During the on-going 11th Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, the UN released an important ecological assessment related to urbanization and the environment: Cities and Biodiversity Outlook. The assessment tracks urban expansion all over the world and reports on its effects on biodiversity. The global urban population expected to double to 4.9 billion by 2030. During this same time frame, total urban area is expected to triple.
This reality has enormous implications for environmental demands and biodiversity. Increasing urban areas and populations will inevitably put additional strain on already-stressed water and agricultural resources, especially in the developing world. The negative health affects of urbanization and exposure to commercial pollutants will also put a strain on national health budgets and the productivity of workers. In terms of biodiversity, urban areas often encroach on animal habitats, threatening species with extinction.
However, it is important for environmental scholarship to accept that urbanization is occurring, and to propose solutions to environmental problems that harness the productive potential of urban areas. Rather than just highlight the problems with urbanization, the CBD report shows how cities can actually be used to achieve environmental and biodiversity goals. For example, scientific and zoo facilities in cities are havens for endangered and protected species. Additionally, many urban planners are reforesting cities, alleviating some of the negative health effects, such as asthma, caused by urban living. Moreover, citizens in some cities, such as Montreal and Bogota, are rallying against urban vehicle usage. Bike sharing systems and no-drive zones are becoming common in much of the world, decreasing pollution and reliance on gas imports in urban areas.
To read the full report, click here.