Greening the city: Sustainability’s new frontier

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Greening the city: Sustainability's new frontier

An old adage holds that the only constant is change. This certainly seems true in climatic terms – as humanity’s ecological footprint grows, the unfortunate consequences of a destabilized climate seem increasingly inevitable. Just as inevitable, importantly, as humanity’s ceaseless migration towards the city.

The United Nations predicts that 60% of the global population will be living in urban areas by the year 2025, compared to less than 30% in 1950. Urban land area will continue to expand as the demand for housing, trade, and transport increases with the migration of people into cities. As the human population moves into cities and urbanization sprawls across landscapes, it is becoming increasingly important for metropolitan citizens to incorporate sustainable practices, live in harmony with the natural world, and understand the impact cities are having on the ecosphere.

Up until about 40 years ago, scientists dismissed the idea of studying ecology in urban areas as cities were thought to be dead zones for plants and animals. It was believed that the existence of ecological communities in cities were just coincidental. Early observations, however, revealed that similar species were occurring under similar urban conditions and thus, it became obvious that urban ecological communities were not purely occurring and persisting due to chance. The field of “Urban Ecology” emerged within the biological sciences to refer to the study of the relationships amongst living creatures and communities within urban areas and also of the relationships between plants and animals and their environments. City planners and politicians have also started using the phrase to describe sustainable urban design programs to promote the coexistence of cities and natural ecosystems. […]