The Asian metropolis has grown disconnected from Nature.
Biodiversity habitats that were once embedded within cities have shrunk or disappeared altogether. Ecosystem services that we relied on are impaired or lost. The cumulative impact of these changes has been devastating.
For instance, many rivers that once provided fresh water to urban populations now function as sewers. Not only do they fail to support aquatic life, they are also an outright health risk to humans. Forests that were rich in flora and fauna have been encroached or cut down, often by the very people who depend on them for everyday needs. Lakes that were part of urban water catchments have been filled and turned into profit-making real estate.
The loss of ecosystem services is the cause of many environmental risks – floods, pollution, diseases and diminished well-being. The cities that deal with these are also less able to cope with the effects of climate change. Despite knowing this, and how its impacts affect millions across Asia, we do little to change course or avert further losses.
FuturArc Prize 2020 asks how an Asian city might restore a human-nature balance.
In most cities, change must be strategic. We must alter the urban fabric with precision and inventiveness, introducing elements and networks that work with what already exists. Within a dense landscape of buildings, roads and engineered infrastructure, we must somehow create room for new kinds of networks, which can be home to other species, and which restore natural flows and cycles.
This year, we ask what co-existence and partnership with Nature looks like. How do we introduce new natural systems or restore degraded ones? How are the needs of Nature balanced against human ones? What does it mean to construct Nature? Can we engineer ecology? Can human actions have a restorative and regenerative impact on natural systems?