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Rethinking our Cities

As we continue into the future, it is increasingly likely that most of us and most of the people we know will live in a city1. Since cities are responsible for the majority of pollution in the world, we are required to pursue the question, how can we make cities more sustainable? The article, “Positive Cities Can Improve Earth as Well as People’s Lives”, written by William McDonough, lays out a path to answer such a question. Key to the development of cities is the use of solar, waste, and diversity. McDonough explains that solar is the Earth’s “perpetual” energy source, and cities should likewise take advantage of that. Cities should not only use solar power, but should be built in order to take advantage of solar heating and wind. We also need to reconsider how we dispose of waste. McDonough suggests that we should be using sewage waste as a resource for phosphate in fertilizers. In his words, “In the circular city, sewage-treatment plants become fertilizer factories”. The idea of a circular city is that the city operates like a forest does, reusing everything in a circular manner. This is where diversity becomes necessary to the cities of the future. In order to create the circular city we should be open to diversity and allowing designers to create niche buildings and environments within the city. Diversity is a key principle, “found in all healthy ecosystems”. If you want to read the full article by McDonough click here, and if you want to read more about urban sustainability in general visit the Scientific American’s collection here.


1 The 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects published by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, projects the by 2050 68% of the world population will live in an urban environment.

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