“There will be a garden city here”: what is the use of “green” cities and will humanity be able to abandon megacities

“What’s good for the planet is good for us,” say urban planners. According to a study by the international engineering company Arup, green cities are safer, people are healthier, and their overall well-being is higher.

A 17-year study from the University of Exeter in the UK found that people who live in green suburbs or green areas of cities are less prone to mental illness and feel more satisfied with their lives. The same conclusion is supported by another classic study: patients who have undergone surgery recover faster if their room windows overlook the park.

Mental health and aggressive tendencies are closely linked, which is why green cities have also been shown to have lower levels of crime, violence, and car accidents. This is explained by the fact that time spent in movement and communication with nature, whether it’s a walk in the park or a bike ride after work, helps a person cope with negative emotions and makes him less conflicted. 

In addition to the general psychological health-improving effect, green spaces have another interesting property: they stimulate a person to walk more, do morning jogging, ride a bicycle, and physical activity, in turn, helps maintain people’s physical health. In Copenhagen, for example, by building bike lanes throughout the city and, as a result, improving the level of health of the population, it was possible to reduce medical costs by $12 million.

Developing this logical chain, we can assume that the labor productivity of the mentally and physically healthy population is higher, which leads to an increase in the level of people’s well-being. It has been proven, for example, that if you put plants in the office space, then the productivity of employees will increase by 15%. This phenomenon is explained by the theory of attention restoration put forward in the 90s of the last century by American scientists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. The essence of the theory is that communication with nature helps to overcome mental fatigue, increasing the level of concentration and creativity. Experiments have shown that a trip to nature for a couple of days can increase a person’s ability to solve non-standard tasks by 50%, and this is one of the most sought-after qualities in the modern world.

Modern technologies allow us to go further and improve not only the condition of a person and society as a whole, but also make cities more environmentally friendly. The innovations in question relate primarily to reducing energy and water consumption, improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and recycling waste.

Thus, “smart grids” are now actively developing, which allow managing the production and consumption of electricity based on current needs, which increases overall efficiency and prevents idle operation of generators. In addition, such networks can be connected simultaneously to permanent (power grids) and temporary (solar panels, wind generators) energy sources, which makes it possible to have uninterrupted access to energy, maximizing the potential of renewable resources.

Another encouraging trend is the increase in the number of vehicles running on biofuels or electricity. Tesla electric vehicles are already rapidly conquering the market, so it is quite possible to argue that in a couple of decades it will be possible to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Another innovation in the field of transportation, which, despite its fantasticness, already exists, is the system of personal automatic transportation. Small electric cars moving along tracks specially allocated for them can transport a group of passengers from point A to point B at any time without stopping. The system is fully automated, passengers only indicate the destination to the navigation system – and enjoy a completely eco-friendly trip. According to this principle, movement is arranged at London Heathrow Airport, in some cities of South Korea and at the University of West Virginia in the USA.

These innovations require significant investments, but their potential is huge. There are also examples of more budget-friendly solutions that also reduce the burden of urbanization on the environment. Here are just a few of them:

— The City of Los Angeles replaced about 209 street lights with energy-efficient light bulbs, resulting in a 40% reduction in energy consumption and a 40 ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, the city saves $10 million annually.

– In Paris, in just two months of the operation of the bicycle rental system, the points of which were located throughout the city, about 100 people began to travel more than 300 kilometers daily. Can you imagine what a powerful effect this will have on human health and the environment?

– In Freiburg, Germany, 25% of all energy consumed by the population and enterprises of the city is generated by the decomposition of garbage and waste. The city positions itself as a “city of alternative energy sources” and is actively developing solar energy.

All of these examples are more than inspiring. They prove that humanity has the necessary intellectual and technological resources to minimize its negative impact on nature, and at the same time improve its own mental and physical health. Things are small – move from words to deeds!


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