The Green City can help save lives

Just now, throughout most of Europe, it’s hot!  Not only is it hot now but it has been for weeks.  Even in the greenest countries the outlook just now is very brown!  Whether this is climate change, or just a hot summer, this extra-long heatwave focuses the mind on the dangers of heat.

In the context of buildings, concrete and glass then temperatures soar even more.  Just a few extra degrees can turn a city from being hot to being dangerous.

For those of us where such events are rare, we don’t have the air conditioning on standby! The elderly and vulnerable are at risk and it is a sad fact that people will die because of this.  In 2003 70,000 people in Europe died due to the heatwave. Cities have to be better prepared for such events.

Maybe someone should suggest putting air-conditioners in the streets.  What a crazy idea! Or isn’t it? Trees are proven to cool the air around them and provide more pleasant places to be. Of course, they provide shade and their interception of the suns rays stimulates evapotranspiration and therefore helps to cool the air.

Science is on our side, but we are not in an industry where huge multi-nationals can promote their products as they do in the rest of the construction industry. The Green City can help save lives. We all know this and believe it but unless we keep telling those who make the decisions then we won’t make the change fast enough.

While on one hand we applaud the huge new cities in China with the large urban forests it is definitely true that for older cities, which have grown up over hundreds of years, then it is much harder to retrofit living green. However, it is possible and the next AIPH Green City conference, taking place in Padova, Italy on 19 September, is focusing exactly on this issue. In this the world of horticulture and technology combine, and so it must if we are to create the innovative solutions for the future.

Keep an eye out for the garden we are developing at Expo 2019 Beijing next year too. This will showcase how to green the city in a futuristic way and is designed to make people insist of having living green as part of their everyday lives.

In the meantime it is up to all of us to keep banging the drum for change and to make our cities greener and come and join us in Padova, we’d love to see you there.

Bernard Oosterom,

President AIPH

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