1993 THE URBAN CLIMATE OF PORTO – Contribution to the definition of planning and land management strategies.
Applied Geography, Climate, Urban Environment, Porto, Planning
“Without wanting to transform this work into a nostalgic expression of the Lost Paradise, we would like to underline, through it, some of the severe consequences which result from the progressive effective distancing between Men and his environmental support.
The economic system we live in, based on profit, has transformed cities into essential components, as an artificial support for the “exchanges” of goods, services and information. Exchanges, which are not made according to what is needed, but depend only on what is already owned.
The maintenance of this type of relationships is only possible due to a diversified set of international economic systems’ solid management units, such as the EEC, the OECD or the World Bank. These big international organizations ensure that the existing system works, this is, that the exchanges continue to be performed according to the rules imposed by whom owns the largest amount of resources. If it were possible to abstract from all the socio-economic and politic conjuncture in which we live in, and we were reduced to our humble position of just one more element in the Ecosystem, we would see that this type of institutions and mainly the objectives which justify their actions are incomprehensible, unnecessary and “noise” generators in the Ecosystem. It is precisely the knowledge of this fragile position in the Environment which assaults our consciences, individually and socially, and makes us feel guilty for the numerous outbreaks of Hunger on the globe. Only the respect for the ownership right of resources from some, prevents that others are able to satisfy a basic need – food. Problem that other Ecosystems’ elements solve in a simpler and more harmonious way.
The cities, fully artificial projections in space for new exceeding surplus, have allowed Men a greater possibility to control his habitat. This control has triggered and promoted attitudes of progressive irreverence relatively to the Environment. The environmental support came to be seen as a “separated” entity. The idea of “cohesion” began to be completely lost, in favour of a pretentious immunity concept from men towards the consequences of his actions6.
When we appeal exclusively to our intuitive/primary sensibility, we easily understand that the extremely anthropocentric vision of the Ecosystem has driven us to self-sufficiency concepts, of extreme optimism and confidence in the capacity to control physic and biological processes. The notion of limit was lost, as well as the equilibrium underlying each open system, such as the Ecosystem. Intuitively , due to education and because we were always one more “operator” in a urban ecosystem, we realize the several “nuances” it has suffered in the last decades.
The attitudes before a risk situation, such as the one we believe we are living nowadays, are multiple and varied. We intend, through this individual action, to discourage the first option of “doing nothing” and contribute to show that it is useful to provide decision makers with adequate elements, in such a way that political, social and economic actions include increasingly more the concept of a development sustained in the available environmental support.
We believe it is possible to conciliate the individual liberty with the common good and that, each time less often, the national sovereignty can be seen as opposite to global concerns regarding the Environment or that the quality of life and well-being of the present generation do not necessarily undergo putting at risk the future generation. We do think this work contributes, at least, to diagnose the status of some environmental components in a given concrete space.
By rethinking the relationships Men-Environment, from the geographical point of view, we intend to make it clear that it urges to assume a less irreverent and more humble attitude, towards the environmental support on which we depend. Once the dependence relationships between the several Ecosystems’ components are multiple and complex, we choose to try to understand slightly better the whole through a tiny fraction.
The reductionist perspective from Geography that we propose as a work philosophy is just apparent8. In fact, the hypothesis we will test along this research work, which consists on the comprehension of the effects of a city on the regional and local climate, as well as the consequences of the behaviour of some climatic elements in urban metabolism, most not be, or even should be, understood as the main goal of this work.
These hypothesis will serve us as an instrument to corroborate the central argument that, while another Ecosystem’s element, little or nothing will we benefit if we insist in adopting too optimistic and immodest attitudes regarding our role on the globe.
Selecting from the complex and apparently chaotic totality of interrelationships only this tiny part, we would like to demonstrate that it is preferable to assume and comprehend our fragility in the Ecosystem. Only knowing our strong dependence relationships relatively to the environmental support will we be able to, with some effectiveness, minimize them.
Sharing with S. BOYDEN, the idea that “… the city is giant motionless animal, consumer of vast quantities of oxygen, water and organic material and excretory of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, fumes, water vapour and organic wastes…” we will use the atmospheric pollution – the strong acidity (SO2) and the black smoke – as an indicator of the interference rhythm of the urban functional interferences in areas’ climate and from this in the concentration or dispersion of the elements injected into the atmosphere.
The impact on health, especially in the worsening of some pathologies, generated either by the behaviour of some climatic elements, or by the quality of the air and, the prejudices towards the urban dynamism caused by some precipitation extremes, will be our return vehicle to the initial idea that, after all we are not immune to the consequences of our actions in our environment.”