We are being sold the idea that our cities are sustainable and resilient. But to achieve environmental sustainability and mitigate climate change, we need cities to prioritise their natural surroundings and protect their biological and ecological diversity.
It is important that cities minimise the impact of urbanism, reduce atmospheric pollution, control their expansion and ensure that urban transport does not generate pollution.
We need plenty of open spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, mass transport that is more environmentally friendly, and bigger and better green zones for the public to enjoy.
Sustainable cities cannot become a reality unless all citizens take an action role in governmental decisions that affect everyone living in the area.
This also relies on the population at large enjoying guaranteed access to high-quality services.
A city without decent housing, education and healthcare for all cannot be called sustainable. A sustainable city “is a city that develops itself in accordance with the principles of ecology, education and equality”.
Sustainability means self-sufficiency and energy sovereignty, promoting alternative and/or renewable energy sources. It means making the most of waste and decreasing consumerism, while incentivising clean and efficient types of energy.
But we will also fail to meet our objective without autonomy with regard to food. If we are not able to grow the food that we need in our urban and rural settings, it will be difficult to construct the type of city we require.
This is why we should promote – in every possible space – farmers’ and agro-ecological markets offering local crops and foodstuffs.
The resilience of a city goes hand-in-hand with its sustainability. So a city that is not sustainable will not be able to “absorb disturbances” such as those caused by “natural disasters” such as the earthquakes that strike at a given rate or the explosions or volcanic eruptions that will occur again sooner or later.
Nowadays, as a result of undeniable climate change caused by the actions of human society and, more precisely, the economic system that is exploiting and destroying our planet, disasters are becoming increasingly frequent.
Long droughts and torrential rain, substantial increases in average temperatures, rising sea levels and the encroachment of the latter on coasts and islands, the growth of dry areas and deserts, forest fires, major floods, erosion, the loss of biodiversity – and the list goes on. This is all accompanied by ever-greater flows of environmental migrants from external communities, mainly caused, in turn, by the factors outlined above.
Scholars in the field have considered several essential elements that must be borne in mind if mitigation and resilience are to enable cities to survive.
These elements include: local agriculture; pedestrian-friendly urban planning; communication networks; biomimicry; renewable energy; public cycling systems; social resilience; guaranteed financing and resources; multi-threat risk evaluation; infrastructure protection, resilience and improvement; protection of vital services such as education and healthcare; national building and planning regulations; equipping, educating and raising awareness among the public; environmental protection of ecosystems; preparation, early warning systems and effective responses; and community recovery and reconstruction.
Lastly, it only remains for us to ask ourselves whether our cities really are sustainable and resilient. Whether their long-term survival is possible, in the midst of a worldwide ecological disaster. Whether they will be able to guarantee a decent quality of life for their inhabitants or will simply fall apart because they did not face up to necessary and urgent issues.
*John Elvis Vera S: environmentalist. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Translated by Roz Harvey) – Photos: Pixabay