Friday, January 15, 2010
FROZEN CITIES, LIQUID NETWORKS
Pour faire le lien avec trois de mes récents post sur les ports (là), les conditions de circulation dans les grands froids (là) et l'urbanisme dans les régions désertiques (là), je voulais vous signaler le lancement par l'University of Waterloo (Ontario) et Infra Net Lab du programme Frozen Cities Liquid Networks. C'est le début de ce qui devrait être une très stimulante - et relativement nouvelle - réflexion prospective sur l'évolution du trafic maritime dans les décennies à venir et surtout les conséquences possibles et imaginables que celle-ci pourrait avoir sur une région comme le grand nord canadien. Voilà les cadre de la réflexion. "Arctic Urbanism and Infrastructure 18,500 Canadians live above the Arctic Circle in approximately 24 settlements. In the longer term, as the effects of global warming take on their full impact, scientists predict that northern countries and regions will see the greatest migration patterns. Indeed already today Iqaluit is the fastest growing city in the country. The Canadian North has also seen a rapid increase in ambient technologies monitoring weather, ice, shipping, and ﬁ shing conditions, among others. As Canada’s arctic ports and settlements become part of a global network of resource ﬂows, they are set to expand, altering the infrastructure, settlements, and landscape around them. There is a unique opportunity to question how to develop in such climatic and cultural conditions. While considerable transformations inevitable, what is the future of urbanism, infrastructure, ecologies, and resources in this evolving unique cultural geography ?" "Port as Node Key to the North’s development will be mobility infrastructure – roads, airports, freight access and most signiﬁ cantly the presence of deep sea ports. Most cities in history owe their development to their strategic geographic location and the development of mobility infrastructure. Cities such as Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Genoa, Shanghai, Boston, ﬂourished as their ports allowed them to become critical nodes along transport networks, and provided a distribution system for goods produced in their hinterland. In this sense, ports have always acted as gateways for the transmission of people, resources and culture. Shipping container ports proliferated around the world after World War II, in an acknowledgement that standardization and efﬁcient logistics would keep shipping competitive in the cargo transport industry. Standardized containers that emerged during the 1970s, coupled with nascent free-trade agreements made shipping both practical and lucrative. Presently armed with homogeneous containers, massive container ships, portainer cranes and digital tracking, shipping ports have evolved into logisticallandscapes that operate at both a global and local scale. These ports mark the unique transition between network and node; between urban and periphery; between sea and land; between formalized law and informal process, and between production and consumption. While seemingly invisible due to their liminal siting, these ports have grown into vast landscapes linked to transport hubs and storage warehouses. Fueled by an advanced age of capitalism, these shipping ports have become efﬁcient urban machines – processing goods and information with great precision and scale. At the same time, recent global shifts in the world economy have resulted in lower trafﬁ c and use of shipping ports, articulating a deeper crisis within port design – their sheer dependence and vulnerability to economic cycles. Perhaps driven by the capitalist dream of ever increasing supply and demand, it is the utter mono-programmatic nature of these ports that has rendered them susceptible to an instable world economy. Beyond programmatic homogeneity, megaports are consuming increasing amounts of land and altering ecologies. The unique case of the Canadian north allows one to question the very idea, typology and functioning of ports. Because the NW passage would only be open for part of the year, this new port should question how the ports could be coupled with other programs to remain economically and socially productive throughout all seasons." Sur ce sujet de l'exploitation du Grand Nord et de l'océan Arctique voir, "Groenland ; new race to the petroleum" et les actes de la conférences Arctic Frontiers, mais aussi la sombre fiction "Nanisivik, Baffin Island" d'Alan Weisman, dont je vous propose plusieurs extraits ci-dessous. L'action se déroule sur l'île de Baffin aux alentours de 2020 et alors que le passage du Nord-Ouest est largement exploité. "The Inuit who lived on barren Baffin Island, at the eastern end of the Passage, wondered if they were about to get rich. To service the new shipping corridor, the Canadian government announced plans for a deep-water port on Baffin at Nanisivik, a former lead-zinc mine above the Arctic Circle. To the 12,000 residents of this, the fifth largest island on earth—more than twice the size of Great Britain—that news was urgently welcome, because their livelihoods were melting right along with the ice." "Talk swirled of fueling facilities, a duty-free zone, international banking centers, hotels, restaurants, and a population surge to fill new jobs, which would mean a real-estate bonanza on a hitherto barely populated island best known for long polar nights. Canada’s first mistake, however, was to count on charging transit fees like those the Panama and Suez Canals collect, worth up to $4 billion per year." " Second mistake: officials in Ottawa failed to grasp how fast the Arctic was changing. True, the unprecedented spreading boreal forest of spruce, larch, and fir on a formerly treeless island enhanced Baffin’s scenery. But that was merely a harbinger of unpredictable climate chaos. Roads atop thawing permafrost crumpled in mid-construction. Despite expensive, insulated pavement liners to keep permafrost frozen, within a few years streets would sink anyway and need replacing. Sewer and water lines regularly snapped." A méditer, en sachant que l'on comptait en 2009 déjà 2750 sites pollués en Arctique (la carte là). Sur ce sujet du Grand Nord voir aussi, The Arctic, the final frontier.