A view of Maya's neighborhood in San Francisco, 2047 - Image by Jessica Perlstein

Hello and welcome everybody!  My name is Maya Greenwood, and I’ve been cajoled into being your tour guide for this special visit to Yerba Buena/San Francisco 2047.  Why me, you might ask?  Well, for one thing I’ve adored this city since my first glimpse of it in the Summer of Love, eighty years ago.  I was seventeen then—which will tell you my age, now!—enchanted by the fog concealing and revealing mysteries like the veils of an exotic dancer, delighted by the crowded streets where people seemed to be perpetually in costume: Gypsies, pirates, sorceresses skipping down the streets to the strains of the Beatles singing “Love, love, love…”

But I digress.  It’s a hazard of age.  What I want to introduce you to is the city of now, 2047, nineteen years after the uprising when we threw the bastards out.  Who were those bastards?  You know—we could call them the Mean-Spirited Party, but they called themselves the Stewards in a masterful coup of verbal greenwashing.  They claimed to be Stewards of True American Values but somehow democracy and any semblance of social responsibility went out when they came in.  And when they cancelled the elections in 2028, we rebelled, they sent in the tanks and the guns….and surprise!  We drove them out with mass popular resistance and some in-your-face gardening.

San Francisco Waterfront 2047 - Image by Mona Caron

So please, step carefully out of the boat and onto the embankment steps. If any of you use a wheelchair, you’ll note the meandering ramp to your right.  This embankment is itself a relic of the uprising.  In the face of the greatest military might on the planet, we marched out into the streets to plant a garden, with our pickaxes and a jackhammer or two concealed under the skirts of a few giant Goddess of Liberty puppets.  You’ve probably heard the story.  And after we threw the bums out, we carried on with our deconstruction projects.  The Stewards’ tactics were to isolate us, cut off supplies of food and vital materials, so we knew we were going to have to grow our own.  Luckily, we’d had a vibrant local food movement since the early part of the 21st Century, and we’re in Northern California with a year-round growing season.  So we decided to turn our streets into gardens.  We liberated the buried streams and let them flow through the city, and planted fruit trees and food forests.

What, you may ask, did we do with the asphalt?  You’re walking on it.  We piled it up into these embankments, which also serve as levees to hold back the rising waters which continue to climb as the ice caps continue to melt.    Pisses me off—if you’ll excuse my language—no, wait, we are being challenged by our younger folks here in the city to stop using references to body parts and natural human functions as swear words.  And I’m supposed to be setting a good example for you all.  Ticks me off—nobody likes ticks, creatures of the Goddess though they might be and I’m sure they serve some vital ecological function—what was I saying?  I’m really frackin’ furious that we could have done something about the Great Meltdown forty years ago and we sat around diddling our willies and arguing with idiots instead!  So there!  At any rate, here we are with the waters steadily climbing, up to the twenty-foot level now and taking bites out of the city, which is why you are docking here at the foot of Yerba Buena Park.  Luckily the bay left us the Modern Art Museum and the carousel even as it took back the jail and the unlamented Hall of Justice where I spent many a night after many a demonstration back in the last century.

Step right up, carefully.  It’s hard to see the remnants of asphalt any more, as they’ve beautifully decomposed thanks to our special brews of beneficial microorganisms and our layers of mushroom mycelium that break down hydrocarbons.  Oh, did I mention our undersea banks that serve as artificial reefs, habitat for the returning life of the bay?

Street sculpture in downtown San Francisco

Now, we’ll be walking on this tour—it’s the only way to see the city, really, since we redesigned it for pedestrians.  Besides, it keeps us healthy and limber as well as providing infinite pleasure.  But if it’s a strain, we can offer you one of the electric scooters you’ll note parked on the side there.  Place your belongings into the electric cart on your right and they will be delivered to you at the guest-house where you’ll be staying.  And don’t worry about the energy draw.  We have abundant energy, from a number of sources which I’ll point out to you along the way.  For example—those beautiful sunflower sculptures which line the walkway?  Solar thermal!  Those graceful, colorful spinning pinwheels?  Wind generators.  Note the waving, frond-like spires that line the ridges of so many rooftops—they’re another form of wind generator that translates motion into power.  And what you don’t see is our wave generator frond banks in the bay itself, designed so that they foster sea-life while producing power from the tides and currents.

Yes, it ticks me off that we destroyed so much of our beautiful earth in our addiction to coal and oil and fossil fuel energy—when sources of energy are so incredibly abundant around us!  But I have promised not to rant and rave at you…so let’s walk along.

