Santiago 2121: A Case Study of our Urban Future 100 Years from Now
THE ECOTOPIA 2121 PROJECT DETAILS THE GREEN UTOPIAN FUTURES OF 100 REAL WORLD CITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE -- 100 YEARS FROM NOW. THIS WEEK, WE FEATURE THE FUTURE OF THE SOUTH AMERICAN CITY OF SANTIEGO.
Santiago is a city of five million at the foot of the Chilean Andes. Just outside the city limits is a copper mine. The mine releases a slow trickle of sulfuric acid and arsenic into the outer neighborhoods of Santiago. The residents have kicked up a fuss for years, saying this toxic stuff is getting into their water, their soil, their air. The city government is sympathetic, but the national government says that the factory isn’t even in Santiago, so residents there should stop complaining about it.
For years into the future, the two levels of government are likely to argue back and forth over the issue. The city government requests that the city limits be extended to encompass the mine so they can regulate it. The national government defends the status quo, saying the mine provides employment for Chileans from all around the nation and that the mine company pays its fair share of taxes.
They also tell Santiago’s environmentalists that they should thank the mine for stopping Santiago’s urban sprawl. Because the copper mine is such an economic asset for Chile (a special minister was appointed to handle its affairs), the government and the mine seem tied in lockstep. So the copper mine stays operational, all the while killing nearby forests, poisoning wildlife, polluting streams, and sending a foul stench over suburbs.
One day in 2101, the copper mine finally runs out of copper. It’s only at this time — when all the promises about rehabilitation have to be fulfilled — that the national government finally rezones the mine site to be within Santiago city, telling the city that it’s now their responsibility. Santiago residents are unfazed. They are just thankful the mine has shut down, and over the course of the next twenty years they work to fill in the tailings dam, clean up the toxic residues, and replant the Andes forests with healthy native trees to make it a place worth living.
by Alan Marshall and Nanthawan Kaenkaew
By 2121, a suburban village has been erected for the descendants of those once adversely affected by the mine, and a new railway connects it to the center of the city. The whole thing is judged a success when the first pudú, a beloved native animal usually too timid to descend from the pristine forests of the Andes, is sighted in the village, seemingly at home in the outer suburbs of Santiago 2121.