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Global Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

What is Global Goal 11?

Goal 11 recognizes that cities are the future!


But it also recognizes that for there to even be a future for cities to be the center of, existing cities have to be sustainable.

Cities have to reduce pollution of all kinds (air, water, ground, etc.), make all systems (water, transportation, waste management, etc.) super efficient and provide every inhabitant with a comfortable life (easy transportation, good housing, plenty of green space, etc.).

They have to efficiently connect all areas of a country so that resources are fairly shared.

And cities have to be ground zero for gender equality, workers’ empowerment, inequality reduction, research, education and all the other Global Goals.

How plausible is this Goal?

Goal 11 has a good chance of succeeding--for good and bad reasons.

(Not so) Fortunately, the world already knows what happens when cities practice what Goal 11 advises against.

Nobody wants to develop asthma and other debilitating conditions by age 2 because the air outside is a smoggy soup.

Nearly half of New Delhi’s schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from the air.

Nobody wants to go to the local park and see garbage everywhere, the lake an orange pool of chemicals, the gardens barren.

And nobody wants to sit in hours of noisy traffic, or get crammed into sweaty subway cars, or bike in a filthy, dangerous environment.

Traffic in BangladeshImage: Flickr: joiseyshowaa

I will never drive in Jakarta, Istanbul and Mexico City, by the way. And Qalandia in the Gaza Strip has horrible traffic because of the Israeli occupation.

Nobody wants to live in filthy, overcrowded slums with little or no sanitation and eat and drink contaminated food and water.

But millions of people in the world live in these conditions as I write and they hate it.

And because they hate it, changes are being made, or they will be made in the future. People can only stand terrible conditions for so long.  

The good reasons that Goal 11 can be successful are that the world has the technology and skills to implement urban overhauls.

800px-Eco_City_LEGO.jpgImage: Wikimedia: Miriam Guterland

New-age cities are sprouting up around the world, establishing models for others to emulate.

This brings us to...Who are the leaders?

Calgary is a city setting a clean example.

The people of Calgary abide by 5 principles, “Sewage System Quality, Water Drinkability and Availability, Waste Removal and Recycling, Traffic Congestion, and Air Pollution.”

This collective commitment has earned Calgary the title of cleanest city in the world for 5 of the last 7 years.

Calgary bridges

With the same tenacity that fueled its economic revolution, China is trying to develop environmental solutions to the pollution it has caused.

The country is working on eco-cities that feature eco-buildings, water-saving sanitation, renewable energy, lots of green space, efficient and pollution-free transportation and other assets.

But China as a whole has a long way to go to revitalize its urban spaces for the future. The country also has to do a better job accommodating the emerging middle class.

Singapore is trying to be the first “Smart Nation.” It wants to enhance the living experience of its citizens and cut down on energy consumption.

European countries are, in many ways, the pioneers in the eco-city realm.

Frankfurt was one of the first cities to synchronize buildings on a common “smart” platform. Now, city planners can monitor the energy use of each building to optimize allocation and substantially reduce overall use.

Barcelona is a leader in recycling, with various bins for different materials set up all throughout the city.

As a comparison, in New York, if you’re walking down the street, or working in an office building, or traveling on the subway, or eating in a restaurant--good luck finding a recycling bin!

Many cities, such as Copenhagen, see bicycles as the key to better cities. When bicycling is the norm, pollution falls. Traffic becomes history. Exercise increases. And people generally feel they have more control over their lives, leading to a heightened civic spirit.

If you want to find gender equality, head north to the Scandinavian nations!

In Sweden, around half of Parliamentary seats are held by women, 36% of companies are led by women and all people are promised 480 days of paid parental leave.

If you want to live in a city with park space, then head to the US. New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and many others all have abundant park space.

1024px-Southwest_corner_of_Central_Park,_looking_east,_NYC.jpgImage: Wikimedia: Ed Yourdon

In my experience, there’s nothing quite like Central Park in Manhattan. There are so many remote paths, patches, hills, fields, trees and ponds sprawled out. It takes so long to traverse all of it. And it takes no time to forget that you’re in an enormous city--until you look up at the buildings on the horizon.

What can you do?

The sooner people become more engaged in their communities, the sooner cities of the future will emerge.

So that means becoming versed in the many forms of civic engagement so that you can participate effectively on the local, state and national levels.

That means telling your friends and family to recycle and compost as much as they can. That means walking and biking more often.

That means treating women and children with respect and petitioning politicians to build more housing for the poor.

It means being a global citizen and embodying the global citizen spirit.

It also means making the Global Goals famous so that the momentum to change the world will be unstoppable. So go to TAKE ACTION NOW and help make the Global Goals famous.

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