Now, on our right you can see Yerba Buena park, a relic of old San Francisco.  Built in the late 20th century, you can tell by the style of architecture that it’s a good example of its day.  We haven’t changed it much—we’re not statue-bashers, destroying the old.  All we’ve done is replace areas of concrete with porous pavement.  And the green on that tall building—it’s a series of clever, interlocking pocketed tiles that allow us to grow natives and vines on the vertical space.  I’m sure you’ve noticed the birds everywhere, and all the wonderful butterflies.  We’ve restored a phenomenal amount of native habitat, just by using those spaces which are not really suited for growing or harvesting edibles.  Falcons love the skyscrapers—we’ve got an ever-growing population of hawks, ravens and owls—even a pair of nesting golden eagles.  They keep the pigeons in check!

And those relics of skyscrapers marooned in the bay?  Seabird havens—and we harvest the guano for fertilizer!

Downtown SF, 2047 - Image by Jessica Perlstein

But if you look to your left, you’ll see the new city.  Of course, the murals and sculptures are part of a long tradition here—back in the 1970s, with the upsurge of the Chicano movement, groups of artists inspired by the Mexican muralists began transforming the urban landscape.  Mosaics caught on, later, and then in the early part of the 21st century, we reaped a lot of—what would be the opposite of collateral damage?  Collateral benefits?—from the festival culture that grew up among young artists.  People created amazing sculptures, art cars, installations for Burning Man out in the desert and other festivals—and sometimes they ended up as permanent gifts to the city.

But there—where all those children are swarming–what you see will tell you something about us now.  You see, this city is based on respect for what we call the Four Sacred Things—air, fire, water and earth.  You’ll see them honored in sculptures and murals all over, but we have four special installations, and this is the one for water.  It’s a living, changing sculpture, constantly being played with, rearranged and reinvented by children.  They can construct new water pumps out of those modular parts lying around and create their own fountains.  They can set off jets or put together flow-forms to create swirls and eddies.  And what you don’t see is that this sculpture is also purifying the water.  It’s the last stage in the graywater treatment for all these buildings.  Oh, don’t worry—it’s quite safe by the time the children contact it.  It’s gone through that little wetland, there, with all the cattails and that collection of Japanese irises.  All of their water-play aerates it and provides the finishing touch.

And there—where the kids are bouncing on those huge mats?  They’re learning our own unique martial art—we call it ‘pacha-jitzu’.  It’s based on disarming and binding the enemy, not killing.  But the bouncy-mats, and that bouncy-castle over there for the toddlers, they are also air compressors.  Every bounce compresses a bit more air.  We run some of our heavy machinery—when we need it—off compressed air, and it works almost like an old-fashioned battery to store energy as a backup for our sun and wind power.

Bicycle pathway, SF 2047 - Image by Jessica Perlstein

But come along, come along.  The walkway leads to Market Street, our major corridor.  Note, again, the porous pavement and the low-growing natives planted in the cracks.  We have several different kinds of ‘streets’ or pathways through the city.  Walkways are like this—porous ‘stepping stones’ surrounded by tough, native plants that allow water to penetrate but still make it easy to run a scooter or a wheelchair or push a baby carriage.  Alongside—where you see all those bicycles cruising, is an area of hardscape—still porous, but smoother, designed for bikes and skateboards and the like.  Emergency vehicles can run on either surface, and they’ve been scaled down to fit through our more narrow pathways.

And this broad avenue is Market Street, our major thoroughfare.  Many’s the time I’ve marched down in back in the 20th Century, protesting this or that.  Even blocking traffic, although traffic generally did a good job of blocking itself.  The transformation of Market Street began back in the ‘teens when an enlightened city government made it into a pedestrian avenue.  They were thinking along the lines of some of the pedestrian areas in European cities.  Busses still could go through, and emergency vehicles.  In fact, we still run busses—note the pirate ship cruising along.  And the giant birthday cake going the other way.  The art cars of Burning Man gave us the idea—why shouldn’t transport be fun?  After all, tourists used to come here from all over the world to ride our cable cars—still functioning, I might add!

Public art and cable car along the Market Street corridor

Back in the ‘teens, this area was blighted, full of porno theaters and pawn shops.  But the city decided to ban the cars and make it a green corridor—and when they did, it came alive.  It’s still lined with sidewalk cafes and you should see it at night—you will see it!  All lit up, and music playing in dozen different venues, and people dancing in the street.  And while we’re heavily into edible landscapes, as you’ll see throughout the city, we decided to make Market Street the corridor of flowers.  There ought to be some place in every city that’s just for fun and sheer beauty.  So, note the islands of flower-gardens—and the trees that line the avenue, well, they do give fruit but in the spring when they burst into bloom, I tell you, it makes you almost cry.  And those little benches under the arbors of roses—makes me want to fall in love all over again.  But in case you do, and get a bit carried away, here’s the Monument to Heroic ChildCare Workers to remind you of what results!

