The future of Aachen and the Region in 2035

Today I gave an interview about the future that was unlike any other interview I have ever experienced. The questions were scenario-based and started with, “what comes to mind when you think of ‘heimat’?” (which I would loosely translate as “homeland”). In the course of the interview, we discussed visions of a Utopian future, and how to reach it, and a dystopian future. It became clearer to me, as I spoke about my vision of a great place to live, that Aachen — and any city that wants to prepare for the demographic and environmental challenges of the future — must create an infrastructure that allows people to come in contact with each other and move easily throughout the area in an environmentally sensitive way. Very simply put, bike paths and public transit that uses renewable energy, preferably street cars / trams / light rail, are necessary, if not sufficient. If the transportation infrastructure is well planned and ceases to rely on individual automobiles, then an aging population can remain mobile, the air quality can improve, and physical health will be better as more people walk and ride bicycles. In addition, when citizens have improved geographic access, a greater cross-section of the society comes into contact with each other, improving understanding and integration.
We discussed the obstacles to such vision. Who decides? How do power structures work to either block or facilitate progress? In what ways has our democratic structure, as it is currently practiced, created stalemates and roadblocks? Who will decide about the future, who will make things happen differently? And what is my part toward creating a better future? It was a fascinating talk, for a fascinating project, and I wish the Städteregion the best of success with the drawing of a roadmap to a more utopian future for our region.

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