Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Hygiecratization of New York

As global warming accelerates, and more and more of the hydrosphere melts from ice into its liquid and vaporous forms, winter snow packs increasingly disappear well before the beginning of summer. Not only does this result in an increase in droughts and desertification, it also leads to massive flooding.

Beyond drought caused by diminishing snow packs, ancient aquifers (whose volumes accumulated over the course of millennia) are being pumped dry across the globe. Moreover, waterways and other water sources are being polluted at unprecedented rates. Because of these conditions, conservative projections estimate that within the next 13 years half of the planet's population will have severely restricted access to water. Because water is absolutely vital for life, protecting this resource ought to be our most urgent political and economic priority. In spite of this, it is increasingly apparent that the political-economy presently reigning across the globe is neither capable nor very much interested in handling this unfolding situation. What is less clear, but no less the case, is that the capitalistic political-economic system - which in many respects created the present crisis - is by its very design bound to pursue monetary profit over any other goal. As such, even were the capitalist political-economic system capable of handling the present water catastrophe, its operation would still be structurally opposed to the general health of people and the world, for a fundamental conflict of interest exists between health and profit. The hygiecratic political-economy, on the other hand, which sees the health of the people of the world and justice as homologous, subordinates the economy to the requirements of actual health.

Among the engineering and design projects developed to ameliorate some of the consequences of this water crisis are several coming out of hygiecratic discussions that involve rooftop funnels. Covered with photovoltaic paneling and aerodynamically designed to withstand the winds which often accompany rainfall, these large rooftop funnels would be built out of appropriate materials on the tops of most buildings. With their edges extending up to, or beyond, the perimeters of each funnel's respective roof, these funnels would collect rainwater, funneling the water into pipes which in turn would lead to subterranean cisterns. Filled with various filters, these pipes would purify the rainwater before storing it underground. Another set of pipes, leading to rooftop water towers situated inside the funnels, would further filter the water. That is, when the solar powered engine would pump the stored water to the rooftop water tower for distribution, the water would pass through further filters. Of course, the solar energy collected by the photovoltaic paneling would not be limited to pumping water; it could be applied to a variety of uses.

Another design suggestion emerging from discussions concerning the hygiecratization of New York involves the hygiecratization of the city's bridges. For a host of reasons cars are anti-hygiecratic and, as such, ought to be removed from the city. This would open up and quiet the streets, clean the air, and hygiecratize the city in many respects. In addition to walking and utilizing the city's hygiecratized (that is, free and cooperative) public transportation system, bicycles, and open-sided solar-powered street cars could convey people from place to place. Beyond the streets, however, the bridges would also be freed from cars. Consequently, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, the 59th Street Bridge, and the Macombs Dam Bridge, among others, could be transformed into flying parks, and hanging gardens. Because the hygiecratic political-economic system requires that people work no more than ten hours per week (unless voluntarily), people would have plenty of time to enjoy the hygiecratized city's spaces.

Further ideas for hygiecratization involve food production. Since the food needs of the city would likely surpass the production levels of the new agricultural spaces opened up by the hygiecratization of streets (street and lot gardens) and real estate (warehouses and high-rises converted into greenhouses), a new take on the Aztec agricultural method of the chinampa has been proposed.

A chinampa is more or less a small plot of land built on top of a lake and used to grow crops. Often referred to as 'floating gardens,' chinampas do not actually float on the water. Rather, they are more like artificial islands rising from shallow lakes. And though this is highly effective for agricultural uses on bodies of fresh water, difficulties arise when transposing this system onto the East River and the mouth of the Hudson River, which are saltwater. To accommodate this, the following solution has been proposed: Though anchored to obviate their floating away, unlike their Aztec progenitors the hygiecratic chinampas would truly float on the water. The crops would not, though, float directly on the water. Rather, a space would separate the soil in which the crops would grow from the saltwater. Placed between the crops would be various lenses. Magnifying and directing sunlight through the chinampa to the surface of the water, these lenses would heat the surface of the water. The steam produced thereby would rise, moistening the soil in which the crops would grow. Not only would this method open up a great deal of space on the surface of the East and Hudson Rivers for agricultural production by way of hygiecratic chinampas, it would contribute significantly to the hygiecratization of New York City. 

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