Updated: Jul 21
What is sustainability and where do we need it immediately?
Sustainability is simply the ability to meet our needs without compromising the capacity of future generations to meet those same needs. This is critical as the world population grows.
According to the United Nations, 4.5 billion people (55% of the world’s population) currently live in urban areas, this number will rise to 6.8 billion (68%) by 2050. Resources such as transport, housing, waste, water, energy, land use management, emissions, and pollution (in air, water, and soil) are central aspects of sustainability
Why focus on sustainable cities first?
55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 80% of global gross domestic product GDP is generated in cities and 70% of the world's energy is consumed by cities. This makes cities the number one priority for sustainability programs.
What are the current challenges?
Almost a billion people live in city slums and this number is rapidly rising.
The levels of urban energy consumption and pollution are also worrying.
High concentrations of people make cities vulnerable to natural disasters.
What is the desired outcome?
To make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
Creating urban resilience is crucial to avoiding human, social and economic losses.
I am not affected, why care?
Unsustainable cities will eventually affect everyone. Inequality leads to unrest and insecurity, pollution worsens everyone’s health and is a drag on productivity and the economy in general. Natural disasters are a source of major losses both to personal property and infrastructure that we rely on.
Why not let cities can grow organically?
The result of organic growth in the past millennia is clearly visible in the sprawling slums, traffic jams, and greenhouse gas emissions. Lack of proper urban planning leads to a lower gross domestic product, poor healthcare, and lower standards of education.
How expensive is it to put sustainable solutions in place?
The cost is negligible when compared to the benefits. For example, an efficient public transport system will increase economic activity quality of life, less pollution, and a healthier population.
What can I do as an individual?
Be active in your community. Identify what works and what doesn't and advocate for the kind of city you would be proud to live in. Look at your workplace, neighborhood, and street, ask yourself:
Do we need more sidewalks?
Can kids walk to school safely?
Are we close to a health facility?
What is the air quality?
Can I access public transport when needed?
Are there shared public spaces for the community?
Can troubled individuals find mental health help?
Does my community have the tools to measure and communicate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals and progress, if not could a tool this help?
More than two-thirds of cities are already incorporating sustainability goals like adaptation, renewable energy, and emission reduction goals in their planning with three quarters reporting economic opportunities as a result. Moving these goals forward will create a better quality of life that can be passed on to future generations. You can find more goals here.