Down to Earth - - REVIEW -

CITIES ARE at a cross­roads, con­fronting his­tor­i­cal chal­lenges posed by ris­ing pop­u­la­tions, ac­cel­er­at­ing cli­mate change, in­creas­ing in­equity, and - all too of­ten- fal­ter­ing liv­abil­ity.

As ru­ral mi­grants to cities adopt city-based life­styles, they tend to use more re­sources as their in­comes rise and their di­ets shift from starchy sta­ples to a greater share of an­i­mal prod­ucts and pro­cessed foods. This in turn, drives land clear­ance for live­stock graz­ing and fod­der.

Peo­ple care about their cities and of­ten are mo­ti­vated to pro­tect and im­prove their ur­ban homes. Cities can har­ness that pas­sion to help ad­vance a sus­tain­abil­ity agenda, per­haps more eas­ily than na­tional gov­ern­ments or cor­po­ra­tions can.

Per­haps the big­gest sin­gle step that cities can take to­ward a sus­tain­able fu­ture is to cre­ate economies that greatly re­duce ma­te­ri­als use, re­cir­cu­late most ma­te­ri­als, and rely largely on re­new­able en­ergy. "Green in­fra­struc­ture" - the use of nat­u­ral ar­eas to pro­vide eco­nomic ser­vices - can also help cities avoid build­ing costly new wa­ter man­age­ment fa­cil­i­ties, can recharge aquifers, and can pro­vide flood pro­tec­tion. En­sur­ing that de­ci­sion­mak­ing is trans­par­ent and par­tic­i­pa­tory en­sures that no com­mu­nity is left be­hind.

The path to a sus­tain­able city starts with a vi­sion; a well-crafted vi­sion can rally pub­lic sup­port and mo­bilise civic en­ergy for a long-term ur­ban makeover.

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