Where the battle for sustainability will be won or lost

Where the Battle for Sustainability Will be Won or Lost – I once asked a panel of experts if they had one year to live how they would spend their time in pursuit of making a substantial contribution towards achieving a sustainable future. The question had the intended effect and after squirming uncomfortably with the prospect of their untimely demise each one of them was able to identify a specific priority that they would dedicate their remaining days to.

I asked myself a different version of the same question ’if I were to pick a single market to dedicate my time and energy to where I thought there would be the biggest impact on securing a sustainable future what would it be?’ Well, in that scenario I chose cities for reasons I will explain below.

Cities are fascinating in their impact on the environment. According to UNEP although cities occupy only 2% of the earth’s landmass 75% of the earth’s resources are consumed within them. We have also crossed a threshold recently when in 2008, for the first time in human history, over half of the world’s population was living in cities. This trend is expected to continue through to 2050 where 70 – 80% of the world’s population will be city dwellers.

This represents not only a huge opportunity to influence our current environmental impact but an even greater opportunity to influence and transform what the 60% of additional infrastructure that needs to be built to accommodate the urban populations of 2050 will look like.  There is much to be done in many industries (agriculture, resource extraction etc.) and geographies (forests, polar regions and so on) but for me the final battleground has been defined and it is the 21st century city.

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