More and more people live in cities. And this is not going to change in the foreseeable future. But what are the consequences of this growth for the environment in cities?
Cities in distress
For the past half century, the development of cities has been mostly focussed on improving the economy and creating more jobs. With four billion people currently living in cities, and this number is predicted to have grown with another two and a half billion by 2050, this focus has to shift to keep cities safe and healthy. Currently, many cities, especially the ones with more than ten million people, like Tokyo or Mumbai, struggle with air pollution, poor water quality, waste-disposal difficulties and many more problems. With the amount of people that live in cities only growing, this will only get worse in the future.
To tackle these problems, urban ecologists, people who study the ‘nature’ in cities, for example the plants and the animals that thrive in a city, are trying to find ways to make cities healthier. With the knowledge these ecologists have gathered, they’ve been able to find ways to make cities more livable. Urban ecologists in Melbourne, for example, are building a forest in the middle of the city, to make the city more healthy and resilient. Other cities around the world, like London, Singapore and Portland are copying this strategy.
Although our knowledge about urban environments have greatly improved in the past three decades, there’s still a lot of advances to make. Not only do we need to discover the causes of the problems megacities are facing, we also need to turn this knowledge into action that can actually help distressed megacities. And these advances in urban ecology are needed quite fast since the amount of people in cities is only growing, while the life standards in cities only decrease.
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