Have you ever thought of all the things that make up the area that you live in? What makes it good or bad?
In an ideal world all cities and communities would be safe, affordable, clean green and inclusive. But sometimes these things don’t work out, and cities become unpleasant places to live; the air might be very polluted or certain groups of people might feel excluded.
So what can we do to help?
We need to manage cities and communities to meet the needs of people without harming the environment. We also need to tackle inequalities so that people can share equally in the benefits of the city. Finally, inclusion should be promoted so that no one feels left out.
There are lots of ways that anyone, including you, can make a difference to make cities and communities more sustainable. For example, you could: host an inclusive street party or volunteer at a street clean up.
Everyone can take action to make real change. What will you do?
There are lots of charities that need your help to make cities and communities more sustainable.
For example, The Royal Parks look after London’s Royal Parks so everyone can enjoy the wonderful outdoor spaces and Campaign for Better Transport improves public transport so that people can get around in an environmentally friendly, reliable, safe and affordable way.
See how you can support them in their amazing work.
Humans have been building cities for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations like the Greeks designed and built cities for the good of everyone living there. They made it easy to travel by planning streets in straight lines, they kept everyone fed and watered by setting up markets and building aqueducts and they even pioneered public parks where people could relax in nature.
Bringing people together in cities and communities has led to greater culture, innovation, wealth, education, life expectancy and tourism, to name just a few things!
The world has examples of some terrible cities, as well as some wonderful ones. If certain things aren’t done right, a city or community can become quite awful to live in.
The perfect city or community is:
When cities and communities are all these things, people can lead healthy, happy and productive lives.
Even though cities can offer people so much, they also breed serious problems. Sometimes, they manage natural resourcesThings that we use from nature, like water, air, soil and wood. poorly. Cities also put inequalitiesWhen people don’t have the same opportunities because of who they are. on display because it’s easy to see when everyone doesn’t have the same privileges. Some people are also excluded from certain places and communities.
Keep reading to learn about some of the problems that cities and communities face.
Sometimes natural resourcesThings that we use from nature, like water, air, soil and wood. aren’t used wisely. They could be poorly looked after or overexploitedWhen too much of a resource is used.. For example,
More and more people are moving to cities. Bits of nature that are found inside cities, called green spaces, are being replaced with housing. It’s a pity because green spaces help people to relax and stay happy and healthy. These pockets of nature are also good for the health of the planet, absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and slowing global warming. Structures such as buildings and roads have the opposite effect. They absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural areas do, causing temperatures to rise. This is called the ‘heat island effect’. This means that areas of cities where there aren’t many green spaces can get hot and uncomfortable in certain parts of the world.
As more people move to cities, there are more cars on the road and factories work harder and harder. Cars and factories burn fossil fuelsAncient energy sources (coal, oil and gas) in the earth’s crust that are used to heat homes, make electricity and power vehicles., releasing greenhouse gasesGases that form a layer around Earth, like a blanket, and make Earth heat up. When there are too many of these, Earth starts warming up more than it should., which are bad for the environment and human health. This is especially bad in countries where roads are very congestedCrowded with traffic or people. as cars continue to emit carbon dioxide even in traffic jams.
Cities have many effects on water quality. When it rains, runoff waterWater running off land surfaces back into a water body such as a river. carries oil, rubber and heavy metals that cars shed on the roads, into water bodies like rivers, lakes and wetlands. Water is also pollutedWhen the environment is contaminated or dirtied. For example by waste, chemicals and other harmful substances getting into the air, water or soil. by sewageWaste water from flushing the toilet, showers, baths and sinks.. Many cities let their sewage flow directly into rivers – which is a fairly disgusting thing to do.
Take a look at the pictures above showing a view of some of the world’s big cities taken from the sky. You might recognise some of these cities from having visited them or even living there! Think about what they look like now and what they might have looked like a thousand years ago – might there have been more green space? Or fewer polluting cars and buildings?
There are inequalitiesWhen people don’t have the same opportunities because of who they are. in cities – not everyone shares equally in the benefits of a city. For example,
It is easy to feel isolatedAlone and away from everyone else. from communities.
People in all cities, big and small, can feel isolated. For example, in big cities, people who are disabled may be excluded because buildings weren’t designed with them in mind. For example, someone in a wheelchair may not be able to get up the stairs. In smaller cities, older people may be excluded because there isn’t much public transport so it is difficult to get around.
The final estimated price is :
Cities need to be as alive as the people in them. They should change and grow with the needs of the people living there so that they continue to be places where everyone can learn, work and enjoy where they live. They also need to adapt to the needs of the environment, becoming greener and better for the planet we call home.
It is vital to put lots of thought and planning into maintaining cities and communities to meet the needs of people without harming the environment.
Rules and guidelines should be put into place to protect the city’s best green spaces and natural areas. As cities start squeezing more and more buildings into the same amount of space, people need to be creative with designing and making good use of green spaces. For example, by building green roofs and walls. Watch the video on the right titled ‘cities of the future’, describing cities around the world that are making drastic transitions to become more sustainableDoing something in a way that it is possible to carry on doing it that way for a long time – you’re not hurting something or going to run out of something you need..
Laws to ban the dumping of raw sewage (sewage that hasn’t been cleaned up) into rivers should be implemented.
Improve transport around the city to minimise pollution from cars. This can include improving public transport networks or pedestrianising streets (meaning that cars will no longer be allowed down those streets). Watch the news video on the right debating the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street in London in 2017. In 2021 it was finally decided that by the end of 2021 certain areas of Oxford Street would be pedestrianised. Think about the advantages and disadvantages for different groups of people. How might a shop owner, shop customer, runner or taxi driver feel about the change?
It is important to adopt systems so that people can share equally in the benefits of the city.
TaxMoney that people have to pay to the government. The government uses this money to pay for public services such as education and healthcare. systems that spread money around more evenly and improve access to public services can help reduce inequalities. Progressive tax systems, for example, are when wealthy people have to pay more tax than poor people. The tax money then gets spent on public services so that everyone can access the services. Watch the video on the right to learn more about progressive tax systems.
It is important to put rules and guidelines in place so that no one feels left out or isolated.
Improve transport so that people can easily get to where they want to go to meet and interact with other people. This includes providing enough buses, trains and trams but also making them accessible to everyone no matter their age, physical abilities or how much money they have.
Set up and encourage free and accessible events for people to meet each other. For example, street parties or clubs for people that share the same interests.
Now that you understand a bit more about Sustainable Cities and Communities, it’s time to make a difference. If you want to do something practical to help, the power is in your hands. Take a look at some ways you can take action right now.
If you have any other ideas of SuperKind things people can do to make cities and communities more sustainable, we would love to hear from you here.
Here are some amazing young people who cared about Sustainable Cities and Communities and took action to make change happen. These change makers were all passionate about the same cause but used their unique skills to make change happen in different ways.
Everyone can help make a difference. Consider what your unique superpower might be. Are you someone with a strong voice who likes to spread awareness by talking to everyone you meet? Or do you prefer a behind the scenes approach – making sure that donations are collected to take to those in need?