Opinion: Cities of the future: what will they be like and how do we have to rethink them?

As climate change advances, the cities of the future must rethink themselves to be more sustainable.

City of the future

To erase the dystopian image of the cities of the future, we must rethink how we build them. Photo: LatinAmerican Post

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: Ciudades del futuro: ¿cómo serán y cómo hay que repensarlas?

If we think of the cities of the future, a bleak and dystopian image comes to mind. But twenty or thirty years ago there were also science fiction films that thought about their future, that is, our present, in a very different way than it is now.

While we may not be technologically advanced enough to ride in flying chariots, it is clear that since the 1990s there has been a technological boom that has advanced technology and science by leaps and bounds. And that boom has been accompanied by a particular response that has been brewing for hundreds of years: mass consumerism. The center of this consumption? The cities.

Cities and their environmental impact

Urban centers are the meeting point of a large demographic concentration in very small spaces, excessive exploitation of natural resources to satisfy the consumption of all that demographic concentration, high energy and water consumption, and a clear line that separates the highest classes from the poorest.

The reason? Cities are designed both from the social to their infrastructure. Although we have been sold the idea of a metropolis as a place with opportunities to fulfill dreams, we must bear in mind that these dreams are associated with a capitalist mentality whose sole purpose is productivity and the ability to sustain itself financially. In turn, the very paradigm of capitalism neglects how natural resources are used to fulfill that purpose. It has done it historically, and that has been one of the main problems to stop the consequences of the destruction of the environment.

Cities not only frame this type of thinking and way of living in a social way, but they are also built to promote those ideas. This has a negative and direct impact on the environment. For example, tall buildings with oversized windows are the leading cause of the highest rate of bird deaths in the world. Also, as a city expands, the wildlife around it disappears. The amount of oxygen produced in a city is very low compared to that produced in a rural environment with little human presence. Population concentration, industrial activities, and means of transport, both private and public, produce high amounts of pollution and put at risk not only wildlife in cities but also human life itself.

We cannot ignore that the consumerist spirit that is praised in the cities is the engine so that in rural areas the environment is exploited in an excessive way to satisfy the needs of those who live in the metropolis.

We must rethink the infrastructure of cities

Luckily we are already starting to do so. For example, scientists and architects are creating materials to build buildings that support the life of different species and promote the abundance of sources of oxygen. Now we talk about sustainable and green cities, but we must understand that sometimes this is not enough, especially since the sustainability label in a name is more of a label than a reality. It is necessary that governments that have committed to reducing their levels of greenhouse gases in the last COP26, deliver within their infrastructure plans guarantees to rethink the cities of the future. We must do it now, waiting only delays us in the race against climate change.

Read also: Opinion: False Efforts to Preserve Natural Resources

Doing so will not only throw an environmental paradigm to the wall, it will also have a human effect. It is a matter of understanding that in this scenario the most affected will be the vulnerable, but the privileged will also have to live the consequences of the need for mass consumption that is gradually leading us to extinction.

Supporting those ventures that want to be truly sustainable, demanding infrastructure that puts the well-being of the human being and the environment first and taking care of the resources that have not yet been exhausted, is vital so that the cities of the future can keep us alive and do not mean our destruction.

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