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  • Writer's pictureHassan Ragab

"Please drop me on Uranus" " زحل معاك ياسطي"

Humans have this cruel tendency to learn from the past without gaining actual wisdom. For a species desperate to "know" since the development of the obscure element we call consciousness, humans have always tended to focus on what they can comprehend; that is, a direct effect for a direct cause. Wisdom, on the other hand, has less to do with the direct effect; it's rather about making connections between multiple causes and multiple effects, from which a pattern usually emerges. The issue with such a pattern is that, although it might be quite obvious, the details of its inspection remain hidden in a realm beyond "knowledge" (well, at least one that a selfish human can afford. It's hard for a species that wants everything right now to take a moment and think through the consequences of its own actions).
Throughout most of human history, it was unimaginable for a person to consider traveling as routine. Being able to cross from the East to the West Coast in a day or less was only made possible by urbanization before the invention of the airplane.
It's important to understand that urban development is an exclusively human endeavor. Even if it includes natural preservation or consideration, it will be exclusively to serve the human species. With every road built, we divide natural territories and jeopardize wildlife among other impacts (I'm not a scientist, so don't count on me for resources, goddamn it). Yet, the fact remains, for better or for worse, that urban life is ultimately to serve humans and humans only. Yes, there are examples of managing areas to preserve wildlife, but you won't see a tiger or an ostrich walking down Hollywood Boulevard.

As a species, we now know better about the impacts of our expansions and each having our own means of transport. This freedom that we might have not meant to naturally have comes at a heavy price for our planet. While transportation was a great enabling foundation for basically all our knowledge, it's far from being sustainable. And while our planet survived millions of years without it, one can only wonder how short-lived this lifestyle would be if this trend of ignorance continues.
Which brings us to the question of how we envision the future. It's no secret that we, humanity, are not going to stop expanding wherever our feet can be placed. And with some wisdom, one can see a pattern of doing so at the expense of, well, everything else. The continuous divorce of human/humanity from what surrounds us is not expected to change soon. If we want a better future (better is just a flexible word, probably non-existent, as ultimately, good or bad are abstract terms describing a certain appetite for "morality" often sculpted by a certain context; if anything, nature is careless about such human-centric terms (I say this with deep respect to these obscure terms as they are actually what make us human)), then we probably need to face the present, probably project it onto the future, to test/visualize a radical scenario that is bound to happen in a less radical way.

I once heard a capital A architect (don't remember which) say that to be an architect, you have to be optimistic. And I couldn't disagree more. Optimism is often associated/mistaken with a lack of consideration for the bigger picture at worst, and at best, an absolute divorce from the broader reality. As urban planners and architects, we build for human beings within an environmental context, which is probably an impossible formula to balance (literally). So, the least we can do is take responsibility for our own creations, facing the uncertain future with the certain present and how our creations are shaping us/the environment in the least sustainable of ways (often under the label of sustainability).
This artwork is a way to reflect on the cost of human expansion. In no way is this an accurate depiction of the future; it's an abstract one that reflects the present onto tomorrow's urban planners. And just as one day no one from the Native Americans could have imagined the traffic nightmare during rush hour on the I-405, one could never predict what will happen when you, the future reader, are en route to visit your cousins on Mars.

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