Monday, 01 September 2014

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A green new world: Green thinking for green cities

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22 April 2014: When one thinks of a city the words grey, steel and concrete come to mind. A landscape of honking horns, bustling people and smog-laden air. A place where nature finds space to grow only between the cracks in the sidewalk or on the window ledge of a high-rise encased in scaffolding. However, cities also hold the promise of the future, they’re a hub of knowledge, focal points for sharing and centres for growth.

This year International Mother Earth Day aims to balance this image. Healthy, renewable, green and sustainable are the words the day seeks to associate with cities. Today emphasises the necessity that the promise of the future held by cities reflect the green and environmentally stable growth this planet needs. After all, over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and that number continues to grow. Thus, a shift in perception towards developing sustainable and healthy cities is in humankind’s and Mother Nature’s best interests.

This planet, our Mother Earth, reflects the interdependence that exists amongst all humans, other living species and the earth. Around the world every nation, every culture, has a name for nature and the world that surrounds them. Our air supply, our food, our water comes from the delicate balance that forms our world. Today we know the balance is tipping, we are facing unique environmental challenges. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our lifestyle and forge a sustainable future.

But to form this future, the participation of every person in every city is vital. We must balance expansion with sustainability, consumption with renewability, grey with green. Therefore today we celebrate Earth as a whole, and the part that humanity plays within that environment. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls to us today to, “Speak out on behalf of this planet, our only home.” The SG has appointed Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor, as the special envoy for cities and climate change. Under his direction, the Big Apple reduced its greenhouse gas emission by 19%, a big step for one of the most emblematic cities in the world.

Around the world, from Beijing to Brussels, cities participate in building green; from promoting bicycles to streamlining energy use by buildings. Yet, people must keep raising their voice to ensure continued and effective development policies. Every voice counts to build a green new world because nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

UNRIC related links:

UNRIC's monthly newsletter on the impact of plastic

UNRIC's article on air pollution

UNRIC article on political will behind climate change

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