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Dolphin City -- Yiyang 2121

The Ecotopia 2121 project looks at the urban futures of 100 cities around the world. This month we forecast the future of Yiyang, China.

Yiyang is a city of five million people on the shores of the great lake of Dongting. Postcards of the city are resplendent with lovely, romantic scenes of this famous lake and its feeder rivers.

Yiyang nowadays

In the mid-twenty-first century, though, it is quite possible that Yiyang will experience environmental chaos. Lake Dongting, the city’s lifeblood, is likely to suffer worst of all, as this projected chronology foretells:

• In 2060, large portions of the lake are filled in with landfill materials and reclaimed. While the city of Yiyang grows, the lake gets smaller.

• In 2061, the lake is deluged with contaminated mud, toxic sludge, burning oil spills, fiery floating garbage, pesticide residue, and fertilizers, meaning that the fish population plummets, decimating the fishing industry and the lake’s biodiversity.

• In 2062, a series of episodic floods wipes out lakeside communities. The tourism industry collapses because the image of Dongting Lake has changed from that of a pristine, watery paradise to an oily, fiery, stinky hell.

• In 2063, plant and animal life seems to have all but disappeared from the lake, and Dongting is pronounced by ecologists to be biologically dead.

Th lake is home to the very rare Dongting dolphin. At the moment, the survival of this charming, smiling dolphin is precarious at best. Some hundred individuals are all that remain in the lake, which once teemed with tens of thousands. In 2064 they are extinct, a warning about the future to the humans in the area.

But by 2121, they are miraculously alive once more...

Yiyang 2121


Somehow—probably from one of Lake Dongting’s feeder rivers—a small population is able to survive the disasters of the mid-twenty-first century and then migrate back to the lake fifty years later. For Yiyang, this is a symbol of their success in creating a 22nd century 'Green Utopia'.

Green Utopia book

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