Bob Ewing – The World Bank presents a picture of a world that is rapidly becoming urbanized. In other words, people are leaving the country and moving to urban centres. On the Bank’s Youthink page, they cite the following statistics:
• 3.3 billion people—half the world’s population—live in cities.
• Two-thirds of all people will live in cities by 2050. (In 1800, only 2% of people lived in cities and towns. In 1950, only 30% of the world population was urban.)
• Almost 180,000 people move into cities each day.
This movement toward city life places increased pressure on, already stressed, urban infrastructure. How can society sustainably solve existing problems while urban populations continue to rise? First, energy, our current society is built upon the cheap and ready availability of oil and to some extent coal. Renewable energy sources such as the sun and wind have been given insufficient attention, a lot of talk but little development, for many years.
Both solar and small-scale wind power could provide the needs of a city on a local basis. The American Wind Energy Association states: “Small wind turbines are electric generators that utilize wind energy to produce clean, emissions-free power for individual homes, farms, and small businesses. With this simple and increasingly popular technology, individuals can generate their own power and cut their energy bills while helping to protect the environment.”
Unless, the home or business has a battery storage system to store energy for the days when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, hybrid systems, both sun and wind, may be the best approach.
Second, urban agricultural projects can move the farm closer to the table and reduce the distance our food needs to travel. Urban greenhouses can be powered by sun and wind and operate year round. This combination of renewable energy and urban agriculture is a major step towards building a community which has the ability to withstand the coming crises.
Not all our food can be produced in city limits, and the need for small farms, located close to urban centers, must also be considered, as do the setting up of farmers’ markets where business can take place. Inside the city, herbs, vegetables, and eggs can be produced and sold; while in the countryside, cows, pigs, sheep, orchards are the best choices.
Energy and food are essentials and offer opportunities to create sustainable communities if we accept and recognize the need and then do the work.
It is not likely that the trend toward urban living will reverse itself. I, for one, like living in a city, a small one, yes, but still a city. What we can do is put our resourcefulness at work, reclaim our communities, relocalize production, and build our own future.