By Stephen Brammer

I came across this interesting article in the Bahrain newspaper Gulf Daily News this morning.

They make this great point which is particularly relevant in Gulf Countries.

” Who will work in the restaurants, shops and hotels in cities like Masdar? Will those workers be able to afford a solar-powered studio flat within walking distance of their workplace? Or will there be the charade of busloads of poor Asian and African workers being ferried furtively into and out of the carbon neutral citadel each morning and night back to their remote, overcrowded living quarters that are anything but sustainable. Will these workers be allowed to work eight hours a day instead of the usual 12-14? Will they be allowed two days off a week instead working seven days week after week, as is the norm across Gulf countries? The future of our societies is not just merely a technical matter of finding more eco-friendly energy solutions. It is about the very sustainability of humanity.”

There is some analogy between this and climate change …. do we subsidise housing for the poor so that they can partake in the eco-city revolution? Or will cities like Masdar be circled by ghettos and slums?

I wonder if there may even be something akin to eco-apartheid in the future where eco-cities have a two caste social structure; those who can afford live and work to the cities charter and those who can’t that are “bused” in daily as low cost labour.

I have little doubt this will happen given the recent experience in Western Australian mining towns where given a finite number of people in the local community and ‘zero’ unemployment rate locals choose employment based on its social appeal leaving fast food restaurants without staff regardless of the pay. It became essential to import workers just to fill these jobs.

We are better off trying to raise all people out of the eco darkness rather than building individual cities that benefit the few.