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Community coronavirus  real time laboratory for urban life | Upload Society

Coronavirus: Real-Time Laboratory For Urban Life

by: Peter Sant
coronavirus  real time laboratory for urban life | Upload

A pause has been forced on urban life. Quiet roads, empty skies, deserted high streets and parks, closed cinemas, cafés, and museums—a break in the spending and work frenzy so familiar to us all. The reality of lockdown is making ghost towns of the places we once knew. Everything we know about our urban world has come to a shuddering halt, for now.

Coronavirus Real-Time LaboratoryLife: Lockdown

The lockdown will, at some point, end. Urban life will begin to hum again to the familiar rhythms of work, leisure, and shopping. This will be a massive relief for us all. Yet our towns and cities will never be the same. Indeed, things might get worse before they get better.

man, back, street, people walking, buildings
Photo by: Jorge Ramirez

But it's also the case that other crises haven't gone away. Our relatively brief lockdown won't solve longer-term urban problems: dependence on fossil fuels, rising carbon emissions, poor air quality, dysfunctional housing markets, loss of biodiversity, divisions between the rich and the poor, low paid work. These are going to need our attention again.

Coronavirus: Limits Of Society

The coronavirus crisis has offered a new perspective on these problems and the limits of the way we have run our urban world over the last few decades. Cities are critical nodes in our complex and highly connected global society, facilitating the rapid flow of people, goods and money, the rise of corporate wealth, and the privatization of land, assets, and essential services. This has brought gains for some through foreign travel, an abundance of consumer products, inward investment, and steady economic growth.



                                         Before and after coronavirus - scenes from the world's biggest cities

But we are now seeing a flip side to this globalized urban world. A densely connected world can quickly turn a localized disease into a pandemic; large areas of the economy are run by large corporates who don't always meet essential public needs; land and resources can lie empty for years, and low paid workers in the informal or gig economy can be left exposed with little protection.

This model has the perfect conditions for creating a crisis like a coronavirus. It's also terrible at dealing with it. So something else is required to guide us into the future. The old story—in which cities compete against one another to improve their place in the global pecking order—was never great at meeting everyone's needs. But now it's looking very risky, given the need for increased cooperation and local resilience.

After coronavirus, a key question emerges: what, in essence, is a city for? Is it to pursue growth, attract inward investment, and compete against global rivals? Or is it to maximize the quality of life for all, build local resilience and sustainability? These are not always mutually exclusive, but it's a question of regaining balance. Beyond politics and ideology, most people simply want to be safe and healthy, especially faced by future threats, be they climate, weather, or virus related.

Real-Time Laboratory For Urban Life: Sustainable, Green

Over the last 20 years, we have been learning what needs to change to make cities more sustainable, green, fair, and accessible. Now, the lockdown has thrown us all into a real-time laboratory full of living examples of what a more sustainable future might look like. We have a perfect opportunity to study and explore which of these could be locked in to build sustainable and safer cities.

Recommended: Smart Cities, Safe, And Efficient, But Are We Being Watched?

This has already started. Many things have become possible in the last few weeks. In many places, rapid changes have been unleashed to control the economy, health, transport, and food. We are surrounded by fragments of progressive urban policy: eviction cancellations, nationalized services, free transportation and healthcare, sick pay, and wage guarantees. There is also a flourishing of community-based mutual aid networks as people volunteer to help the most vulnerable with daily tasks. Yesterday's radical ideas are becoming today's pragmatic choices.

We can learn a lot from these crisis-led innovations as we create more permanent urban policy choices to make life more pleasant and safer for all, below a few key areas of city life that are currently providing some options.

Urban Life: Breaking Car Dependency

Much quieter streets currently surround many people around the world. This presents us with a huge opportunity to re-imagine and lock in a different kind of urban mobility. Some cities are already doing so: Milan, for example, has announced that it will turn 35km of streets over to cyclists and pedestrians after the crisis.

Recommended: Urban Mobility: The 15 Friendliest Bike Cities In the World

Streets with fewer cars have shown people what more liveable; walkable neighborhoods would look like. When a lockdown is over, and society returns to the enormous task of reducing transport emissions and improving air quality, we need to remember that lower car use quickly became the new normal. This is important. Reducing traffic levels, some say by up to 60% between now and 2030, maybe vital to avoiding dangerous levels of global warming.

