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Urban Green Infrastructure

Cities are a fundamental part of society. According to a 2020 report by the World Bank, over half of the world’s population resides in cities, and they generate 80% of the global GDP.


Despite these impressive figures, many cities have poor records on pollution, combating climate change and creating habitable living spaces. Many would say they are poorly prepared for the future.


‘Greener’ infrastructure in urban areas can not only make cities more habitable and sustainable, but it can also generate further economic growth. Of course, it does require substantial up-front investment: the usual trade-off that impedes environmentalist projects.


Green infrastructure usually refers to infrastructure that relies on sustainable energy, promotes better air quality, adapts to the climate and ultimately creates a greater quality of life for city residents.


There are various ways to promote green infrastructure. For example, one of the primary causes of pollution in cities is the modes of transportation available. Many individuals rely on private vehicles to commute to their jobs, or to travel from one place to another. This is usually due to the poor quality of public transportation, or simply the inconvenience of it. Even when public transportation is available, it tends to pollute as well. Transportation that relies on electricity as its power source can feasibly replace gasoline-powered transportation in just a few years if provided with the right amount of investment.


Another weak spot of cities stems from what they are made out of. According to a 2022 report conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, concrete is the primary building block of cities and it tends to raise the temperature of the immediate environment surrounding it. While we currently do not possess technology that can replace concrete, the simple act of planting trees or grass can alleviate some of the issues.


There are numerous issues associated with urban areas regarding the climate and the pollution emitted by them, but the implementation of robust green infrastructure can help to further rectify the situation. Of course, we must also carefully consider the economic trade-offs involved. 


Nicholas Gillert was an Infrastructure intern for ONC during the Spring 2022 semester. 


Sources:

Overview. (n.d.). World Bank. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/overview

US EPA. (2014, June 17). Heat Island Impacts [Overviews and Factsheets]. https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/heat-island-impacts

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