More than half of the world’s population is concentrated in cities. They import the necessary resources for their operation and export the resulting waste. Sustainable cities, however, seek to transform their metabolism in favor of their inhabitants, nature and their future.
And it is that, in the face of the global ecological crisis, we must adapt to the changes and recover. In addition, overcoming the profound social problems that affect us is a challenge that must be faced. We need to reassess how we want to live and transform our vision of urban life. So let’s rethink the city!
Why do we need to create sustainable cities?
According to the United Nations Organization, urbanity occupies only 3% of the earth’s surface. And yet, it consumes 60% of the resources and 80% of the energy, generating 75% of the carbon emissions. This has resulted in a large number of problems:
- Poor basic services
- depletion of natural resources
- deteriorating health
If these urban areas continue to expand rapidly, urgent measures must be taken. For this reason, the 2030 International Agenda proposes, as one of its Sustainable Development Goals, “to make cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
Cities are urbanized populated centers with a high concentration of inhabitants and governed by a council. The adjective “sustainable” denotes its ability to adapt and develop over time, adequately managing the available natural resources.
However, sustainable cities imply much more than that and must be understood from a systemic approach. This is because, in them, the environmental, social and economic systems interact dynamically. Thus, actions are implemented that respond to specific geographic, ecological, socioeconomic, and historical-cultural characteristics.
Mainly, promoting the transformation of the forms of production and consumption translates into a reduction of the environmental impact. This, in turn, allows greater resilience in the face of natural risks or those that are the consequence of human intervention.
In addition, sustainable cities are inclusive, participatory and a guarantee of human development. These constitute spaces of cultural belonging and construction of social ties. And the policies respond to the characteristics of each city, placing people at the center of their actions.
What do they offer and what characterizes them?
Each city has its own particularities, so there is no magic formula towards urban sustainability. However, there are some criteria on which to orient yourself:
Equitable access to housing, health, food security, education, labor guarantees, governance, basic services and a healthy environment. In short, everything people need to achieve a better quality of life.
The improvement of public spaces and the protection of surrounding natural areas. Green areas are fundamental in the management of sustainable cities. This includes internal farming systems.
Ethical consumption, as a key to reducing resource extraction and pollution. This, favoring local production and promoting the circular economy. Of course, since cities are centers of consumption, their ecological impact should be measured beyond the urban limits.
The comprehensive management of waste and solid waste, based on its reduction in terms of volume and toxicity.
The reduction of water consumption and the correct treatment of wastewater, with a view to its reuse.
The priority use of renewable energies on a small and large scale, seeking efficiency. Self-consumption also contributes to making cities sustainable.
Finally, the promotion of walking and cycling as ecological and healthy forms of mobility; as well as the prevalence of a good public transport system, operated from clean and renewable sources.