As previously outlined, this reduction would address many longstanding urban policy concerns—the erosion of public space, debt, the shift to out of town retail centers and the decline of local high streets, road deaths and casualties, poor air quality, and growing carbon emissions. Accessible, affordable, zero-carbon, public transport is key to supporting a less car-dependent urban future.

This crisis has revealed significant inequalities in people's ability to move about cities. In many countries, including the UK, deregulation, and privatization has facilitated corporate operators to run bits of the transport system in the interest of shareholders rather than users. Millions face transport poverty, where they can't afford to own and run a car and lack access to affordable mass transit options. This has taken a new twist during this crisis. For many vulnerable people, whether there is a transit system to access hospitals, food, and other essential services can be a matter of life or death.

Recommended: Green Trains Or Flying High? Travel The Globe Sustainable

COVID-19 has also highlighted how key workers underpin our daily lives. Creating good quality affordable transport for them is therefore crucial. Some awareness of this existed before coronavirus: in 2018, one French city introduced free buses, while Luxembourg made all its public transport free. But in the wake of the current crisis, places across the world have been creating free transit, especially to critical workers and for vulnerable people.

people, interior train, yellow poles
Photo by: Viktor Forgacs

To meet ambitious targets for emission reductions, there needs to be a significant shift away from personal car use within a decade or so. The pandemic has offered insights into how this could be achieved through limiting car use for essential purposes and those with mobility issues, with affordable public transport becoming the new norm for most people in cities.

Recommended: Urban Car With Zero Emission, The Air-Powered Car AIRPod 2.0

Building active travel networks across regions also make more sense than ever. Many places have seen bikes as better options for getting around. Walking and cycling infrastructure can play a huge role in getting people about effectively and also making them healthier.

The inadequacies of pedestrian space have also been revealed, especially for active social distancing. To build in future resilience, there's a strong rationale for creating generous pavements and sidewalks that take space from motor vehicles. And, given there are around 6,000 pedestrians killed or seriously injured in road accidents every year in the UK, a roll-out of lower speed limits could help reduce hospital admissions and make a contribution in future epidemic management.

The lockdown has also brought about significant reductions in air pollution. One study estimated that the lockdown in China saved 77,000 lives just by reducing this pollution. Such decreases are particularly vital, given that worse air quality could increase the risk of death from COVID-19. Given the health and social care costs associated with dealing with poor air quality, current increases in cleaner air need to be locked in to reduce the burden on health services for the future.

Recommended: India’s CO2, Pollution, Artificial Rain: How To Survive?

Aviation has taken a hit, with total flights declining by more than half during the crisis. This offers a glimpse of the types and volumes of flying that might feel surplus to requirements in the future.

airplane take off clouds

Cities will need to move quickly to lock in these lower mobility expectations, especially low car volumes, less aviation, quality, affordable mass transit, and active travel. We are all living the reality of merely traveling less and shifting activity online. This is a huge opportunity to review working practices, leisure, and retail habits, and argue for spending to support affordable and sustainable travel for all.

Recommended: ‘Flygskam’: The Trend Of Scandinavian Shame Of Flying

Coronavirus Real-Time Laboratory: The Socially Useful City

We have become used to the shortcomings of the modern city economy—low paid and precarious jobs, independent businesses squeezed out by large corporations, land, and resources shifting from private to public hands, growing divisions between rich and poor neighborhoods. Coronavirus has thrown many of these into stark relief.

Recommended: Pandemic and Ecological Reset: The World Green Again

Low earning workers, especially women, have few options but to continue working and be exposed to infection, hospitals struggle for necessary equipment, those in higher-income neighborhoods have better spaces for exercise and leisure.

But what has been most staggering about the response to the crisis is the rapid uptake of measures that only days ago would have been unthinkable: mortgage and rent holidays, statutory sick pay, shifts to nationalize services especially health and transport, wage guarantees, suspending evictions, and debt cancellations. The current crisis has started to rip up ideas led by the free market.

We now seem to be reveling what matters. Rather than being considered low skilled extras on the fringes of the economy, key workers, especially in health and food, are being revered for the role they play in supporting our wellbeing. Local shops are experiencing renewed support as they offer more reliable personal connections and commitment to their community. These tendencies are an opportunity to restructure high streets and create diverse local markets that can meet community needs and build resilience to weather future crises.

