The world we live in is constantly transforming in response to our actions, and the consequences are becoming increasingly apparent. Our determination to push for technological advancements without considering environmental safety is now beginning to impact our lives and the continuity of our planet. The adverse effects of climate change are more rampant than ever, with record high temperatures, frequent heat waves, and a rise in sea levels, just to mention a few. Scientific estimations of the rate of occurrence of these effects are underestimating our destructive capacity, making it likely that devastation is inevitable unless we act.
Cities are at the forefront of the challenge in combating the effects of climate change. Poorly planned cities are impacting the environment and the quality of life of their inhabitants. They fuel automobile dependency and non-renewable energy use. These factors lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, heat islands, and a decrease in livability within these cities.
Pedestrians are less inclined to walk or cycle due to long commute times, and there is a rise in obesity rates. Children and pets are discouraged from spending time outside due to the risk of car accidents, and studies show that less contact with greenery and natural landscapes negatively impacts their mental health in adulthood. The effects of vehicle fumes on respiratory health are well-established, with causal links to diseases like emphysema and bronchitis.
Cities should be places where we can thrive, unlocking our potential, and enriching our lives. As we continue to reckon with the consequences of climate change and the environmental damage caused by our actions, cities present both challenges and opportunities. A poorly planned city promotes carbon-intensive activities such as automobile use, which leads to dire consequences like an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and heat islands.
Furthermore, cities prioritize automobiles tend to have unfavorable physiological and psychological effects on their inhabitants. But there is hope. At the 3rd edition of the Health & Environmental Resilience and Livability in Cities (HERL) conference, we will explore how we can build cities that prioritize walking and cycling, incentivize renewable energy use, integrate green spaces and robust forestry, and create efficient and effective transit systems for all. By taking a holistic approach, we can mitigate some of the effects of climate change while enhancing the quality of life in cities and maintaining a habitable planet for future generations.