As technological inventions and societies move forward, urban areas become more practical. They house large amounts of people in smaller areas, effectively taking up less space in nature.
However, as people continue to move to cities, the natural elements must come to them. Biodiversity already exists in the environment, but with the right integration, it could bring urban areas to a new, healthy level.
The Need for Urban Nature
Urban areas are beneficial for living, working and building communities. However, with such consistent innovation and development comes some negative aspects of city life.
Notably, urban areas are more susceptible to air pollution. In condensed areas, pollutants constantly linger, subsequently worsening public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution accounts for 4.2 million deaths every year. Further, a Harvard study recently linked air pollution with higher COVID-19 mortality rates.
Higher air pollution worsens environmental impacts, too, which speeds up the climate crisis. Multiple modes of transportation and heightened energy usage in urban areas bring consequences that require action.
Integrating nature into cities is an effective and tangible solution. Greenery will lead to a direct decrease in carbon emissions. A green city will also bring about benefits for hot weather.
With increasing temperatures, cities take on the urban heat island effect. This phenomenon traps heat inside a city and makes it hotter and more unhealthy for daily living. Trees and green spaces offer relief to residents by simply providing more shade and reflecting sunlight.
The environmental benefits, though, are just the beginning.
What Would Urban Nature Look Like?
Since cities around the world, like Melbourne, are taking the lead with urban green spaces, the concept is no longer hard to imagine. Green is the keyword when integrating nature. Many cities stand out for their concentrated number of buildings, but adding greenery creates a unique tool for urbanization with countless benefits.
Buildings would be a prime space for adding gardens and plants. Rooftops do not always serve significant purposes — filling them with gardens would bring an abundance of benefits and increased ecological progress. Building walls also work well for hosting vertical green spaces. Rainwater trickles down and keeps every plant healthy and alive. Plus, greenery is visually appealing for residents.
On the ground level, green spaces can exist almost everywhere. Parks are already common in cities, but urban planners can take that concept further. Integrating trees, plants, grass and shrubbery on sidewalks and nearby parking lots and roads can help offset carbon emissions. This also creates more areas to socialize and spend time outside.
Additionally, urban flooding can be disastrous. By adding absorbent mulch and grass to the ground — integrated into sidewalks — a reduction in flooding can occur.
Last, but certainly not least, a better urban environment brings better mental and physical health. Green spaces store carbon and provide a cooling effect for cities. However, they also benefit the residents’ mental states and reduce stress.
Cities Taking the Lead
The move toward green cities requires a collective effort — both on a local and global scale. Urban planners, architects and engineers must work together in the same way that cities must push each other in the right direction.
Singapore is a significant example of a green city due to its progressive nature. With its green buildings, gardens and integrated community design, Singapore shows that a revolutionary urban design is possible.
Other cities like London, Sydney and Bogotá are all making strides to become more natural in a curated, healthy way.
Progress toward a merging of urban cities and natural settings requires new legislation, collaboration, emissions reductions, building retrofits and more funding. Each city should strive to move as far ahead as possible — as soon as possible.
The End Goal
The ultimate objective of green cities is to help the environment and the residents in an economically stimulating way. A collective effort from citizens and government officials, alongside ecologists and sociologists, will bring about the most beneficial, healthy cityscape that serves everyone.