As cities become more congested – the United Nations estimate 70% of all humans will be urban-living by 2050 – they become less and less ‘liveable’. Many of our urban areas were simply not built for their contemporary usage, and governments are now reacting. This month, the Netherlands announced their intention to build swathes of sustainable 3D printed concrete housing, 20% cheaper than the alternative. They aim to maximize the ability of urban dwellers to breathe in their environment.
Wildlife, plant life and nature are an intrinsic part of the human experience and feeling healthy. As more humans pack into urban spaces, it’s very important that the quality of life in cities is focused on. As always, technology is helping.
Maintaining the urban space
Urban spaces suffer from dirt. Some countries fare better than others, but in many built up cities, the story is the same; the amount of people, polluting buildings and rubbish creates a less-than-positive environment. Technology, through several smaller innovations, will help to tackle this and create a foundation on which to develop the quality of life in an urban area. Take, for example, the San Francisco 311 request service. Through utilizing smart devices, it enables businesses and members of the public to request sidewalk cleanup in an easier fashion. Machine learning and AI will take this to another level. For businesses, it will help to schedule regular maintenance by using data to intuitively predict where action needs to be taken. For the streets of the city, research in LA by Harvard found that proactive cleaning – using smart gathered data – can create a clean environment.
Improving the ecological side of urban living
Plant life is an essential element for all forms of living. What’s more, it provides directly measurable economic benefits to urban spaces. According to Scientific American, the US has lost 175,000 acres of tree cover yearly, most of this in urban areas that are severely in need of that assistance. The demand for space overrides nature, essentially. Planting new trees and plant life is also controversial, as property owners and businesses contest the impact of plants on business and on the groundwork. This is again where technology comes in; surveying technology is now so advanced that groundwork can be surveyed, soil and climate controls introduced, and constant supervision of the progress of the plant to ensure its health.
Bringing animals back into the city
One aspect of urban living and nature that perhaps doesn’t need a direct hand is animal life. Wild boar have gone urban in Rome, peregrines in London and Sika deer in Japan. However, it’s not all good news, as smaller animals are suffering. The UK’s Guardian have reported that urban butterfly abundance fell 69% over 20 years; compared to 45% in rural areas. The cause of this has many roots, but the cumulative effect of pollution, the over-use of resources and the uncleanliness of cities are contributory factors. Making strides to improve the overall makeup of the city will be crucial to improving the plight of all urban animals.
The modern city has cast aside some of its most important aspects – nature and breathability. By first cleaning up the act, and then by reintroducing nature, humans can go a long way to improving the picture. Animals have shown little issue with joining urban spaces, but to improve the plight of all of them, and the biosphere as a whole, all-round action is required.