Recommended: Consumerism In ‘The West’: A Society Built On Exploitation

This crisis has also highlighted who has enough money to live on. Beyond government job retention and self-employed income schemes, more radical propositions are emerging that are changing people's relationship to work. A universal basic income is an idea that has come of age during this crisis—a full, automatic non-means-tested payment to every individual as a right of citizenship. The Spanish government has agreed to roll out such a scheme nationally as soon as possible, and there is sustained interest in many other places.

The idea of a minimum income guarantee is also gaining momentum, a renewed interest in the concept of a universal and unconditional safety net that can offer dignity and safety and offer options for more sustainable living.

The social economy can provide further insights into refocusing city economies after coronavirus. Made up of community businesses, co-operatives, and voluntary organizations, this social economy creates goods, services, and employment that are more locally based and community grounded in a range of areas: renewable energy, sustainable housing, food, and microfinance. They build in benefits, including local employment and procurement, fairer pay, better conditions, sustainable resource use, democratic accountability, and a commitment to social justice.

Derelict buildings and land banked by large scale developers could be redeployed by community organizations to build local resilience through community farms, renewables, and housing, as well as leisure, local biodiversity, and carbon storage.

Recommended: Smart Communities: Eco-Living Through Technology

It's also clear that parts of the economy, such as gambling and advertising corporations, bailiffs, and corporate lobbyists, are less socially useful than others. There are signs of how the economy can change in positive directions. Many firms are temporarily shifting to more socially beneficial production, making, for example, hand sanitizer, ventilators, and medical wear.

These short term glimpses of a more socially useful economy should inspire when considering future urban economic planning. Factories might transition to manufacturing wind turbines, e-bikes, insulation panels, and heat pumps. And excess downtown corporate office space or luxury apartments could be retrofitted to support socially useful activities—essential worker accommodation, libraries, creches, day centers, colleges for transition skills, and co-working spaces.

Real-Time Laboratory: Green Urban Commons

Further greening of cities after coronavirus would offer real and widespread benefits. During the lockdown, many people are more aware of how little green space they have access to on their doorsteps. Many are also stuck in cramped conditions with little or no access to outdoor spaces.

Recommended: Green Urban Sustainable Project: Marine One In Singapore

Quality public and green places need to be radically expanded so people can gather and heal after the trauma of this experience. Now is an excellent time to supercharge such plans. Diverse green spaces directly underpin our emotional and psychological wellbeing and offer a range of positive effects on carbon sequestration, air purification, and wildlife preservation.

Areal, street, cars, people

Neighborhood design inspired by nature can support this. Interweaving the places we live with great natural spaces linked to active travel opportunities can reduce car dependency, increase biodiversity, and create options for meaningful leisure on our doorsteps. They can also incorporate local food production and features to cope with floodings, such as sustainable urban drainage and water gardens, further increasing future crisis resilience.

There's also a strong rationale for prioritizing street-by-street retrofit. In the event of future lockdowns during cold months, warm, low energy and well-insulated homes can help reduce other problems around fuel poverty and excess winter deaths.

This moment offers a real opportunity to lay the foundations for a new deal for nature and animals. This is more important now than ever. Animals and wildlife, typically in rapid decline, are finding ways to regain a foothold in this respite of human activity—but they may be further threatened when lockdown comes to an end. Ways to create an equal balance with our fellow species include expanding habitats for wildlife, restoring damaged natural areas, reducing dependency on intensive animal farming as well as meat-based diets.

Besides, researchers are starting to understand how zoonotic diseases (those transferred from animals to humans) like COVID-19 may be a hidden outcome of the global scale of human development. A recent report by the UN Environment Programme explored how the rapid growth of urban populations across the world, along with reductions in pristine ecosystems, are creating opportunities for pathogens to pass between animals and people. Regenerating and protecting natural spaces could be a crucial part of future disease resilience.

Coronavirus: What Next?

