Unlocking the urban fabric

Urban areas face and offer unique challenges in the transition to sustainable, healthy, and equitable post-carbon futures. Small-scale interventions in urban soil management have the potential of carbon sequestration and environmental and health co-benefits.

Locked urban fabric can be made soil-friendly at neighborhood levels through greening spaces, tree plantations, incremental replacement of impermeable pavements, and urban gardening. A bottom-up approach driven by local activists and citizen involvement will ensure necessary long-term commitment and draw on local knowledge.

Soil-focused interventions have a positive impact on improving walkability, outdoor physical activities, conviviality, well-being, and food security. An increase in urban vegetation, and a decrease in impervious surfaces cools down urban environments and requires less energy for cooling, eventually dampening a vicious cycle of urban heating and air-conditioning.

There is already an increasing trend in cities participating in climate-focused, pollution-reducing, and urban resilience programs. Urban institutions are investigating efforts around reduction in traffic congestion, incentives for developing community gardens, and investments in sanitation and waste management. This creates an enabling environment where even DIY efforts on soil sustainability and carbon sequestration can kick off inter-linked transitions in urban environments.

Scalability of such efforts can result in linkages with efforts on urban water management, transport systems supporting pedestrians, cyclists, and slowed-down and reduced car-traffic, and urban organic waste reuse. Redirection of organic wastes away from landfills to careful incorporation into soils, breaking up the hard pan that keeps residents from being grounded into urban soils, and making visible the productive results of healthy soils will have an impact on how food is consumed, fuel-hungry appliances and vehicles are used, and how future development is done.

The strategy can effectively combine technological innovation with realistic and achievable social and political interventions to reorient urban environments towards the resilience and sustainability necessary for a post-carbon future.

 

Actor(s)

General public

 

Trigger (intervention)

 

Criticality

 

Feedback Dynamics

 

Timescale and scaleability

 

Resistance

 

Author

Saher Hasnain

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