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Green Cities and Urban Sustainability Strategies Essay


Introduction

By the beginning of the 21st century, the vast majority of the planet’s population has moved from rural to urban areas around the globe. This gradual phenomenon is associated with the increased urbanization that is still expected to occur worldwide within the next several decades; namely, it is projected that at least two-thirds of the global population will relocate to live in cities in the next three decades, thus creating an inflow of urban population as large as two and a half billion people (Kammen and Sunter 922).

The rapid growth of the urban population has produced a set of negative effects on the cities causing urban decay, the serious strain on infrastructure, and the overconsumption of resources. Moreover, due to the influx of population in urban areas, the adverse environmental outcomes of anthropogenic nature on the areas strengthened. In particular, the increased use of motor vehicles and activity of industries resulted in the production of more emissions of greenhouse gases aggravating the change of climate.

As a result, cities began to require a new approach to development and planning based on a higher level of sustainability. This goal can be achieved through a series of initiatives aimed at the minimization of the negative effects of the growing population density and the maximization of the efficiency of resources and services in the areas. The purpose of this report is to discuss three urban sustainability strategies focusing on transportation means, built environment, and urban agriculture and identify their main challenges and opportunities, best policy instruments, as well as the issues of effectiveness and equity for city sustainability.

Cycling

The Best Policy Instruments and Infrastructure Investments for Sustainability

In their report, Pucher and Buechler indicated that the surveys of the carbon footprints of the countries of Europe compared to those of the United States showed that the former states seemed to be more productive and successful in their attempts to cut carbon emissions released by motor vehicles (“Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities” 6-8). However, the authors also specified that a more detailed review of the findings revealed that the major differences in the intensity of the carbon footprints of the two areas were based majorly on the sizes of their territories and the location and planning of urban regions (Pucher and Buechler, “Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities” 6-7).

In particular, it was noted that in larger territories where people had to travel several kilometers to various destinations, they were more likely to use cars instead of bicycles or walking. Due to the larger territory, the United States tends to have larger and more highly populated cities where people are to travel long distances to get from one location to another; accordingly, the US has more cars that are used more frequently.

In that way, some of the best instruments for the popularization and promotion of cycling and walking is the sustainable planning where the most common destinations and resources are located closer to one another thus reducing the people’s need to use motor vehicles to navigate the urban areas.

The Issues of Effectiveness and a Concern for Equity within the City

It goes without saying that riding a bicycle and walking are known as the healthiest means of transportation that are also safe for the environment because they produce no GHG emissions and also offer a good amount of physical activity to the people who use them. In that way, health benefits are generated both directly and indirectly due to the reduction of emissions and the improvement of the quality of air as well as the facilitation of healthy lifestyle choices (Pucher and Buechler, “Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities” 2).

However, apart from this aspect, the aforementioned modes of transportation present a series of other advantages for the population of urban areas. In addition to the benefits of having good quality air in urban areas, the increased use of bicycles and walking also contributes to the reduction of noise pollution – another common and quite harmful effect of the use of motor vehicles in highly populated districts.

Moreover, it is also important to notice that the GHG emission produced by cars results in the pollution of water sources that are impacted by the presence of harmful combustion byproducts in the atmosphere. Finally, another obvious factor that contributes to the overall value of the use of bicycles and walking as means of transportation is the reduction of the prevalence of dangerous traffic accidents (Pucher and Buechler, “Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities” 2).

Also, in regard to financial benefits, walking and bicycle riding are rather cost-effective and economical as they require less costs than cars in terms of personal use, maintenance, and infrastructure arrangements (Pucher and Buechler, “Sustainable Transport in Freiburg: Lessons from Germany’s Environmental Capital” 47).

These modes of transportation are affordable for most people, and this factor contributed to the strong equity of the use of walking and cycling as parts of sustainable development and planning of urban areas. All in all, walking and cycling are unbeatable as the sources of heath, environmental, and economic benefits which makes them a very valuable solution.

The Biggest Challenges and Opportunities

One of the main challenges related to the promotion of the use of bicycles and walking as preferred modes of transportation is based on the implementation of controversial policies to which members of the general public can react negatively (Pucher and Buechler, “Sustainable Transport in Freiburg: Lessons from Germany’s Environmental Capital” 60). Such policies should be implemented gradually and in several stages to ensure a smooth transition.

Also, the promotion of these means of transportation requires the reorganization of infrastructure and resources in a manner that makes this solution appropriate for residents. In well-planned areas, a policy supported by the higher level of government is an excellent long-term opportunity with multiple lasting benefits.

Built Environment

The Best Policy Instruments and Infrastructure Investments for Sustainability

Most of the contemporary large urban areas are unequipped to face and handle the rapid growth of the population in a sustainable manner; in order to increase the sustainability in regard to the improvement of the quality of air and the reduction of GHG emissions, cities are to focus on low carbon and eco-friendly sources of renewable energy one of which is solar energy. Mainstream urban construction oriented at the inclusion of solar panels as a part of the city planning is likely to achieve what can be referred to as zero energy and reduced carbon built environments and homes (Berry and Whaley 91-92).

