sustainable development

Why to read about sustainable development goals in Mega Cities I. and II.?

I quoted the famous German author and poet: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the first part of the article. In order to be able to align sustainable development goals we need to understand the problems first.

Geographical differences in Mega Cities

Depending on cities’ ages and locations, there is much variation in wealth and infrastructure.

Many of the new urban areas, located in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, have entirely fresh look, feel, and outlook. Than their older European or North American counterparts.

How fast an area is growing is a key component according to the World Population History regarding the expansion and managableness of the city.

When a city expansion is not too fast

This means a city grows at a manageable rate. It considered 1% annually, in that case

  • its infrastructure can keep pace with an increasing population and its demands. Necessities are e.g.: roads, public transportation, appropriate sewers, and water treatment facilities.
  • In addition, clinics, schools, and housing need and have enough time to be planned and built alongside the increase in population.

If someone decides to move to an urban area because there is more work. That still does not mean they will find work. It does not mean their life will be better and it might mean people need to live in an unhealthy or poor environment. And with less opportunities that they have been before.

It is a good idea if you think before you move to any bigger city. Moving not always solve problems. Sometimes moving just create bigger problems than you have had before. If you do not know what you need in order to be able to face challenges and be competitive in a new environment.

When the urban expansion is too fast

The risk of fast urban growth, especially in an economically strained country, is that

  • the infrastructure not fast enough to keep up with residents’ needs.

Without infrastructures in place to provide basic needs, residents can be forced to create their own provisions with whatever is available. This usually not provides the best possible options and solutions; next to this resident need to adapt to be able to satisfy their needs better, which sometimes create more pollution to the environment.

For example

  • if healthcare facilities are reachable only in the city center that means residents need to use their cars more, which means more environmental pollution and loss of time as well.

However, if the urban (infrastructural) expansion keeping up with the urban (population) growth that means hubs can be created and decentralization of a big city could help people to reach for example healthcare facilities faster and sooner.

  • If housing not solved well, or people need to work far from their house, or they need to commute a lot, then they need to use car and public transport more and this could increase environmental pollution. Next to this they lose time what they could have been spending with their family, friends, loved ones, or to satisfy their recreational needs and increase their mental health and well-being.

Although, this is a problem only in that case if people need to work in offices and use vehicles to commute in a greater extent.

We can saw on computer models generated by NASA that under the peak of the Covid pandemic times, pollution level decreased significantly on Earth atmosphere. Pandemic restrictions have reduced global nitrogen dioxide concentrations by nearly 20%. Those computer models show how the Covid-free world would be in comparison with the Covid world. The video can be viewed on the website of the NASA. Surface observation, satellite data and computer models can help to observe pollution and air quality in the world better.

Pollutant levels drops in the Covid world in Wuhan - sustainable development in mega cities
Pollutant drops in Wuhan and did not rebound according to NASA (source)

According to the NASA “Wuhan…was the first municipality reporting an outbreak of COVID-19. It was also the first to show reduced nitrogen dioxide emissions—60% lower than simulated values expected. A 60% decrease in Milan and a 45% decrease in New York followed shortly, as their local restrictions went into effect.” The research was still ongoing in 2020 and GEOS model data are publicly available, which was used in the study.

Environmental awareness in Mega cities

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas.

The proportion is expected to increase to 68% by 2050 (UN, 2018). Cities are the powerhouses of economic growth, contributing 80% of global GDP according to the World Bank, 2020.

“Business as usual” is not a solution

According to World Cities Report 2022 returning to the pre-pandemic state, known as “Bad Old Deal”, not what people should follow.

The challenges

Systemic discrimination, exclusion of the poor in urban agendas including the exclusion of informal sector workers, overreliance on fossil fuels. Poorly planned and managed urbanization, low prioritization of public health in urban development, entrenched digital inequalities. Those undermine the vision of achieving inclusive, resilient, and sustainable development goals – where no one is left behind.

Globally, 1.6 billion people or 20 percent of the world’s population live in inadequate housing. From this one billion reside in slums and informal settlements. Under these conditions, the goal of eradicating poverty in all its forms by 2030 and leave no one behind will not be achieved. At least not without concerted efforts.

The pessimistic scenario could lead to new forms of urban vulnerabilities in the future. These would disproportionately affect already disadvantaged/vulnerable groups according to World Cities Report 2022.

Sustainable Development Goals

As the world continues to urbanize, cities have become key players in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Responding to the needs of urban populations comes with many challenges. It can relate to housing, transportation, energy systems, infrastructure, employment, or basic services according to the Green Environment Network.

Awareness and sustainable development goals (Image source: Unsplash)

Sustainable development in Mega cities

Good urban planning is one of the three pillars of sustainable cities.