You see, when we sat down after the Uprising to redesign the city, we started asking some key questions.  We were reacting against a militarist invader trying to impose upon us restrictions and controls.  We’ve always been a bawdy, rowdy, pleasure-oriented city from the days of the Forty-Niners—the gold rush, not the football team—and with the yoke of the Puritan ethic thrown off, we could contemplate a city based on the pleasure principle.

What would the city look like if we believed pleasure was a good thing?

Rooftop view of SF 2047 - Image by Jessica Perlstein

How might a city’s design further opportunities for people to meet and fall in love?  How could we make a city safe for children to roam freely, to explore and play and create?  How could the city’s physical design deter violence and crime and further connection and cooperation?

I’m sure you’re all hungry and thirsty, so we’ll pause for refreshments.  Just grab a table here and come on inside to help yourselves from the buffet.

 

18 Responses to Tour of San Francisco 2047 with Maya Greenwood – part 1

  1. Cara says:

    Lovely! I read the book The Fifth Sacred Thing last year and was totally absorbed in this visionary tale! Particularly resonant since I am living in SF once again. I know it an be a visionary green city! Best of luck in getting the film made – I’m sure it will be wonderful with the right direction and people in it.

  2. claudia brown says:

    its everything i have been waiting for and hoping for. keep it coming Starhawk, vision us up a harmonious future! Gracias! Que nunca tienes Hambre! (which my friends and I say to eachother hear in the mexican jungle where i live, thanks to you)

  3. Rachel says:

    Ahhhh….absolutely beautiful. I’ve got my bags packed and ready to go. 🙂 **HUGS**

  4. Tracy says:

    thank you!
    So inspiring!

  5. Mouse says:

    Fantastic, thanks so much!!

  6. Holly says:

    A vision to live by. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting your energies into this film!

  7. Monica says:

    One of the best books I’ve ever read. Being an SF native helped, of course, but the messages – work collectively, resist the Machine, utilize your talents to serve, revere Nature, heal – helped me know that I was not alone in the world. Everyone should read the book! This introduction is interesting too…

  8. Chantal says:

    Brilliant, Loving this immensely and so looking forward to devouring even more of this evolving life journey.

  9. Lara Palms says:

    Still utterly incredible and beautiful!!!! I would go there in a heartbeat!!!! Thank You!!!! Love You!!!

  10. Jim Wise says:

    The book was life-changing for me, a vision of what we are capable of becoming. I’ll be first in line at the cinema! Thanks!

  11. Gail says:

    No cars makes my heart sing! But also, SF has changed since the 5th sacred thing was written. What to do with the (mostly wealthy) people who don’t want positive change, but like things the way they are? Or the more conservative population that isn’t all about “summer of love”. How do we construct a new future that includes them?

  12. Marga says:

    Just the way I pictured it when I read the books so many years ago. Such a beautiful vision.

  13. Susan says:

    Mmmmmmm….what a wonderful inspiring detailed yummy vision to wake up to…I’m printing out all the images to hang in my sister-in-law Mary’s hospital room — it needs transformation! Many thanks for this wonderful, amazing work…I especially love the detailed descriptions of the many energy sources, and the tiles on the buildings that attract birds and butterflies….

    Susan

  14. Friday says:

    In a post I made, part, 100th monkey, Part 5th sacred thing. This resonates deeply.

  15. Therese says:

    Just reading this for the first time today. A beautiful and joyful vision, and I second most of the comments here. I contributed to and support the making of this movie.
    There was just one jarring and very discordant reference for me. The sentence: “We’ve always been a bawdy, rowdy, pleasure-oriented city from the days of the Forty-Niners—the gold rush, not the football team. . .” Deep breath, gut trembling. The gold rush represents the near annihilation of the California Indian peoples, and the theft and poisoning of their lands. I’d hope the reference could just be omitted.

  16. Craig says:

    Inspiring indeed. I’m planning a related story about a small midwestern town becoming a sustainable-resilient community. You inspire me to include the visuals– paintings, drawings– along with all the words! Loved the book as a model too.

  17. It’s been twenty years since I read this book and it changed my perceptions (magic!) The vision is still strong , and real, and growing. Blessings Starhawk, can’t wait for the next evolution of this story!

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