We are now witnessing one of the largest migrations in human history. As more and more people move out of rural areas and into cities, new challenges are emerging that need to be addressed, from sustainability to social equity.
Sarah Burch, professor of geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo, envisions the sustainable cities of the future.
Improving the way cities are structured is key to quality of life for the growing number of people that live in them. As population densities increase, people will likely also live closer to the places where they work and play. Mass and rapid transit will become increasingly important, as well as active modes of transportation, like walking and cycling.
Far from a concrete jungle, Burch believes that natural systems will play an important role in making cities resilient and liveable. Their creative integration could solve many infrastructure problems, all while making cities more desirable.
“For instance, we can use wetlands to purify water, to protect the city from storms or floods, to create recreational opportunities, beautiful places where people can cycle and play, and do all of those things at the same time, instead of building a wall to keep out a flood or expanding our sewer system to purify water,” says Burch.
While this may sound like a technical challenge, Burch insists that the technologies needed for renewable energy and transportation are already here. The larger challenges are social and political. Finding synergies between the economy and the environment, and ways to protect both at once, will be key to the implementation of sustainable technologies.
In a way, bringing a bit of the country to the city might help fill the needs of cities of the future.