The Materials Book

169 Paradigm Shift: The City of 1,000 Tanks, Chennai Eva Pfannes “The Great Mother created the world in water. She makes the future in it. This is how she speaks to us.” The Kogi people, Colombia Imagine Earth without political boundaries. Imagine nature and humanity working in close collaboration. Imagine the planet’s natural systems becoming the guiding structure for overlapping and interrelated political organization. One way to consider this vision is through the lens of water, an element that flows in an interconnected cycle: as water falls on Earth, cities, buildings, and people, it crosses boundaries and affects everything from crop yields to ground stability. Water is a vital resource for all life, yet it is also associated with many of the greatest threats to humanity, from melting ice caps to toxic rivers. A holistic approach to water management can be an emblem for a culture of sustainability. The way we live at the moment is an entirely different scenario. Cities have been designated places of consumption rather than part of the world ecology, even though they are dependent on natural processes. Because we (especially in the Global North) have sought protection from nature through architecture, we have become estranged from nature. The false dialectic of nature and society has allowed humans to extract water and materials from Earth for their own short-term benefit and immediate financial gain—a linear habit that does not consider “externalities” or waste. If nature is a factory, continually producing everything from rich alluvial soils to oxygen and clean water, then our