Infrastructure investments allowing the implementation of solar energy generation for the urban use should be directed at the standardized installation, renovation, and construction of the required photovoltaic equipment in the built environments which may result in flawed delivery and thus call for more costs than planned at first (Berry and Whaley 97). In that way, policy instruments should aim at the optimization of the building design for the appropriate performance levels and be based on thorough evidence and research.

The Issues of Effectiveness and a Concern for Equity within the City

As mentioned previously, the installation and the adjustment of the new standards for solar equipment must match the environments in which it will be used. Inappropriate or flawed research and calculations, as well as the errors during installation, will lead to the ineffective use of equipment and the loss of costs (Berry and Whaley 98).

In that way, it can be said that the effectiveness and equity of this particular policy are highly dependent on the city structures as well as the solar radiation levels in the area and throughout the seasons. For some organizations and buildings this adjustment can be unacceptable or unreasonable due to their location; also, the implementation of this policy will call for the reduction of the number of trees located closely to the populated areas which can negatively impact the quality of air.

The Biggest Challenges and Opportunities

The main challenge related to the switch to solar energy is the need for investment in the equipment that may not work properly or not result in the expected benefits due to insufficient research, inappropriate location, seasonal changes in solar radiation levels, and flawed installation and maintenance. However, the opportunity to create zero carbon and zero energy homes is highly beneficial for urban areas, and even if only some of the districts can be equipped with solar panels – it could still be advantageous (Kammen and Sunter 922).

Urban Agriculture

The Best Policy Instruments and Infrastructure Investments for Sustainability

Kirshnan et al. defined urban agriculture as “the growing, processing, and distribution of food and other products through intensive plant cultivation and animal husbandry in and around cities” (325). Best policy instruments for the change aimed at this innovation should aim at the effective and alternative use of land (Wier and Zomer). In addition, Kirshnan et al. recognize food charters as a convenient and effective policy instrument allowing the promotion of the ideas of food security, sustainability, and safety driven by urban agriculture (338-339).

The Issues of Effectiveness and a Concern for Equity within the City

Similarly to the issues faced by innovative planning strategies aiming at the increased use of solar energy in urban areas, urban agriculture also deals with the issues of equity since the relocation of the sources of consumable foods and grown non-food resources to the urban areas is possible in the cities that have the appropriate structures and spaces (Rainwater 46-47). However, the equity is high with this initiative and under the sufficient planning, the areas suitable for urban agriculture can be found if not within, then near the city, thus placing the source of consumable goods closer to the city and minimizing the energy and time spent on the delivery and making the supply chain shorter and more efficient.

The Biggest Challenges and Opportunities

The major challenge faced by urban agriculture is linked to the lack of awareness about this practice, and thus the insufficiency of support for its implementation is present (Kirshnan et al. 335-340). In that way, the policies aimed at the introduction of this innovative practice to the urban planning initiatives are to take into consideration the social perception of this change and the potential barriers slowing down its enforcement. The promotion of appropriate values is necessary for the urban authorities to ensure the positive social attitude to this change and a high level of readiness to embrace it and participate in its development.

The major opportunity for the promotion of urban agriculture is the modern social trend for food consciousness, which makes many modern urban citizens more appreciative of a high quality of food, as well as of the chance to learn in detail how it is produced and delivered.

Conclusion

Of the three domains of the sustainable urban planning discussed in this report, the one supporting the healthy and environmentally safe transportation options seems to be the most promising way to reduce the carbon footprint of the city. In addition to the obvious benefits such as the reduction of GHG emissions produced by motor vehicles, the increased use of bicycles in urban areas is also beneficial for the public health and safety because it offers a daily exercise for a better quality of life and safer roads with lower and less dangerous traffic.

Also, in well-populated city centers, this initiative can be gradually introduced due to the dense location of destinations and resources; whereas, in less active urban areas, certain infrastructure adjustments and a more effective placement of common destinations will be needed for the change to work properly (Condon 68).

Works Cited

Condon, Patrick M. Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities. Island Press, n.d.

Berry, Stephen and David Whaley. “The Implications of Mandating Photovoltaics on All New Homes.” Energy Procedia, vol. 83, 2015, pp. 91 – 100.

Kammen, Daniel M. and Deborah A. Sunter. “City-Integrated Renewable Energy for Urban Sustainability.” Urban Planet, vol. 325, no. 6288, 2016, pp. 922-928.

Kirshnan, Sarada et al. “Sustainable Urban Agriculture: A Growing Solution to Urban Food Deserts.” Organic Farming for Sustainable Agriculture, edited by Dilip Nandwani, Springer, 2016, pp. 324-344.

Pucher, John and Ralph Buehler. “Sustainable Transport in Freiburg: Lessons from Germany’s Environmental Capital.” International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, vol. 5, 2011, pp. 43–70.

—. “Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities.” Built Environment, vol. 36, no. 4, 2010, pp 391-414.

Rainwater, Brooks. Local Leaders in Sustainability. The American Institute of Architects, 2009.

Wier, Emily and Alisa Zomer. “Land Use Planning: The Critical Part of Climate Action Plans that Most Cities Miss.” The Nature of Cities, n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, November 17). Green Cities and Urban Sustainability Strategies. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/green-cities-and-urban-sustainability-strategies/

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Green Cities and Urban Sustainability Strategies." November 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/green-cities-and-urban-sustainability-strategies/.

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