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The Gap Year Blog

Can green cities save us from overpopulation and climate change?

8 May 2019 16:40 PM

Photo Credit: Flickr | Marco Verch

Edited with Permission by Frontier

No one can deny it, it is obvious. Climate change and overpopulation are real threats that are not restricted to any country or state. We are on top of a global crisis and have to think about our future. The concept of vertical, green cities could be one solution. 

If the human population continues growing at the current rate, it will reach 9.8 billion people in 2050 and will pass the 11 billion mark by the end of this century. All those people need housing and place to live. By 2050, almost 70 percent – 6.8 billion people – are estimated to live in urban areas. That mean we need another hundreds of megacities like Shanghai, Istanbul and Tokyo. 

In the meanwhile, rising temperatures melt glaciers and poles causing a arise in sea levels which reduces our living space, drinking water become scarce and the human’s exploitation of nature makes our lands inhabitable. Climate change combined with overpopulation projects a very dark future.  The solution lies within clever planning and structuring of future cities (and adapting the already existing ones).

A lot of people do not like skyscrapers and true, many of the already existing ones are either posh or just poorly designed. But vertical cities hold the key to solving overpopulation and overcrowding without destroying our whole environment. It limits the further destruction of rain forests, swamps and other valuable natural habitats to create human living space and helps preserving natural resources. 

Those cities do not always have to be ugly. Skyscraper can be green and spacious, their outside planted with trees and a little garden or even forest on their rooftop. That sounds utopian? Well, it isn’t. Singapore is the best example. It is a small, dense island nation that houses modern tech while creating homes for 5.6 million people. A hundred percent of the population are urbanized. Yet, it is the greenest city in Asia according to the Green City Index

Photo Credit: Flickr | Khairul Nizam

The world’s greenest city

Singapore aims for the title of the world’s greenest city. You might have seen the lotus-shaped Art Science museum or the iconic man-made super-trees in the Garden by the Bay nearby. Those are in fact equipped with solar panels that store energy for the nightly light show or are used as air exhaust receptacles to help cool the plant conservatories. They also all collect rainwater for watering the gardens and fountain displays. 

That is the concept of a green city or eco-city. They embrace the use of renewable energies and aim to be carbon neutral and do less harm to the environment as possible by implementing things like recycling programs, big community parks and green, calm spaces, bike lanes, the use of renewable energies and a high water and air quality standards. 

Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is the current world-leader in sustainable living. The city is entirely run on renewable energies, just like the whole island itself. At the present, Reykjavik obtains its energy for electricity, hot water and heat from hydro power and geothermal resources. By 2050, it is estimated that the city will be independent from using fossil fuel.

Green roof legislation

San Francisco and Toronto have laws that require the most news constructions to incorporate either solar or a green on their rooftop. A green rooftop has many benefits: It reduces the urban heat, absorbs rainwater before it runs off, improves their quality and brings natural diversity into the urban environment. San Francisco even showed that an 884.000-soul-city can aim for zero waste. In 2009 it launched its mandatory recycling program and in 2012 it managed to recycle, compost or reuse 80 percent of its waste. San Francisco will not reach its promised goal to go waste-free by 2020 because certain plastics or other waste is simply not recyclable. But is demonstrates that even big cities can achieve a lot with an efficient waste management scheme. 

Another green city title competitor is Vancouver in Canada. It aims to be called the world’s greenest city by 2020. Let’s see if it will accomplish its goals, Vancouver is known to be a centre for clean-technology innovation after all. You can find solar-powered garbage compactors and more than 200 open green parks all over the city. 

There are many more small and big cities that set an example to the world by not only going green but acting against climate change in a large scale and still maintain a steady population and economic growth. Over the past few decades environmental sustainability and green policies and initiatives have been incorporated the concepts of urban development. 

Photo Credit: Flickr | nhadavideo

China plans more than 280 eco-cities 

New city projects establish a vision of a city as a high-tech centre where nature and community intertwine, and every space is effectively used. China, one of the highest populated countries and worst pollutants, alone has more than 280 eco- and smart-cities in planning. We just mentioned a few examples of green cities in actions, but there are many more (and they are also great travel spots!). 

So you see, green cities are not utopian or imaginative, they are already existing, improving and in the process of happening. Until now there is no superior or single model of a sustainable city as the circumstances differ in each country but there is a huge choice of different solutions to overpopulation, excessive consumption, pollution and depletion of resources designed to support long-term ecological balance. 

Get yourself inspired. You might not get yourself involved in an sustainable urban development project but you can always help on a smaller and more personal level to fight climate change and preserve our future by volunteering and getting involved Climate Change Projects like this one in Costa Rica

By Desiree Schneider - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!