“BIOPOLIS” – Biopolicy for Greener and More Livable Cities

Urban centers are the engines which must bear the brunt of required changes to meet climate change mitigation goals, whilst continuing to provide social and economic opportunities. Restoring nature to the city is not a luxury; it is vitally important to our health and well-being. Biopolicy can help international decision-makers find new ways for understanding the relationships between cities and their environments and how environmental burdens may be mitigated or resolved. A “biopolis” model, as proposed and supported by the principles of biopolicy, can evolve into a coordinated program of action in sustainable urban management that limits emissions, preserves and expands green spaces, protects waterways, encourages urban farming, enhances cultural development, creates green jobs and promotes educational opportunities for all.

1. Building a “Biopolis” – The Road to Climate Resilient Cities
The biggest challenge for the 21st century will be the development of climate-efficient urban growth. With rates of urbanization increasing and per capita energy consumption on the rise, cities around the world are an important part of the climate change problem, but they can be an important part of the solution as well. For twenty eight years, the Biopolitics International Organisation (B.I.O.) has been sensitizing experts, decision-makers and the local authorities to promote new and innovative ways of achieving greener and more livable cities. Progress in this area has been extensive, and today, urban management policy is largely being developed with due concern for the environment. Moreover, green construction materials are increasingly sought after, while energy savings in build­ings are promoted through renewable energy options and applications. Clean vehicles, public transportation based on alternative energy, optimum recycling, heating and cooling technology with the use of low-emissions/low polluting systems, are a few examples of technologies which are vital to the development of green cities. Partnerships between governments, community groups and the private sector have proven very useful in shaping the urban landscape of tomor­row in an environmentally responsible manner.

Cities are home to about half of the world’s population, and this proportion increases with each passing year. However, living in a modern city need not ex­clude experiencing the joys of nature. Cities in many countries have taken steps to restore the ambiance of natural systems within their boundaries. They strive to become a “biopolis,” an environmentally sustainable city, in which human and natural populations can live in harmonious balance.

Restoring nature to the city is not a luxury; it is vitally important to our health and well-being. Cities must become more livable places for their human populations and more inviting for wildlife. They should capitalize on their green assets and expand the presence of natural systems found within their boundaries. They can achieve this through a coordinated program in sustainable urban management that preserves and expands green spaces, protects waterways, encourages urban farming, and develops educational opportunities for all. In addition to providing vital environmental functions, such initiatives can greatly benefit the physical and mental health of the inhabitants, not to mention the local economy and the job market. The participation and empowerment of all citizens are vital to the success of any such program.

1.1 Reducing Urban Sprawl and Increasing Green Spaces
Land development affects the demand for transportation, and the provision of transportation facilities changes how land is used. Real progress toward sustainable urban management cannot be made without addressing this intercon­nection. Designing communities so that the demand for transport is less, discouraging urban sprawl, and supporting more compact communities where people can move more easily from home to work, shopping, etc., are essential for achieving livable cities with enhanced quality of life for all their citizens.

All green spaces help urban areas adapt to the impact of climate change and are vital in climate change mitigation efforts. Cities developing open space plans that provide for interconnected systems of green spaces, including parks, gardens, walkways and stream corridors, can reap multiple benefits. Increasing urban green spaces can be achieved by a variety of techniques, including outright purchase of undeveloped tracts, gifts and bequests of land, laws and regulations requiring that a certain percentage of new development be retained as open space, conservation easements restricting the use of land in the future to green space, and the creation of urban farms and gardens. In addition, cities should adopt programs for continuous tree planting along boulevards, in parks and along streams. Tree species should be carefully selected for their suitability to the individual area, and consideration should be given to native species, water needs, susceptibility to disease, and other factors. Trees with minimal maintenance requirements should be preferred.

1.2 Taking Advantage of Urban Waterways
Rivers and streams are natural corridors that transect many urban areas. They provide a great opportunity for recreation, education and contact with nature. Fishing, boating, and even swimming, depending on the water quality, are common activities along urban riverbanks. Urban waterways are vital urban environmental assets that should be protected and made an integral part of the open space system of a city. Pathways should be provided along stream corridors that connect to other paths in the city’s pedestrian and open space network. Where appropriate, measures should be taken to protect wildlife, such as the enchancement of waterfowl nesting areas, while at the same time providing sites for passive, non-intrusive observation.

