Growing Cities, Building Forests
Walking the streets of most global cities today, things seem to be going pretty well. Between the lights, buildings, people, trees – clean streets and easy access to good food and transportation – it can be difficult to see things like climate change, soil degradation, or the extinction of a species that has shared our planet longer than we have. But far away from city centers, the world is losing tropical forests at the unprecedented rate of 43,000 Ha per day – the equivalent of 40 football fields every minute – with very serious consequences for our collective future. With any urban future entirely dependent on the future of nature, now is the time for every major city to do more to restore, protect and sustain the natural ecosystems on which they depend.
Cities today house more than half of the world’s population and account for 70-80% of global GDP, energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and solid waste. These startling percentages are increasing as the world continues to urbanize, but more importantly, they point to an increasing connectivity and interdependence. Because virtually all of a city’s resources and waste travel a great distance, cities cannot be understood as separate entities, or use balance-sheets limited to activities within their own boundaries. Politics, immigration, finances, food, energy or garbage – let alone the things we take for granted like air and water – everything that happens in a city depends on the vast global systems of social and natural flows. Even ideas are not contained within city boundaries. Adding all of this together would suggest that any meaningful solutions to climate change, biodiversity, pollution, or waste must happen in our cities to have any credibility or real teeth.