Night Draws Over the Two Towers of Miami
In late July, a BBC reporter, Fernando Peinado, contacted me to ask my opinion about two colossal, 50-story towers that might be built in Miami that would be covered with electronic marketing screens. At the time, I hadn’t heard about the project, but after reading about it in the Miami Herald, my head filled with bone-chilling visions of Bladerunner, Minority Report, and Times Square.
By the time Mr. Peinado’s article came out this week, the planning process had been completed, and the towers were approved. That’s truly amazing, particularly in this time of “the Great Recession.” If I were a policymaker in Miami, recognizing that job stimulation is important but that climate change is looming, I would approve using more urban land for gardens. I would approve subsidies to convert parking lots into small farms. I would increase taxes on gasoline and parking spots, and funnel that money into strengthening public transit, which would also increase urban jobs. In other words, I would jump on the “green jobs” bandwagon and grow my economy by greening it and preparing for the increasingly unstable future.
But of course, that’s not where Miami is heading. Instead, the city is continuing to stimulate consumerism and the resultant consumer economy. It truly is naïve to think that we can perpetually grow the economy through stimulating consumption. Eventually either this model will fail economically—it’s a Ponzi scheme after all—or it will fail ecologically as it converts more and more of the ecosystem services we depend on into iPhones, cars, TVs, and processed food. So to invest more capital into giant towers that one day will look like the ruins out of Logan’s Run, is tremendously shortsighted.
But then again, perhaps I’m underestimating the urban planners of Miami. Maybe the towers will only be used for “social marketing,” reminding all citizens to use less energy, ride their bikes instead of drive, convert their lawns into gardens, and eat low on the food chain—which will help Miami citizens be healthier and more ecologically sensitive. But, oh wait, there’s no profit in that, so of course the towers will focus on marketing fast food, cars, cosmetics, and electricity-guzzling gadgets we don’t need, and hence, the ads will stimulate more of the very behaviors that we have to move away from if we expect a stable future.
The Two Towers and its Worshippers
I do find it fitting that it’ll be two towers, similar to the “two towers” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that symbolized two centers of conquest and projected the owners’ desire for dominion over all of Middle Earth—both people and nature. The two towers of Miami will also symbolize today’s expansionist consumerist ideology, whether the population wants to partake or not. But instead of the Towers of Orthanc and Mordor, they should be named the “Towers of Mindblank and Buymore.” Where are Fangorn and his band of ents when you really need them?