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Within a few years’ time we can expect the planet to become more crowded, resources more valuable, and innovative urban planners largely crucial. By the mid of the century, the global population will likely overcome nine billion , and more than half of the population is expected to be living in cities. What will these cities look like? Will urban planning have a crucial part to play in having a comfortable life for the people of this world.
For centuries, successful urban planning has required careful attention to the environmental consequences of urban development. Civilizations found different ways of dealing with environmental problems. For example, thanks to sewer systems, the Romans were able to build and sustain for centuries large cities that featured a reliable public water supply and great public health conditions.
In other civilizations, however, residents simply abandoned cities when they could no longer rely on their environment to supply the resources they needed. More often than not this was as a result of their own actions such as: deforestation, epidemics due to contaminated water and air pollution.
Urban planning got its start as a profession largely dedicated to averting different types of crises arising from urban growth and providing conditions for public health. Due to the advance in technology during the 19th century, deteriorating air and water quality made it necessary to introduce regulations to protect the health of the residents of the developing cities.
Starting in the 1950s, however, planers no longer narrowly target health effects on urban residents as their main environmental concern. Their focus changed to deeper understanding of natural processes and growing awareness of the long-term environmental impacts of cities from local to planetary scale. This focus still remains the same on the on-going days.
In modern urban planning, there are two general categories of sustainable development. The first doesn’t challenge the present dynamics of the city, allowing them to remain largely low-density and automobile-oriented, but still makes them the object of measures aimed to reduce their environmental load.
The second one focuses on increasing urban density and reducing reliance on the automobile. On a regional scale, it aims to reduce sprawl by creating a network of higher-density multifunctional centers interconnected by public transit. Today, it’s common for plans with a metropolitan scope to follow this approach.
On the long run, we have to find a suitable way to plan future cities because of the environment and its’ importance to our lives’ and animals’ too. Governments are trying their hardest and focusing their budget on countless researches. But, most importantly, the ones who need to play and important role in this play are the residents of these cities themselves.
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