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As a scientist there are few words I find more irritatingly vague than “vibrancy”. Vibrancy seems to be very important to urban design professionals and politicians and this word is constantly presented as something Adelaide lacks and that we must strive for. But what is vibrancy exactly and how do we measure it? If we must become vibrant how are we to know when we have succeeded? In her opinion piece of 31 July the closest Joanne Cys came to defining vibrancy was as “more people in smaller spaces”. A better defined term for this is “crowding”. Does that make the Gaza Strip and Bangladesh the most vibrant places on Earth? Are those extreme examples of unsustainability our ultimate goal? People hold up cities like London, New York and Tokyo as vibrant and some have even described Manhattan as being more sustainable than areas of urban sprawl. But what such superficial analyses ignore is that a city cannot exist independently of its food supply and these large cities require many tens of thousands of tons of food to be delivered from great distances and then distributed within them every day. As oil production decreases in future and supplies become more expensive and less secure the viability of these vibrant mega-cities is threatened. I have described this and related issues in an online essay, Cities are what people do when they are not growing food.
Editors Note: This letter was submitted to InDaily, but not published.