1.3 Clean Transport
To respond to the climate change challenge, urban transport policy must contribute both to solving traffic congestion and to reducing the demand for fossil fuels. Clean vehicles and public transportation based on alternative energy and greener transport practices and policies can reduce CO2 emissions and improve efficiency. In addition, an ongoing evaluation of technologies is crucial in order to make sure that policies are well fitted to growing trends and that investment is not being made on unproductive schemes.

1.4 Employment and Education
Cities are areas of enhanced economic growth and opportunity. Urban areas have always created jobs, and attracted and trained talented and energetic individuals. From their origins as trading facilities to their emergence as centers of resource development and manufac­turing, cities are the loci of economic activ­ity for the majority of the world’s population. Many people migrate to urban areas in search of employment and a better life, some successfully, others unsuc­cessfully. Some bring skills with them, but many do not. Because of this, cities have always struggled with balancing the needs of residents with the needs of the economy, especially during periods of economic downturn.

By training/re-training unemployed persons, urban communities can enhance their available human capital and promote positive economic improvement within their areas. Practical experience in the field, while making a direct difference to the community served, comes with extra benefit to the individual, as people experienced in sustainable development practices are highly employable in many economic sectors.

Furthermore, making cities adapt to climate change will require a well-trained cadre of professionals who understand the implications of climate change for urban development. City-specific educational programs about climate change in urban environments are also instrumental in achieving the mitigation of the impact of urban activities and climate development.

1.5 Agriculture in the City
Urban agriculture is often viewed as a holdover from the past and a use that will even­t­ually give way to development. This view should be re-considered however. Farming and vegetable gardens in cities are valuable assets that can be encouraged and protected through appropriate city policy that supports the existence of urban agriculture and provides for its continuance. Organic farming, which eliminates the need for pesticides, is a preferable approach for urban areas in order to protect public health.

New concepts in urban design should incorporate natural elements and better integrate humans with the environment, wildlife and greenery. As proposed by B.I.O. since 1985, an extension of the existing roof that allows plants, trees and shrubs to grow in a light-weight growing medium, can be an effective strategy to address several environmental conditions facing urban environments, including management of storm water runoff and pollution mitigation. In this context, algae beds can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while creating an additional feedstock for renewable fuel production.

1.6 New Technologies – “Smart Cities”
Optimum recycling regimes, water management systems, heating and cooling technology with the use of low-emissions/low polluting systems, are a few examples of new technologies which are vital to the development of climate resilient cities. Furthermore, technology can radically change the way people interact with the urban environment and allow them to get more engaged in decisions about where they live, a key part of shaping zero-emission cities in the future. The challenge of fast urbanization is opening the way for the development of highly “smarter” cities, as more and more urban functions rely on emerging technologies. The differ­entiating factor that can make cities “smart” is the integrated use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in optimizing the flow of information among infrastructure and services such as administration, education, healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation, and utilities.

1.7 Bio-culture for Sustainable Urban Management
Culture is an essential element of a climate-friendly city. The environment is affected by our culture, which is, in turn, shaped by the environment. Bio-culture represents a conscious effort to reach this interdependence. Aesthetic values, music, science, the arts, politics, and economics can all come together in the struggle for a better quality of life. Bio-culture in the city can provide the needed momentum and life-supporting policies to contribute to a more efficient implementation of urban policies with a vision capable of reinventing cities adapted to the challenges of the 21st century.

Partnerships between governments, community groups and the private sector have proven very useful in shaping the urban landscape of tomorrow in an environmentally responsible manner. A climate resilient city also encourages its citizens to commit to sustainable actions in the areas of transportation, energy use, recycling, water, food, health, and community education. Cities that adopt a program of sustainable management with the ultimate goal of zero emissions will reap many benefits, both now and in the future. They will become more attractive, healthful and livable places, and the cleansing of pollutants from the air and the absorption of carbon by trees will provide long-term benefits for both humans and wildlife. Restoring nature and culture to the city would be a great step toward the creation of a true biopolis.

Pages: 1 2 3