By 2050, 68% of humanity will live in cities. Even though they take up only 3% of space on Earth, they are responsible for around 70% of energy use and 75% of carbon compounds emissions globally. The modern metropolis, full of concrete, feeble lawns, and never ending webs of energy consuming devices are real hot spots on the climate map of the world. The specific conditions of urban environments, i.e. a bigger condensation of ashes, a particular moistness, or convection phenomena over severely heated city centres, cause an amplification of extreme heat waves or heavy rains. Waterproof surfaces and a lack of greenery result in lightning-fast floods, and rainwater, which should become a local reserve in case of a drought, flows down the polluted streets and sewage drains all the way to the nearest rivers and lakes. Another consequence of the dehydration of cities is the over-drying of urban areas. The lack of green spaces and the omnipresent concrete cause dangerous urban heat islands. A microclimate develops, that is dangerous for humans, increasing the probability of the occurrence of asthma, allergies and diseases of respiratory system.
How can we make agglomerations healthier, more sustainable and friendly to all species that inhabit them? What is absolutely necessary are mitigation actions, which means containing climate change by e.g. intelligent energy management and reducing greenhouse gases, as well as adapting, to increase the resistance of urban areas to extreme weather events. However, the main change that needs to happen concerns our beliefs and habits. Traditional urban planning, based purely on short-term consumer needs, must give way to designing sustainable living systems. Conscious planning of the urban ecosystem is a process where not only surface geometry or building density are taken into account, but also wind movements, moistness, sun exposure, or the level of biodiversity.
“Grow Your Own City” is a slogan that underlines the importance of a symbiosis between the city and the natural environment. In order to grow something, firstly one needs to provide adequate conditions for growth, as well as free circulation of matter and energy. Following contemporary trends in the growth of blue-green infrastructure and various, local, nature based solutions, we anticipate the future of cities as sanctuaries of biodiversity. Governed with the aid of modern, energy efficient technologies. Built from biodegradable, environmentally friendly materials – in accordance with the “cradle to cradle” idea.
Cities like those don't have to belong in utopias. Their creation depends on our determination, knowledge, and readiness to give up harmful habits that, in the time of climate crisis, cease to be justified.