The Future of Cities

Cities play an astonishing role in the global community on multiple levels. Not only do the congregate millions of people within such small parameters, but they are cultural, financial, and educational hubs. Living in a city gives an individual access to a plethora of resources they may otherwise not have access to. Though they provide a large assortment of resources they are the massively unsustainable. Though cities only take up about 2% of global land, they account for more than 60% of global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 70% of global waste according to the New Urban Agenda.

            The New Urban Agenda claims a vision for all cities to provide equal access for all for current and future generations, without discrimination. The New Urban Agenda is a people centered plan that aims to protect the planet while providing support and resources for all needs of residents within a city. They call for a shift in urban paradigms to readdress the ways in which cities are managed and led to make the process more transparent and inclusive of stakeholders. The New Urban Agenda addresses the issues of different marginalized groups of people from aging populations to people living with HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, the New Urban Agenda proposes a shift towards a smart city model can help make all such changes possible.

The concept of a smart city focuses on the use of technology and data to make cities more accessible to all users and self-sufficient. Essentially, the city itself interacts with humans. In 2016, over $80 billion were invested in smart city technology. Smart city technology can range from a variety of things from waste management to access health care providers. The goal is resource flexibility and efficiency; the use of data and technology makes this possible. For instance, in Boston and Baltimore, smart trash cans have been installed that notify waste management when they need to be picked up. This saves waste management workers time, by making their pickup routes more efficient.

This smart city technology will only become more important as we progress into the future. By 2050 almost 70% of the world’s population will live in a city. At the current rate of consumption, this is highly unsustainable. However, smart city technology and the plan set out in the New Urban Agenda can help ensure a sustainable future for all human establishments. While this seems like a major challenge, according to National Geographic, “using technologies and policies that already exist today, cities could cut their carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2050.” It is simply about utilizing the tools and resources we have to make these tools and resources available for all and for future generations.