For example: urban areas can help accelerate the net zero transition. The EU’s 2050 net zero strategy considers cities as experimentation in energy, transport, and construction sectors (World Cities Report 2022.)

What are sustainable cities?

Sustainable development goals in cities need to protect natural resources while achieving economic, physical, and social progress, and anticipate environmental risks that can undermine any development achievements.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The adaptation and resilience agenda interlinked with development agendas. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development tied “sustainable cities and communities” to both safety and resilience (SDG 11).

The New Urban Agenda highlighted citiesimportance to

“Reduce vulnerability, build resilience and responsiveness to natural and human-made hazards and foster mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.”

Adaptation will likely be a challenge for cities in the 21st century.

To enhance sustainability in mega cities we need to know

  • what mega cities are,
  • being aware about their problems,
  • knowing what sustainable development is,
  • how it is connected to climate change,
  • how to embrace resilience for the greener future in cities.

Sustainable awareness and growth

To be able to ensure to avoid climate change and learn more about sustainable growth we need to know

  • what exactly environmental awareness is,
  • how we can create sustainable development goals,
  • to avoid climate change effects.

Those concepts can be learned in sustainability courses, which can help to raise awareness, and adjust ways to learn methods to avoid climate change in (mega) cities.

ICT in cities

Smart, sustainable development goals facilitate healthier and more inclusive cities, by applying ICT in cities, which requires care to

  • avoid empowering corporate interests and further exclude already marginalized by prevailing technocratic and entrepreneurial approaches to urban governance.

Technology development and use is fit for purpose. Inclusive, transparent, and accountable can lead to sustainable and resilient urban futures. Although it is a process that will take time and it will not be as flashy as corporate-led investments.

For example, a more inclusive approach to smart city governance may lie in the development of “digital twins” of existing cities. Or virtual models that allow real-time urban management.

Urban Planning Solution according to World Cities Report 2022 can be the fight against global climate change. It can be with a series of green technological innovations that harness

  • renewable energy sources,
  • reduce energy consumption and
  • protect other environmental assets.

These innovations are key to create then reach sustainable development goals in cities. These not only significantly reshape urban infrastructure—buildings, transport systems, energy grids, etc.—but also exercise major influence on urban daily life.

The second technological development relates to unparalleled advancements in the digital world.

Digitalization encompasses smart technological innovations that enable

  • ubiquitous computing,
  • big data collection from widespread deployment of sensors and devices,
  • large-scale data analytics,
  • machine learning and autonomous decision-making.

These connected and digital technologies find expression in the “smart city,”. In which now a major paradigm of urban policy increasing in everyday reality.

Each of these technological fields is significant on its own. But it is the confluence of the two that at present creates unique technological momentum with fundamental implications. For the way in which future cities are governed and planned – World Cities Report 2022.

Solution opportunities

Some examples to solutions as part of digitalization and smart cities:

  • using technologies to monitor the electricity grid inside of buildings and businesses connected to the grid. This can be a gateway for economic revitalization.
  • using technology to drive sustainable outcomes, smart parking systems can reduce emissions and energy consumption etc.

Livable cities and reaching Sustainability Goals

To sum up:

We need people who

  • understand the effects of Environmental Awareness and Sustainability,
  • can learn and able to apply those concepts into real life and reality,
  • can apply those changes in today’s economy for tomorrow’s sustainable growth and
  • use already existing technologies and innovate them to create interconnectedness and solve problems in large scale.

It is not too late for us to help on ourselves and on the next generations. Next to this to balance our environment. To help people and cities to create and implement sustainable development goals in cities and communities, which

  • connects people and cities together and
  • reduce the effects of climate changes.

Moving to the city is not always the best idea

As we all know all that glitters not gold.

Urban area in Shibuya (Source)

Just because you think your life will be easier somewhere, it doesn’t mean it is true.

It might mean that you do not know what you do not know and that is why you think your life will be easier. You might be too optimistic about this than you should be. Salaries might be better in urban areas, but living costs are higher too. People sometimes forgot to count with the costs as they are focusing on the profit.

How can people help sustainable goals individually?

Some examples how to help goals individually:

Environmentally friendly transportation

Walk or ride a bicycle or use public transportation whenever you can, it just helps to reduce environmentally unhealthy emission of gases, and this will help sustainable development, and environmental friendliness. For example, using car sharing platforms and electric car sharing platforms can help you to make the environment less polluted than it was before.

Use a car less, than you would use otherwise, not just because the fuel prices peaked, but because it is very unhealthy to use cars all the time to our environment, use car sharing services instead.

