Smarter Cities

How Green Urban Design Lowers Risk Of Climate Change Disaster

Saving rainwater and increasing green spaces are two small steps shown to help fight the ravages of climate change in cities.

A park in green Bogota
A park in green Bogota
Maria Monica Monsalve

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ â€" Cities of the future may turn out to be friendlier, cleaner places than the desolate dumps science fiction films have been depicting in anticipation. A range of initiatives being taken around the world â€" some apparently of little importance, others bigger in scope â€" are already steering the urban future away from worst-case scenarios. Your children and grandchildren may end up avoiding the world of Mad Max or Blade Runner.

Certainly, cities are grappling with air pollution, massive trash generation and heaving population numbers. But many are also working on becoming more sustainable.

Susana Vélez-Haller, a forestry expert with the World Wildlife Fund, says cities are a paradox right now, requiring so many resources yet producing so little. Cities, she says, generate little other than "a lot of waste. The idea is to change that."

As centers of economic activity, cities are a magnet for people. Since 2008, the majority of the world's population lives in cities, and as a recent UN Habitat report indicates, this majority will become a third of all people by 2050.

That makes cities key to mitigating climate change and contributing to public health, food security and global welfare. "When we speak of sustainability," Vélez says, "one thinks of territorial planning, development, economy, efficient energy use, waste," and anything else that can be managed well enough to avoid the Mad Max scenario.

Green facade in Bogota â€" Photo: Juan Sarasua

So what can we do today to make cities amenable? One solution is green architecture and buildings that take their environment into account. Respecting the environment is "understanding that you are building in an existing ecosystem, which has its own conditions," says David Perico, head of Arquitectura Más Verde, a construction and landscape architecture firm. "That means exploiting the natural elements nearby, like favoring penetration of natural light depending on where the windows are, looking at wind to produce energy, and considering which building fronts can be used to gain or lose heat, depending on the climate."

A big winner in recent years has been the vertical garden. They provide thermal isolation on building sides and reduce the intensity of city "heat islands." A temperature difference between city centers and their peripheries is normal, says Perico. "While the city center is lukewarm at night and the periphery cold, this changes in the day," he says. "So these green walls can't just be thought of as another domestic technology but as a holistic, collaborative and social tool for the city."

Green walls return to nature a bit of the space taken from it by the city, provide a stop-off point or temporary shelter for migrating birds, capture pollutants and contribute to the welfare of residents on many levels.

No more floods?

Flooding and reuse of water are other issues modern and future cities must manage correctly. Runoff rainwater flowing into the drains from roofs or tarmac usually isn't treated, though it contains particles and synthetic material. "This is not just a flooding risk," says Juan Pablo Rodríguez, a civil engineering lecturer at Andes University in Bogotá. "It also has a major and negative environmental impact on rivers."

A response to this is for cities to have more filtering spaces such as soil and greenery, where water can gradually seep into the dirt. Soil and vegetation reduce flooding risks and act as filters for the water. Rodríguez says a study by his university has shown that runoff water from rooftop greenery is pH neutral, while green roofs also retain most rainwater through dry periods, and about 10% to 30% in winter.

Use of runoff water is elementary in Colombia, he says, but in places like the United Kingdom and Australia, systems have been devised to guide runoff toward areas of trees, where it is effectively stored. He observes that low-lying areas in urban parks can function as stores for use when water is more scarce, and suggests homes start using tanks to store the rainwater that pours onto their roofs.

Biodiversity returns to Colombian cities

The country's enormous range of fauna and flora is beginning to be explored for urban sustainability. "Colombia has been considering biodiversity strategies for 20 years now, though above all in rural areas and national parks," says María Angélica Mejía, a researcher at Humboldt Institute. Biodiversity provides such "services" as assuring the presence of pollinating agents in the garden or even aiding food security through city farming. This cannot be an obstacle in Colombia, she says, where so many country people have had to move into cities and have "harvesting in their genes."

Green spaces of any kind â€" be they forest segments or artificially created â€" are a crucial component of sustainable cities, she points out. "We have to have a green area within a five-minute walk," says Mejía, and any type of parkland can "supplement eco-systemic needs and contribute to our welfare."

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.

💬  LEXICON

魷魚的勝利

Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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