How Cities Can Save The World: From Asia To The Amazon (Part 3 of 3)
It was still dark out, if only barely, when the titi monkey pair started their morning duet. The sun was rising fast and soon the mist would break. The birds began to sing as the bamboo rat calls faded away with the night.
These sounds are also fading from my memory as I travel further away from the rainforest. In the city of Lima, the birds, insects, and monkeys were replaced by the sounds of cars, televisions, bars, shops — and humans. The tall verdant trees and leaf-covered soil were replaced by concrete sidewalks, buildings, and asphalt. Far removed and sheltered were the people here, from problems beyond the city limits. And yet, the majority of Lima remains inhabited by the poor. Neighborhoods continue to be unsafe for visitors. These are economic and political problems that also plague the rest of the world.
Here in Miraflores, a luxurious district of Lima not too different from, say, Central, Hong Kong, I am slowly readjusting to urban life. It hurts to walk, though I am walking a lot less — concrete is far less forgiving than natural soil. Cold showers are still nice and easy to take, but hot water feels nicer in the South American winter. There are couches and cushions to sink into, but my back creaks. A soft bed with a proper mattress. Constant electricity and wireless connection to the internet, though I don’t have much need for it. Exhaust fumes from transportation. The good and bad that cities offer – yet all things we can indulge in.
With proper city planning and regulation, cities would not only reduce waste — they are and should become the best and most sustainable way for humanity to inhabit this world. Here’s why:
- Less land area used for humanity is tantamount to freeing up space for nature to recuperate.
- More public transportation to reduce redundant pollution and fuel consumption.
- Centralized power grids that can be geared towards efficiency and reducing of power lines.
- Efficient recycling and waste processing systems can be implemented since everything is closer.
Then again, such plans are only just emerging in many parts of the world, just as the public slowly grows aware of the monumental environmental problems we face.
There will always be too many problems for humanity, so long as we continue an exploitative way of life. It is certainly difficult to engage people to care, especially if they are from the cities. These places are distant to nature. When you have not experienced it, you have not yet seen or understood the gravity of the problem. City planning becomes critical, not only to make cities more eco-friendly but also to bridge the gap between humanity and nature. Public works that incorporate elements of education, no matter where, can become a constant backdrop as a reminder for all to care a little more about our little blue planet.
The fountains were beautiful in La Parque de La Reserva. Located in downtown Lima, the weekly lights and fountains show are a major attraction for tourists and residents alike. I’ve come to realize how much the people of Peru like their parks. Almost every other block, there is either a park or a plaza where people can be found relaxing. Such places with a constant flow of people, provide plenty of opportunities for educational public works. In La Parque de la Reserva, a tunnel is inscribed with information about water use and river pollution.
In Asia, public works like these are hard to find — especially in big cities. Beyond aesthetic appreciation, the planned environment offers far too little. As major cities like Taipei continue to grow, more emphasis should be placed on public education on the benefits of conservation, especially by incorporating them into the public arenas frequented by the populace — subway stations, underground walkways, parks, and the like.
City planning should take into account where and how people use the public spaces in the cities to best take advantage of the educational opportunities. Even if people just pass by, a constant backdrop of information provides a medium for the assimilation of conservation into the public subconscious. In the end, cities are full of opportunities — not simply for the future, but also for learning about problems right now.
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TAGS: city planning • environment • Environmentalism • peru • sustainable development
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