuguese language review of The Ecotopia 2121 project, try this link at National Geographic Portugal)