No amount of wind turbines, green lungs and good intentions can offset the carbon foot print of constructing a “zero-carbon city” – unless you build a solar photovoltaic power plant as a central energy source first, says Gwynn Jenkins.
With the current buzz words “zero carbon city” being touted in our daily papers, I thought it would be worth while to take a closer look at just exactly what it means.
According to the ‘irrefutable’ wikipedia – carbon neutrality is the practice of balancing the way we create electrical energy – burning carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels- with renewable energy sources for example, wind, wave or solar renewable power. It can also refer to 100% use of renewable power. However, in controversial contrast it also refers to the off-setting of carbon ‘guilt’, in simplistic terms this means even if you use the most polluting energy source all you need to do to neutralize is plant lots of trees.
Zero carbon or Karbon 0 developments are now critical to help our long-suffering planet allow its parasitic humans to live here a little longer and in reasonable comfort. The increasing practice of using fossil free energy sources, therefore, is to be highly commended.
It seems that Penang isn’t the only place planning towards a zero carbon echo tech city. Foster + Partners, under the Masdar Initiative is planning a sustainable – zero carbon, waste free and more importantly car free urban environment. Designed in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate the shaded walkways, narrow streets, and pedestrian friendly car free environment, is rooted in the planning principals of a traditional walled city.
The artists impressions of the two ideals couldn’t be more different for in contrast to PGCC’s rumoured 37 ‘Karbon 0’ towers and “living, breathing, organic masterpiece”, Foster’s city in Abu Dhabi, albeit almost six times the size, looks some what flatter to the point where it has been compared to a micro-chip.
Another buzz phrase – carbon footprint, throws all of these ideals and ideas under a different light. Carbon footprint is the total amount of CO2 and other green house gasses emitted over the life span of a product, event, individual or organisation.
Thus, we should take a-leaf-out-of-an-old-book and take reference from our own traditional environment of shaded five-foot-ways, narrow streets and at-one-time pedestrian friendly historic city. George Town’s pre-war, pre-electric and pre-international-architects building stock, is a carbon neutral example where by the terracotta tiles dried in the sun, the timber cleared and used for building was cut by hand, the labour that arrived on the island came by sail, and has had a life span of almost 200 years and counting.
Even with the carbon emissions caused by burning shells for lime and the fires used in the brick kilns – its carbon foot print is negligible in comparison to 37++ towers with a life-span of, lets say, 100 years and more importantly which involve such energy hungry industries such as required for the manufacture of steel used in their construction.
No amount of wind turbines, green lungs and good intentions etc can offset the carbon foot print of constructing a Karbon 0 city, unless – like Foster + partners, you build your solar photovoltaic power plant, as a central energy source first.
Dr Gwynn Jenkins is a consultant in architectural, social and cultural anthropology.
Stay connected, current and committed to
justice. We deliver the truth right to your doorstep every month for
only RM30 a year — which is far less than your newspaper bill each
month. All you have to do is click here.
Justice was never won without personal sacrifice – whether measured in
time volunteered, energy devoted to a cause, or financial support
generously given. We need your support in our struggle for justice.
Your contribution no matter how small will be like a droplet that
builds up into a wave of change. Click here if you would like to contribute financially.