As a Druid, I thought it appropriate to begin with an old story, as it is currently understood. It may provide a point of reference.
Approximately 359 MYA a new group of species came to dominate the land–the first conifers. By using the newly manifested binder lignin, these true trees could take advantage of more sunlight than simple, ground-hugging plants. The proliferation of forests would have several consequences. First, the most obvious waste product, oxygen, had no adequate negative feedback mechanism. The unchecked oxygen levels rose to unprecedented and catastrophic levels-estimated to have reached or exceeded 35%, versus the present day level of 21%.
This oxygen level led to several major changes in the environment in the Carboniferous era. Land-dwelling arthropods were not as restricted in body size, and responded by evolving and growing to unprecedented sizes. Giant dragonflies and millipedes exceeding eight feet in length were the most obvious response, at least from our distant perspective. A single lightning strike, could and did ignite spectacular forest fires, turning trees filled with explosive sap and wood into Roman candles.
The second waste product was due to the lignin. Lignin could not be consumed by any extant living organism. The trees that died simply fell over in place and stayed there. Those buried by sediment and time turned into anthracite coal, the fuel for the Industrial Revolution that is nearly exhausted now.
Modern humankind has reached an environmental turning point-we consume far more energy than can be sustained or safely produced. Our choice of technological and economic models have created a society that has chosen to ignore the viability of any structural foundation for a society, including that most modern of human accomplishments, the city. We as a species are not entirely certain why the first cities were built, nor how they functioned. What is certain is that their existence led to a host of consequences that seem desirable. Cities can serve as repositories for knowledge, as markets for the flow of goods, services, ideas and tangible expressions of ideas, including the Arts.
From all I can determine, a truly Just City does not exist as yet. If I were to suggest a model, it would be a modern version of Classical Alexandria, located then and now in Egypt.
Per Strabo “The city has magnificent public precincts and royal palaces which cover a fourth or even a third of the entire area. For just as each of the kings would, from a love of splendor, add some ornament to the public monuments, so he would provide himself at his own expense with a residence in addition to those already standing.’
These canny decisions ensured one third to one quarter of the city would consist of public squares, temples, libraries, administrative buildings or supply government jobs. Almost certainly this helped ensure the justified reputation of the city as a safe place of learning, commerce and the arts.
Its failing was in not grasping that external violence and dissent would one day visit it, bringing an end to the greatest library and collection of scholars in the Mediterranean world. Had it been a more Just City, its leaders would have grasped that its stability depended on the existence of other Just Cities whose emotional and intellectual demeanor neither promoted nor encouraged violence. A Just City is sustainable, humane, diverse, and recognizes the limits that geography and travel impose on its visitors, guests and citizens. It is less afraid of the rain and earthquakes by grasping their consequences and building accordingly. It understands that the safety of its favored elite depend on the physical and emotional comfort of all of its inhabitants, and works for equitable and meaningful support for its inhabitants. Understanding that education and society are linked, it provides education and cultural opportunities to all of its inhabitants and visitors, and exports its understanding of its own successes and failures to sister cities, towns and villages as requested.
I live in Bremerton, Washington, a city of approximately 47,0000 residents, located on the Western Shore of the Puget Sound, more or less directly West of Seattle, Washington.
I have lived in Bremerton since 2002. My work to make this a more just city has been energized by the separatist, near sighted personal, small group and national politics that have begun manifesting in the past year or so. I am involved in environmental and equality movements at the County and City level. To the degree it is possible, I buy locally sourced groceries and other products.
~Gordon S. Cooper is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. His formal education includes a Bachelors Degree from Regents University of New York (Now Excelsior College) with a dual major in Turkish and Anthropology and a minor in Natural Sciences. He has worked as a Signal and Electronic Intelligence Analyst while in the US Navy. As a civilian he has held jobs as an office manager, database designer, Telecommunications Device For the Deaf Relay Operator and Financial Services Specialist at DSHS in Washington State. His avocational passions include historical research, Victorian Photographic Processes and finding stuff of interest for his friends. He has six raised garden beds in his back yard, and four ducks with their water pond for his front yard.
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Categories: What Makes a Compassionate City?