Regarding the May 24 news article “Pace of damage to planet has quickened, U.N. study says”:
Urbanization itself is not responsible for the environmental threats facing the world. Unplanned and poorly managed urbanization is.
It is important to note the distinction between planned and well-managed urbanization that can benefit the environment and local residents and unplanned and poorly managed urbanization. Smart urban planning is climate-informed, strategic, integrated and supported across multiple sectors. It includes environmental management and disaster risk reduction.
In fact, the United Nations’ report specifically highlights smart cities and city-level innovation as priorities. With their compact footprints, well-managed cities conserve natural landscapes. Green roofs, parks and urban forests can conserve water, provide habitat for plants and animals, cool temperatures and improve air quality for residents. Walkable and bikeable cities lower emissions and energy consumption. Cities with living shorelines and wetlands can improve their water quality and protect against storms and flooding.
When done properly, good urban planning and management can be an environmental plus.
Anita van Breda, Washington
The writer is director of environment and disaster management at World Wildlife Fund.