Note: An edited version of this letter was publishing in the

April 2006 issue of Harper's

To: Harper's Magazine

Letter to the Editor:

I found Mara Hvistendahl's article Green Dawn [Feb 2006] exciting especially since I lived for a year and a half at Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri's model arcology or ecocity in the Arizona desert. The article alluded to Arcosanti when she wrote about how difficult it as been to get people to live in ecocities in the Western world.

The problem with Arcosanti is not that people don't want to live in an ecocity. It is that the management structure at Arcosanti is authoritarian. Authoritarianism might work in places like China where citizens have grown up without social freedoms, but it will not work in America where freedom is a requirement for being a responsible citizen. Freedom of speech is necessary for a project like Arcosanti to succeed so that the residents have a forum to criticize the project when it fails to fulfill the people's needs. But as history has proved over and over again, authoritarian governments fear such criticism even when it is comes from people who love and care deeply for the project's realization.

The challenge of building an ecocity in America is to find the proper balance between the creative minority who plan and direct the building projects and the people's input and needs. Even though Arcosanti says it is an urban laboratory in terms of architecture, its founders insist it is not a laboratory in terms of social design. If this crisis can be overcome, I have no doubt that Arcosanti could become the home of 5,000 pioneers who long to live free of automobiles, fuel fuels and the wars they cause, and nuclear power and the mega-toxic waste that we don't know what to do with. These adventurous spirits want to live in a design with nature that is experimenting with the power of the sun and new forms of collective organization. They long to live in a sustaining container where a 21 st century blueprint of democratic values can evolve.

China is far ahead of the West in developing ecocities. If a democratic ecocity model is not triumphant, then the Chinese authoritarian model will certainly defeat the dinosaur cities of the polluted American landscape. Whether the majority of Americans are aware of it or not, race to build ecocities is on!



Human Extinction or Lovolution?