Flourish With Fran Mar 23: Changing From Urban Environments

How close are you to growing?

Why changing our urban environments is important for the climate movement.

The latest UK Census states that the population is estimated to be 67.1 million people. With more than half of the population living in cities, the way these environments are planned play a vital role in the climate movement (refers to taking action to address the causes and impacts of climate change).  

Increasing opportunities to connect to nature in urban environments is a necessary tool. A simulation model looking into 93 European cities found that increasing tree cover by up to 30% can help lower the temperature of urban cities by an average of 0.4 degrees. Higher temperatures in urban environments are associated with cardiorespiratory failure, high hospital admissions and premature deaths so any tool that can support the cooling down of our cities is vital. Increasing tree cover in cities supports sustainable water management and protects against extreme flooding. In Cardiff, in one of the most densely populated areas, a successful installation of additional green spaces and trees offered a chance to reduce demand on the sewage and treatment plant over 8 miles away as rainwater was caught, cleaned, and diverted into the nearby river. A similar scheme in Wales ran by Coed Cadw, The Woodland Trust in Wales, and the Welsh Government allowed households in Wales to collect a free tree or have one planted on their behalf to create a National Forest, in the hopes to improve access to greenery and wildlife.

Another tool that can support this movement is increasing opportunities to go car free by making public transport, cycling, and walking reliable options for travel. In a similar vein, working less can support the climate movement. A 2021 study found that moving to a four-day work week by 2025 would shrink the UK’s emissions by 127m tonnes and is the equivalent to taking the country’s entire private car fleet (27 million cars) off the road. A surprising benefit of working less allows the pressure on the NHS (which currently produces 4% of the UK’s carbon footprint) to reduce as we have a chance to be healthier, fitter and better rested!

Fancy a gardening day a week? Cutting the work week by one day would reduce emissions as well as allow people to get closer to nature.

Community food growing spaces are important initiatives that allow for social connection through volunteering, provides safe spaces for wildlife, reduces air pollution, protects against flooding and is naturally cooling for cities, as well as producing food! These spaces can be found in public parks, next to Highrise buildings, on rooftops, in backyards of schools and restaurants and even on unused land! By teaching food growing skills, individuals are more likely to appreciate the time and energy that goes into producing food and in turn are more likely to support local growers and increase their intake of plant-based foods, as accessibility increases. Offering the produce for free or at a reduced price lowers the barrier that many people face due to the cost of living. The UK’s consumption of fruit and vegetables is well below the recommended 5 a day which is associated with a burden on public resources. A 2021 study predicts that achieving the 5-a day target reduces diet related greenhouse gas emissions. Food security has been highlighted as an issue in recent years and with a large proportion of our fruit and vegetables supply coming from Europe, our cities provide reliable places to grow fruit and vegetables and protect against climate vulnerability. If the UK’s food security and public health is to be addressed than we need to dramatically shift into changing policy and demand for the above changes to be supported by policymakers.

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