There's little argument about the basic facts: It's ugly (think strip malls and big box stores). It's not very convenient (hours spent behind the wheel to get to work). And it wreaks havoc on the natural environment (lost farmland and compromised watersheds).
If cities have souls, the Argentine capital’s is turning more and more grey. Real estate speculation, the fencing in and paving of parks, and the installation of private bars and restaurants in public squares have changed the face of the city. Green spaces with carefully tended flower beds? Today they’re found mainly in the nostalgia brought on by a classic tango song.
This small town in southern Argentina is nearly a century old, but the unconventional fossil fuel boom is forcing it to basically start over, from scratch. The wave of outsiders drawn by the shale fuel fever has pushed the town to its limits, while the plan to turn it into a “sustainable city of the future” is still only on paper.
Agricultural losses are no longer the most visible effect of the drought plaguing Brazil’s most developed region. Now the energy crisis and the threat of water shortages in the city of São Paulo are painful reminders of just how dependent Brazilians are on regular rainfall.
With the expansion of the canal, Panama hopes to see its share of global maritime trade rise threefold. And many Panamanians hope the mega-engineering project will reduce social inequalities in a country where development is moving ahead at two different speeds.
People living in cities already outnumber those in rural areas and the trend does not appear to be reversing, according to UN-Habitat, the Nairobi-based agency for human settlements, which has warned that planning is crucial to achieve sustainable urban growth.
If former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg had used the Vélib’
- Paris’ public bicycle sharing system - to arrive at the headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development here Wednesday, he might have sent a stronger message about the need for cities to be “empowered to take the lead in combating climate change”.
With presidents and prime ministers failing to take meaningful action to avert a planetary-scale climate crisis, the mayors of cities and towns are increasingly stepping up to enact changes at the local level.
Mexican cities with populations of more than 500,000 face serious obstacles in monitoring air quality and reducing air pollution, but as of July local authorities will be required to do both, and to submit mandatory reports on their efforts to the federal government.
During World War II, a German U-boat made its way into New York Harbour
. It fired two torpedoes at a British tanker, splitting the hull in three places and igniting it in flames. The captain and 35 members of his crew burned to death.
Over 30 small and medium-sized municipalities in Argentina are jointly developing policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The idea is to raise awareness and work together to help these communities cope with a global problem, say the promoters of the initiative.
“With more than 60 percent of the world projected to be urban by 2030 why not prepare for it and build cities that include biodiversity preservation into planning?” asks Kobie Brand of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability in Cape Town, South Africa.
Building the cities of the future requires not only smarter planning but a profound shift toward greater equity and social justice, says Joan Clos, executive director of the U.N. Human Settlements Programme, or UN-HABITAT.