Planting flowers and Urban gardening

Learn how to plant flowers, trees, and plants, obviously sometimes it is just healthier if you plant your own fruits and vegetables if you have a little garden somewhere, or you can plant with others or volunteer in an urban garden and help to share the vegetables to people who are in need.

Solar panels and wind turbines

Reduce the consumption of electricity, or just use solarpanels as much as you can mostly if you have an electric car and etc., wind tubines are a good idea too to have as it can generate enough electricity for your house or cars to charge and recharge them.

Local market

Buy local fruits, and vegetables instead the ones, which transported globally. For example do not buy fruits and vegetables which come from the other side of the world. Instead go and buy vegetables, which sold in the local market as these are much better and healthier.

Recycling water

Use as much waste water as you can, recycling water is pretty important nowadays such as toilet flushing, street washing, and fire protection can be solvable with waste water too. In that case you are able to help on the environment.

Stay local

If you can then stay in your area, do not move to a huge urban area only for the sake of it. Moving, and living somewhere else is not always easy and not always the best solution for you. Do not buy a flat or house just to take loans, and have kids just to be able to get support from the government and be able to repay the loan. Staying local can help you to avoid unnecessary expenses.

(I do not think everyone needs to do this, but if you listen to others you will hear interesting stories. A lot of people marry fast in a new town, have a baby, then divorce and they still will have a loan for decades to repay. Meanwhile others just living alone for years which can be very lonely. Moving to other cities or countries means you need to think on your emotional contentment too, not just focusing on your salary.)

Self-development can help you to find out whats the best for your

Get to know yourself first and find out what is the best for you, what makes you happy is better than moving to a city what you do not like and get into a situation which is not good for you.

Travelling to an unknown (or what you have been and unknown place for you so far) place and being on a vacation there does not mean automatically that you would enjoy a life there. When you travel or you are going to a holiday it might means you feel better. You have better feelings regarding an area, which otherwise you would have if you would living there everyday. Especially if you not able to live in a similar area in the new town/country where you have been living before in your old town/country.

Buying food/drink from a webshop can be dangerous

Buying different things from a webshop for example food and drink can be quite dangerous. In 2022, a man died in Germany after drinking from a bottle of Moet champagne. Eight people were also poisoned in Germany and four in the Netherlands. Authorities did not know first how this could happen according to the Insider.

NLTimes and the Dutch food, and consumer product safety authority, the NVWA warned people after the incident that “Touching or drinking the contents of the bottles is life-threatening.” In that time Manufacturer Moët Hennessy informed the NVWA about the incident and it was unknown for a long time how the MDMA got into the bottles. The NVWA could’t estimate how many hazardous bottles are in circulation.

Moët & Chandon champagne bottles

According to Food & Wine “officials were reportedly unsure of how the bottles became adulterated. The issue did not come from Moët Hennessy. Instead the bottles has been emptied out, filled with liquid MDMA, and resealed with different corks.”

At that time, authorities recalled a specific lot code of bottles: LAJ7QAB6780004, then because of investigations another lot coded bottles have added to the recall: LAK5SAA6490005. 

One bottle was sold on open sale and others were online and in physical shops according to The Brussels Times.

Eco-friendly products

Environmentally friendly laundry detergents are highly welcomed. As they do not add to the global pollution. These help to protect the Earth from pollution, which come from chemicals. Those cannot be recycled.

To have a more ethical lifestyle replacing environmental polluting detergents with eco-friendly ones are a good idea. Those are not just eco-friendly, but usually less likely irritate your skin and more likely contains only natural cleaning ingredients. It is a good idea to try out them instead of just using the old ones. Those can be more irritating to the sensitive skin.

Zero Waste & sustainable packages

Using zero waste or biodegredable packages are another piece of cake how to go green.

Those packages can be recycled. Next can create less waste or zero waste are become more and more fashionable. Popularity increasing nowadays as environmental awareness on a rise too.

Environmentally friendly food packages are mostly packages from glass, stainless steel, bamboo, rice husk, cellulose-filled gelatin films. Next to this corrugated cardboard and other forms of paper-based packaging are being amongst the most sustainable packages.

Responsibility is shared

To sum up as we can see all of us can be responsible for the activities we are doing. We need worldwide cooperation to be able to prohibit further pollution of the environment. We can do this only if we use our common sense and use products and services, which are environmental friendlier than the old ones.

Read the first part of the article: Sustainable development in Mega cities I. too if you like the topic.

The article updated on 29th December 2022, 2nd update on 29th January 2023.

If you are interested in sustainability we recommend to read the Green energy and green AI for sustainable services in the Greenfrastructures Blog or another interesting article: Sustainable Impact of Tech Unicorns in the Blog.

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