What kind of future are we trying to build?
This is a project that approaches that question with my best attempt at forthrightness, creativity, and realism. It is explicitly and deliberately colored by my love of my home city, a combination of futurism and realism, and my conviction that we can't hope to build a better future without even being able to imagine what a better future might look like.
TACOMA 2075 is a better future. Fifty years from now, if we work hard, this is the future we can have. What will you do to achieve it?
Imagine how Tacoma might look in 2049, if we adapt and survive
The original OpEd, which appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune Nov. 30, 2019
by Joanne Rixon
Thirty years from now, the Pacific Northwest is lucky. Although we must cope with a long, slow drought, adjust to chaotic seasons and manage dry forests in hot summers, we’re not battered by the unsurvivable heatwaves and catastrophic storms that scour other parts of the world.
Here’s a look at one way we could survive:
In Tacoma, like in most American cities in 2049, private vehicles are banned. Investments in transit have built a system that will take you anywhere in the city, as easy as stepping on, then off.
Our buses are electric and range in size from small shuttles that circle neighborhoods to large commuter buses. Trains whisk thousands of people up and down major arterials: Pacific, South Tacoma Way, 19th and Pearl streets. A small fleet of electric taxis offers doorstep service.
This frees up the city’s roads. Parking spaces, side streets and even some lanes on multi-lane streets are repurposed for everything from vegetable gardens to art installations to open air markets.
Students from Lincoln High School build a working wind turbine in the old parking lot at the Tacoma Mall. It feeds power into the grid alongside thousands of other tidal, solar and wind generators that supplement our traditional hydropower electrical grid so well, we barely need the dams anymore.
A grandmother takes a shuttle from the corner outside her apartment on Sheridan to 38th, waits two minutes and catches the bus to the Mall. She sits and chats with her neighbor, a young man who fled a drought in Nicaragua who now works in the city’s Department for Climate Refugees.
They agree: Without the talent coming into the city from all over the world, it would’ve been impossible to get such great art in the parks on top of the city’s new highrise apartment towers.
The grandmother stops at the shops powered by the wind turbine and picks up a jacket she’s had repaired by a local tailor. The train down South Tacoma Way is unhindered by traffic, and at the grocery store, half the produce was grown next door, in greenhouses that used to be car lots.
On her trip back, she visits for a while with a friend from her walking club – another climate refugee, a man whose family home in Florida was swallowed by the ocean. Then she reads The News Tribune on her phone.
Ship engines powered by solar, wind and wave energy have reduced underwater noise, and orcas are starting to rebound.
When she gets home, her roommate is cooking for several of his friends, all teachers at the elementary school built into their apartment complex.
Like all new construction, the complex’s architecture uses passive cooling. Each building has a heat shelter dug deep into its foundations so the cool earth can keep residents safe in the summers. And there are parks on the roofs, connected by walkways, so people can feel the wind.
They also have common areas full of flowering plants, where, the rest of the year, folks play games like Cards Against Humanity and Magic: The Gathering.
Tacoma in 2049 is lucky. In our city of trains and towers, our grandchildren learn multiple alphabets and ways of knowing, so they grow up wiser than we did. We have more public space, and spend more time in it, brought closer together by trouble.
We’ve reinvented what it means to be modern, to be wealthy. Lives with less waste are lives with more art, more music and more green growing things.
We aren’t perfect. Thirty years can’t heal centuries of colonialism and consumerism. But we’re working on it. We’re surviving.