BY PASCAL MITTERMAIER: Imagine cities that are not apart from nature, but a part of nature.
We can aspire to cities where people and nature both thrive; truly flourishing communities where green space is not seen as a luxury – but as critical urban infrastructure that effectively addresses some of urban planning’s biggest challenges.
By 2050, two of every three people on Earth will live in a city. This human migration from rural to urban lives is unprecedented and is projected to result in the rapid urbanization of a land area greater than the size of France and Germany combined; driving habitat loss, as well as the degradation of lands that we rely on to protect our drinking water and grow our food. Poorly planned urban growth could even interfere with cities’ best defense against a changing climate – natural lands for climate adaptation.
Rather than embracing nature, however, we’ve built our cities and towns to work against it. Concrete buildings and streets trap and amplify heat, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of people each year. Impermeable surfaces cannot absorb rainwater, causing stormwater flooding and contributing to pollution in rivers and oceans. Treeless streets exacerbate the impact of pollution from nearby traffic and factories, leading to higher asthma rates and cardiovascular disease. And climate change is only making these challenges more difficult for cities.
But cities are far more than a problem to be solved. As centers of innovation and inspiration, full of young people with the drive to change the world: Cities can be our solution.