MADRID, Oct 03 (IPS) – While cities are seen as symbols of charm and convenience for a number of their residents, more than a billion people still live in overcrowded, inadequate housing settlements. And their number is increasing every day.
Yes, life in urban centers represents many offices, construction, jobs, shops, bars, restaurants, transport systems, health and education services. So much so that 2 out of 3 people are expected to be concentrated in urban areas by 2050.
But this is only one side of the coin.
The flip side is that the current rapid and unplanned urbanization of the world’s population has turned cities into a major source of pollution that increases and accelerates climate disasters.
In fact, urban centers are now among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases due to excessive use of cars and trucks, airports and train stations, inadequate buildings, heating and air conditioning, noise and light pollution, housing shortages and expensive rents.
Cities: 70% of CO2 emissions
Cities are significantly responsible for 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with transport, buildings, energy and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban emissions.
This year’s World Habitat Day (October 3) examines the growing problem of inequality and challenges in cities and human settlements, as a result of such rapidly expanding urbanization.
Today also seeks to draw attention to growing inequality and vulnerabilities exacerbated by the Triple C crises – COVID-19, climate and conflict.
In this regard, the report warns that the pandemic and recent conflicts have reversed years of progress in the fight against poverty, leading to the emergence of new poor people – those who would have emerged from poverty in the absence of the pandemic but remain poor , and those who fell into poverty due to the pandemic.
In fact, according to the UN-Habitat 2022 World Cities Report, the number of people affected varied between 119 and 124 million in 2020, and between 143 and 163 million in 2021.
The report emphasizes that tackling urban poverty and inequality has become an “urgent global priority”, adding that “to prepare urban areas for future disasters, we must start with cities.”
This particular month marks World Cities Day 2022 on October 31.
Today, he warns that this is often not what urban development looks like. “Inequality and exclusion are pervasive, often at rates above the national average, to the detriment of sustainable development for all.”
UN-Habitat launched the Urban October initiative in 2014 to highlight the world’s urban challenges and engage the international community in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
See some facts:
- Until 2009, more people lived in rural areas than in urban areas.
- Today, approximately 55% of the world’s population lives in towns and cities, and the level of urbanization is expected to reach nearly 70% by 2050.
- A large growth in urban population will occur in Asia and Africa, especially in China, India and Nigeria where fertility rates remain high.
- Cities are here to stay, and humanity’s future is undoubtedly urban, but not exclusively in large urban areas.
- Urbanization will continue to be a transformative but uneven process that requires differentiated responses depending on the diversity of the urban context.
- The worst-case scenario of the urban future will have disastrous consequences for cities; This therefore leads to economic insecurity, environmental challenges and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities.
- A business-as-usual approach will lead to a pessimistic urban future scenario characterized by systemic discrimination and exclusion of the poor from urban agendas.
- Any vision of an optimistic future for cities must embody a new social contract with universal basic income, health coverage and housing.
There is another problem that is often invisible: every time a farmer migrates to an urban center, he consumes more food. And one food product for less.
What is the future of cities?
In light of the above, if business continues as usual, the future will only worsen the past and the current situation.
Indeed, most cities are unable to achieve the triple goal of being economically productive, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable, according to UN findings to mark World Habitat Day.
The global body also sets priorities that include ensuring access to clean water supplies, functional sanitation and the appropriate disposal of wastewater and waste.
Providing sustainable and efficient mobility as well; the promotion of more compact, safe and healthy settlements; and improving resilience to climate change, extreme weather events and disease transmission.
Tokyo is currently the largest city in the world: 38 million inhabitants, followed by Delhi (30 million); São Paulo in Brazil (22 million), and seven other mega urban centers with 20 million or more, such as Cairo (22 million), Dhaka (21 million), and Beijing, with more than 20 million, to name a few. .
Are cities the best place to live?
Up to you to judge. But please remember that large urban centers, by attracting large numbers of people, also generate social tension, deep inequality, violence and crime.
And luxury innovations like growing food in vertical gardens, on rooftops, do not seem to be sufficient to solve many of the challenges facing such a civilized world.
Nor is it the unstoppable growth of ‘modern slums’ as is the case with sprawling neighborhoods built and used primarily as ‘bedrooms’.
Are there any serious plans to improve the harsh living conditions in rural areas, instead of turning them into huge industrial and urban centers surrounded by energy fields that merge farmland with solar panels, wind turbines, power and communication towers and endless highways?
© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOriginal source: InterPress Service