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Lanzhou 2121 -- the City that Moved Mountains.

The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow overcome all environmental challenges and become super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of the Chinese city of Lanzhou.

Long ago, Lanzhou was the home of a mountain people, the Qiang. In many places, they planted white stones around their granite homes to honor their mountain god, whilst farming beachwheat as their staple food near streams and rivers. More than a millennium ago, though, Lanzhou was invaded and overtaken by the Chinese Han.

Lanzhou nowadays is a city of four million set among a hundred mountains near the Yellow River. Lanzhou is in the midst of expansion; transforming into a megacity on the scale of Beijing or Shanghai. The plan is expressed in a clumsy government logo: 'Rebuild Lanzhou: Strong Industrial City, Ecological Green City, Many Lakes City, Modern New City'. The residents haven’t got any say in the matter so it’s been a nice easy sell -- especially since Lanzhou is currently over-industrialized and very polluted, so a nod to any kind of Green doesn’t go amiss.

However, the manner by which Lanzhou is mega-sizing is grossly anti-ecological. Hundreds of mountains around the city are being blown-up or bulldozed and their rocky remains used to fill in the valleys. Some scientists have expressed their worries over this enterprise; pointing to risks of landslides, sinkholes, floods, and massive pollution of both the water and land. But the mountain-clearing goes on.

By the mid-21st Century, it is probable there will be massive pollution, and huge land collapses, and the Yellow River’s very course may also change. Parts of Lanzhou may suffer near total destruction. Many Chinese will be forced to leave because they will have no homes and no jobs, only a pock-marked city.

By 2121 though, things may have settled down.

Some mountains have survived, though carved into bizarre shapes, and maybe they are stable enough to live upon. With the Chinese leaving for other places, the Qiang people return, from all around China, and they set about rebuilding their homes and planting buckwheat. They also replace the sacred white stones to honor the mountains that live on.

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