Urban Autophagy. A New Imaginary for Twenty-First Century Urban Growth | The Plan Journal

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Hannibal Newsom

The human, environmental, and political impact of raw material resourcing throughout the global supply chain is a critical facet of any plan to confront accelerating climate change in the twenty-first century. Invoking the work of biologist Dr. Rhonda Patrick on autophagy, a mechanism through which mammalian bodies consume their own dead and dying cells to promote health and longevity, this essay explores the imaginary of Urban Autophagy as a mechanism through which the city can consume itself in order to grow. This essay presents a novel understanding of the limits of our natural resources and proposes a major shift in how we conceive of standard practices for sustainable development. First, this essay defines the model of Urban Autophagy; second, it surveys already-existing practices that support the model of Urban Autophagy; third, it presents a methodology that can be developed and expanded in order to introduce Urban Autophagy into standard practice; and finally, this essay argues for the implications of this approach toward a more ambitious stewardship of the environment and the health and longevity of our cities.