Fire / Feu

La Forêt Urbaine

S’il n’y a rien de mal, économiquement parlant, avec la coupe à blanc dans les forêts, la même règle peut-elle s’appliquer à la coupe à blanc dans les grandes villes ? Puisqu’il n’y a pas beaucoup d’arbres dans les grandes villes, on peut couper les bâtiments, en utilisant les même principes.

Peabody explique que la plupart des bâtiments sont trop vieux et certains commencent à se désintégrer. Alors, ils devraient être « couper ». On pourrait réutiliser tous les matériaux pour bâtir d’autres bâtiments. Ce plan créerait beaucoup d’emplois, et après 40 années, dans le cas des villes qui continuent à grandir, on pourrait recommencer !

Naturellement, comme quand une forêt est rasée en entier, « couper » les bâtiments a de mauvaises conséquences sur les espèces qui vivent dans les villes. Certaines espèces pourraient vivre ailleurs, mais d’autres seraient anéanties. Pas de problème, « couper » les bâtiments c’est une question économique, ce n’est pas une question écologique !

Contemplating the
Urban Forest

George Peabody
June 1998

i.gif (173 bytes)f, economically speaking, there's nothing wrong with a good clear-cut, why should rural forested areas get all the benefits? Cities, too, deserve the fiscal boosts brought by this form of landscape management.

Not many trees in cities, you say?

True enough.

But just as forests are mostly composed of trees, cities are mostly made up of buildings.

We can apply the same harvesting logic.

mature.gif (3349 bytes)

Most of these urban buildings are clearly mature or over-mature. They have reached their maximum growth. Many are becoming decadent and some already show signs of decay.

It's harvest time in the urban forest. Let's start removing all that building mass and converting it into something useful in today's economy.

Like what?


All those old buildings are ideal sources of rubble for fill. There's a great demand for fill these days.

Plus, with the right equipment, after the buildings have been demolished and crushed to rubble, much other valuable scrap material - metals, plastics, glass, even wood to be chipped for re-manufacture, thus taking some of the pressure off trees - can no doubt be sieved out for sale in our vibrant market economy.

Clearly, a great deal of employment will be generated in this urban equivalent of clear-cutting. Additional jobs can be anticipated in what we might term domiciliculture, as sites are prepared and re-urbanization begins. And the employment will be good stable jobs, no doubt lasting for the 40 years or so before the city again reaches maturity and its buildings are ready for harvest once more.

There may be some ecological objections to this proposal, of course, just as there are to clear-cutting forests.

After all, cities are not only composed of buildings, any more than forests are composed only of trees.

What about all the other creatures for whom urban areas constitute prime habitat?

Well, it could be hard on them.

Some of the more specialized urban species, the ones who have found and exploited their niches there and are ill-adapted to life elsewhere, will undoubtedly suffer. Many will be capable of migration to other urban areas not yet slated for harvest, though competition in these new sites with long-established populations will no doubt be fierce.

The numbers of, say, bureaucrats and bankers, pigeons and cockroaches, hookers and lawyers and currency speculators and other essentially urban species will decline. A few may even become endangered, though the possibility of any actually becoming extinct is surely rather remote.

And if one or two do become locally extirpated, well, that's the way the market economy works. We can't be expected to do an EIA for every clear-cut, rural or urban.

Clear-cutting, after all, is an economic, not an ecological, management technique.


Contemplating the Urban Harvest is taken from George Peabody's forthcoming collection Space Aliens Stole My Wheelbarrow and Other Puns and Proses, now slated for publication in Fall 1998.