As the world's population increases—we recently crossed the 7 billion mark—there will be concurrent changes in where and how people live. One of these changes is in the number of people who live in cities (as opposed to rural areas). While not even 20% of people lived in cities a hundred years ago, currently about half of the world's population does, and by 2050 it's estimated that 70% of all people will be city-dwellers.
This gradual migration will present a new set of sustainability challenges. Larger cities mean more buildings, and buildings are a huge contributor of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Transportation will also become an important issue as the number of commuters increase, because road vehicles are another large contributor of greenhouse gases. Finally, there is the ever-present issue of renewable energy: our current power grids and sources of energy are inefficient, outdated, and polluting the environment. These issues are of pressing importance as they contribute to human-caused climate change, which 97% percent of climate scientists, based on the evidence, agree is happening.
Earth Day 2014 seeks to draw attention to these issues facing sustainable communities. Though the main problems above—buildings, transportation, and energy—will ultimately be solved through large-scale policy changes, political change starts with an informed and engaged public. Banning unsustainable energy sources, investing in renewable energy, improving building codes, and requiring improved road vehicle standards are all political changes that can start with you.
This Earth Day, educate yourself, your students, and those around you about the environmental challenges facing us today. Our Earth Day Collection and Urban Ecosystems lesson series are both great starting points. Or take a look at the specific Green Cities issues outlined above and go in depth with the Carbon Emissions Science Update, School Bus Fumes Science Update, Renewable Energy Sources lesson, Harnessing Solar Energy lesson, and the Urban Greening Science Update.
However you choose to celebrate this year, remember that large-scale changes begin with educated and inspired individuals. Happy Earth Day 2014!
Image credit: Clipart.com
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