Growing up in the digital world, children especially teenagers are privy to all sorts of information. Climate Change has been a much talked about subject. Discussions based on this matter take different dimensions, sometimes even presenting a bleak picture for the future. Being aware of what has caused climate change is important. What is equally important is the need to show them how the future is likely to look like if all possible efforts are taken. To reemphasize the fact that humankind has overcome several obstacles that we cannot even imagine in the modern world and that we are a species that are known to survive against several odds. There is always hope.
Blueprint of the city built by the young executives on an imaginary island with a volcano.
Learning to become active contributors in a classroom discussion rather than being only on the receiving end
Building a city from the scratch ensuring that there is adequate tree cover, proximity to all important places, ensuring high quality of living and more importantly making sure that the energy requirements are met purely by renewable sources of energy is extremely challenging. The members of the Young Executives Club had a first hand experience of the same. Over the last few months, the young executives (predominantly teenagers, 13-14 years old) have relied on their school lessons on renewable sources of energy and have opened up to new information in the context of urban planning and climate change. They decided to call their city Zemora Tourista.
This activity was designed to give the young executives the freedom to explore possible solutions for various constraints imposed in the context of urban planning. The young executives sometimes came up with ideas of their own and at other times, did research to find information about how available technologies could be put to use in a variety of ways. Here is a synopsis.
a) Solar Energy and Urban Farming Combined Using Solar Petals:
We have heard of solar panels and often see pictures of solar panels on rooftops and in some places even on open lands for generating high amounts of solar energy. On Zemora Tourista, the underlying rule was retaining as much tree cover as possible. Creating open spaces for solar energy was not exactly an option. Also, there was a need to introduce urban farming as we do not have villages in the vicinity to cater to an entire city’s food requirements. After much research the solution that was arrived at was to have solar petals- solar panels designed like giant flowers that ensured enough sunlight was available for the plants around the solar petal to grow and managed to generate a lot more solar energy than the typical solar panels that are commonly visible. Urban farms would be a combination of vertical farms and farming on small pastures using advanced technologies to boost yields.
b) Meeting energy requirements without coal:
A city without coal always leads to an underlying worry that we may run out of power and hence the need for several backups. Relying on solar energy completely clearly seemed like a less feasible option. That thought led to questions such as what is the climate on Zemora Tourista? Tropical? Then we are likely to have a good amount of sunlight through out the year but being an island with rich tree cover would also mean good rainfall and cloudy days. As backup, arrangements to generate energy from various renewable sources energy such as wind, tidal, hydro and geothermal power were made. An grid to manage the various sources of energy was also inserted into the plans.
While energy requirements of standalone buildings- homes, schools, offices etc, were easy to meet once we decided upon which renewable sources of energy serve best, transport was an entirely different matter. Electric cars and buses seemed like an obvious option. Constraints such as the following were imposed on the use of electric cars.
cars cause more congestion
electric cars run on lithium battery. Lithium mining requires a lot of water.
Given the constraints, it was decided that there will be plenty of cycles, fit with Copenhagen wheels for ease of cycling, bus and tram connections, plenty of walking paths and a few taxis at disposal for the elderly and the disabled. The buses would run on hydrogen capsules and solar power. Interestingly, the group voted against metro trains.
d) Designing homes, offices, etc. ensuring ease of movement in least amount of time
The Young Executives drew inspiration from the Apple Circle (Apple’s office in California) and decided to build apartment complexes in circular shapes. They discovered that circular shapes offer more space and at the same make it easier to arrange next to one another, giving ample space for tree cover and walking/cycling/other recreational activities. The picture below is the blue print for the residential apartments.
One half of the circle that is shown empty on the right, is where the homes would be and the other half showing green dots would be trees. Around this structure would be urban farms with the solar petals . The solar petals are depicted in blue in the picture.
Residential buildings blueprint
Office/commercial buildings blueprint
While the residential buildings chose to have one half of the circle for tree cover, the group chose to mimic the Apple office building structure and have the tree cover inside of the circle. Similar to the residential building area, the commercial space is also surrounded by urban farms with solar petals.
In both images, the brown lines indicate walking/cycling paths and the yellow lines indicate bus routes. The residential and commercial spaces are connected by walking/cycling paths, tram and bus routes.
Detailed evacuation procedures were discussed. They anticipated problems and tried to come up with possible solutions.
f) Forest Conservation:
In the spirit of preserving forests and allowing wild life to thrive without interfering with the human settlement, the group chose to add a double fence around the forest area. To ward off miscreants, it was decided to have an electrical outer fence and to keep the animals away from the electric fence, an ordinary fence was added in the inner circle. In addition, stringent laws were framed to prevent deforestation unless absolutely required.
g) Managing Water Supply
Adequate provisions for rainwater harvesting were included in the plans. After much discussion about the pros and cons, it was decided to build a dam to store water in heavy rainfall periods. Special arrangements to deliver clean drinking water was also added.
h) Ensuring proper disposal of garbage and efficient sewage systems
Ideas from every day life came into play as we discussed this section. Segregation plans, bio composting, recycling facilities etc were included in the plans. The recent havoc caused in the apartment building (where most of the teenagers in this group live) on account of water contamination was highlighted and measures to prevent the same were briefly discussed.
i) Laws of the land:
For peaceful living of any community, certain laws need to be in place. The Young Executives swung into action to create a mini constitution for the land.
The activity came to a close with an attempt to have a T.V show with different members playing the role of the lead anchors, journalists and representatives of the young executives club. This stage involved listing questions, preparing to answer those questions as well as writing introductory speeches. In addition it was an attempt to introduce the members to a real life setting group discussion, just like a T.V program in the news bringing forth a new achievement.
At Talking Circles, we have two programs - The Young Readers Club and The Young Executives Club. The above article is based on an activity that the members of the Young Executives Club (12-14 years) worked on for several months put together. If you would like to be informed more about our activity based sessions for reading, speaking and writing skills, please click the button below.