This is a work of imagination, and should not be taken too seriously. I have tried to image a small urban area 25 years in the future illustrating some of the thoughts I have had about the problems we face and how they can be overcome.
The story starts with me (Tessa) being greeted by James, a landlord from the future.
J: Hello Tessa, and welcome to Flydale South.
T: Thanks, James. It’s fascinating to come to a city of the future (for me although not for you!). It all looks a bit different from your average town in 2021. For example, there is a lot more green.
J: Yes, we are encouraged to grow as much vegetation as possible as it soaks up carbon and helps improve the microclimate. In fact, you need special permission to pave more than a set area of land. Those unable to manage their gardens can use the city gardener service.
T: Do many people do that?
J: Yes, particularly elderly people and those who dislike gardening. A lot of my tenants use it. Most of the gardens run by the city gardeners are used to grow food and most of the trees are fruit trees. The produce goes to the community food shops.
T: The roads look different too somehow?
J: Yes, with climate change came a lot of rainfall and storms. Which meant a lot of flash flooding. Most councils repaved the roads with a permeable surface so the water can drain away easier. We still get some flooding but it’s a lot better than it was before the roads were resurfaced.
Would you like to see some of my properties?
T: I’d love to. Do you own many properties?
J: A few. I own a block of ten houses here and more elsewhere in the city. I inherited most of them from my parents who were landlords too.
They owned quite a few houses in east Norfolk which were lost in the big floods of the 2030s. Much of that area is now under water. The area where my parent’s properties stood is now a wildlife sanctuary. We reinvested in property in Flydale with the compensation we got from the government after the decision was made to allow the land to be taken by the sea.
Here are some of my houses.
T: They have very thick walls don’t they?
J: That’s the external insulation. We were offered the opportunity to improve the insulation of our properties about 20 years ago. They are now very cheap to run, indeed they get most of their energy from the solar tiles on the roof.
T: Are they solar tiles? They don’t look like them!
J: That’s right they are tiles rather than old-style panels, but they are far more efficient than the old solar panels of 20-30 years ago. Those had around 20% efficiency but these new solar tiles are 40% efficient. A vast improvement.
What with rooftop solar and the community wind farm, Flydale is self-sufficient in electricity. In fact, we are a net contributor to the electricity grid. As the Council funded the solar installations (well for my properties anyway) they now get the income from any surplus electricity sold which they use to fund community projects.
Anyway, this property is rented to a young couple, Sally and Simon. He works at the carbon capture unit and she works in the local Vertical Farm.
T: Vertical farm?
J: Yes most of our salad and vegetables are grown locally. Sally’s workplace is built in the old multi-storey car park as it was no longer needed.
T: Don’t people have cars anymore?
J: Some do, but most people tend to walk or use the electric bus or tram service. A lot of people don’t bother having their own car anymore as it’s so easy to rent one, or hire a cheap taxi. Or for short trips, you can use an electric bike or scooter.
T: That must be why the air is so fresh.
J: Yes, the air pollution went along with the petrol-driven cars. Petrol is a banned substance now.
Mind you, today is a good day. There are many days when the air is all too fresh! We get a lot of storms. Quite violent ones sometimes. You need to be careful about leaving things outside, although we usually get a lot of warnings from the Met Office.
T: Do you rent your properties furnished or unfurnished?
J: Well most tenants rent their furniture from the local Furniture and Appliances Rental Company. Us landlords working with the Local Landlords Association can get very good deals for our tenants.
When they move in they select the furniture they want and pay the rental directly to the company. If there are any breakages, the company replace the items. If they want a change or a new look they can swap the furniture out for something else.
Practically everyone rents their kitchen appliances nowadays for example. It’s almost unheard of for anyone to buy them, although people often like to buy their own furniture. But it’s great having the rental service and saves us landlords a lot of hassle. I can remember the problems my parents had with their tenants!
T: The circular economy in action?
J: Yes, waste is frowned upon. With the rental companies, people can have new things, or new to them, but rather than throwing things away everything is recycled and reused. There is also a big repair shop in town, on the site of the old department store. Jim and Jenny my tenants at No 23 here both work there.
T: It’s interesting seeing what jobs people have now. What do the people who live here do?
J: No 25? That’s the Jenson family. David the father works for the same Vertical Farm company as Sally but he is involved in developing new farms in defunct skyscrapers.
T: Defunct skyscrapers?
J: Yes, there were a number built in nearby Zchester in the 2000’s but they became very unpopular after the big storms started. Although the architects insist that they are safe, people don’t feel safe when they are swaying around in the wind. Particularly after that big skyscraper in Shanghai collapsed.
Then if you leave a window open during a storm the wind can cause a massive amount of damage particularly in the higher levels, which insurers will normally refuse to cover.
However, no one wants to demolish the skyscrapers so they are now mostly used for urban farming units. They are very productive actually.
T: What about Mrs Jenson?
J: She’s a teacher. The school is in the next block although a lot of teaching is done online as parents don’t want their kids travelling to school in the storms.
The council are considering developing a tunnel system as they have in some of the big cities but the city engineers are worried about flood risk.
T; You mentioned the Landlords Association?
J: Yes, all landlords must belong to one and they monitor standards as well as providing services for landlords. They are very strict but it keeps out the rogue landlords. For which we are all grateful.
Anyway, come into No 27, I promised the tenant I’d keep an eye on things while he’s away.
T: It doesn’t look that different from homes in the 2020’s. Isn’t that a gas hob? I thought gas would be banned by now!
J: Most gas is, but we still have green gas. They make it from grass.
Some people prefer it to electricity for cooking although it’s more expensive. Most people though use electricity – it’s a lot cheaper and more reliable. And safer! But Ian here fancies himself as a bit of a chef and says gas is better.
T: Where is he now?
J: He’s working on the new carbon capture project. It’s being built in the old Flydale mines complex.
T: But I thought you already had a carbon capture plant. Why do you need another?
J; We urgently need to remove carbon from the air. You lot, you dilly-dallied such a lot in getting going. We are really suffering for it.
We have the most ghastly storms, you can’t imagine, people often get killed if they are trapped outside. Particularly children. Many people are terrified of travelling and getting trapped away from home. It has affected everything.
Life today is liveable but it’s much more dangerous than your world. We have done a lot – we have a lot of community projects for example, but the seas are still rising. Flydale will still be here in 100 years time but many other places won’t.
Go back to 2021 and tell your people to get on with things.
T: I’ll do that James. And thank you so much for showing me around.
J: It’s been my pleasure.
Some of the sites that inspired this article:
- Ellen McArthur Foundation for the circular economy
- 39 Ways to Save the Planet and Oxford PV on more efficient solar panels.
- 39 Ways to Save the Planet – swiss air and Climeworks.
- Ecotricity green gas.
- Flood map from NASA.
The format of a discussion with someone from another time was inspired by Arther C Clarke’s City and the Stars and Jeserac’s conversation with Yarlan Zey in chapter 25.
Let me have your feedback on my vision in the comments section!