The theme for the Your World 2021-22 competition is Urban living: sustainable cities and communities. This Your World competition links directly into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal no. 11
Our cities and local communities within them are at breaking point. With growing urbanisation, it has been estimated that 50 percent of the population live in cities and that this number will grow to 70 percent by 2050. Cities take up less than three percent of the Earth’s land but account for up to 80 percent of total energy consumption and produce 75 percent of carbon emissions. Large populations in cities are more vulnerable to pollution because they live with it every day. Global warming is also affecting cities and particularly low-quality housing with less effective ventilation and insulation. As urban areas grow and takeover the surrounding area, wildlife is uprooted and must find a new home or risks dying off. This can also lead to infestations in cities of rats and other animals which bring with them their own risks to health and sanitation.
The rapid growth of cities and overcrowding has put a strain on the infrastructure including roads, transport, energy, fresh water supplies, waste collection and healthcare. These issues impact on the environment, health, and wellbeing of the urban population. It’s been estimated that only half the world’s urban population has affordable and convenient access to public transport and that a significant number of deaths in cities can be attributed to air pollution.
Most recently the impact of the pandemic has been felt most strongly in urban environments where overcrowding and lack of social distancing has led to 90 percent of Covid 19 cases coming from cities.
To overcome these challenges, we need to find solutions that make our cities and communities safer, resilient, and sustainable. To do this we need to innovate through ideas that will help us address these issues. By choosing to act sustainably, we can together build cities where all citizens have a good quality of life, and form a part of the city’s productive dynamic and creating shared prosperity without harming the environment over the long term.
For instance, planting trees in rows or small clusters with well irrigated grasses provides thermal cooling during the day and night by up to eight degrees centigrade. Creating outdoor green areas can give people space to meet, de-stress and bond with nature.
We need to creatively rethink our view of cities and your social action project should aim to make our cities more sustainable through actions that deal with an issue for a community of your choosing. Your social action project should highlight an issue and its impact on an identified community which can be the local or school community.
The social action project could explore one of the following ideas:
- The effect of cooling buildings to improve the quality of air and the absorption of carbon dioxide through trees and plants.
- The creative use of green areas to reduce stress and increase feelings of wellbeing particularly for young people.
- Improving buildings to be greener through better airflow and integrating the natural world into their design utilizing local materials
- The impact of renewable energy such as solar, wind or waterpower on the community
Any other ideas are welcome that look at improving an urban area big or small over the long term.
In completing your project, you might want to speak to experts in the field of the environment and urban planning or government ministers who might also be persuaded to look at your ideas in more depth.