COVID-19 presents a significant juncture. There is still trauma and loss ahead. There may be market collapse and prolonged depression. There are also tendencies towards political and corporate bodies exploiting this crisis for their ends.

tables, building, interior, whote table cloth
Empty restaurant during the coronavirus

Recommended: Climate Change: Cause Of The Next Global Economic Collapse

For our urban world, this could mean more of the negatives discussed earlier—insecurity, privatization, division, and authoritarianism. And as lockdown ends, there may be a rebound effect, as people understandably rush to embrace travel, work, and consumerism, creating significant emissions and pollution surge.

No particular urban future is inevitable. The future story, and reality, of our towns and cities, are up for grabs. The positives that are glimpsed during this crisis could feasibly be locked in and scaled up to create a fairer, greener, safer urban future. We can all live well and even flourish, in cities also if we have and do a little bit less of the things we have become used to. Revaluing what's essential—community, friendship, family life—allows us to see how much we already have that can improve our wellbeing.

Recommended: Earth Matters. Nature And Us: What Was, What’s Left: Hope?

Often ideas start to converge under a single banner. Many in this article can be understood through the concept of the Green New Deal – a proposed set of policies to tackle climate change and inequality, create good jobs, and protect nature. It's an approach that has a lot to offer cities after this coronavirus crisis. It points to an urban economy based on critical foundations of public services, an economy operating within the ecological limits of our precious biosphere, with a social safety net for all. These ideas are now being seriously considered by some cities, such as Amsterdam, as they think about how to rebuild their economies.

How city governance responds in this crisis and afterward will be essential. There will undoubtedly be a much more significant role for the state, and this might be more authoritarian as new emergency powers over border controls, surveillance, and enforced quarantines attest.

But there is a way of countering these tendencies—by creating an enabling, responsive, participatory state where solutions are reached with citizens, rather than imposed on them. A meaningful state-civil society contract means the state can act powerfully but also take the side of citizens though, for example, shifting assets, resources, taxes, and welfare in their favor. We see glimpses of this already through a new municipalism, with Barcelona as one of the leading examples.

It's difficult to predict how things will turn out in such a fast-moving environment. What I have presented here are some glimpses of doable, commonsense actions that could be used to build sustainable cities out of the coronavirus crisis.

Real-Time Laboratory For Urban Life: Ten Ideas To Improve Cities

  • These can be summed up in ten ideas that cities could implement after this crisis:
  • Reallocate road space for daily exercise and active travel
  • Subsidize free buses for key workers, and re-regulate public transport to create affordable, zero-carbon mass transit
  • Trial wage guarantee or basic income schemes to make sure no one is left behind
  • Shift subsidies to promote socially useful production
  • Plan to ensure homes are warm and comfortable for any future crises
  • Allocate unused land for exercise, leisure, wildlife, and biodiversity
  • Support community businesses and provide property to increase the supply of local food
  • Commit to speed reductions to reduce deaths and ease the strain on health services
  • Create more support for local businesses and invest in local shops and high streets
  • Use indicators to count the things that matter, especially unpaid care work, key workers, quality of life, and environmental protection.

Before you go!

Recommended: Rooftop Garden: Sustainable Urban Agriculture

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Being involved in sustainability activities has changed my view on this subject a lot. Climate change and pollution are borderless and thus solutions and information has to be shared globally. Rich, 'developed' countries have to start supporting countries that don't have the means and knowledge to improve their situation. Sustainability movement is as strong as its weakest link - whatsorb.com is a helpful platform to speed up the X-Change of Global Sustainability.

 

Being involved in sustainability activities has changed my view on this subject a lot. Climate change and pollution are borderless and thus solutions and information has to be shared globally. Rich, 'developed' countries have to start supporting countries that don't have the means and knowledge to improve their situation. Sustainability movement is as strong as its weakest link - whatsorb.com is a helpful platform to speed up the X-Change of Global Sustainability.

 

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Coronavirus: Real-Time Laboratory For Urban Life

A pause has been forced on urban life. Quiet roads, empty skies, deserted high streets and parks, closed cinemas, cafés, and museums—a break in the spending and work frenzy so familiar to us all. The reality of lockdown is making ghost towns of the places we once knew. Everything we know about our urban world has come to a shuddering halt, for now. Coronavirus Real-Time LaboratoryLife: Lockdown The lockdown will, at some point, end. Urban life will begin to hum again to the familiar rhythms of work, leisure, and shopping. This will be a massive relief for us all. Yet our towns and cities will never be the same. Indeed, things might get worse before they get better. Photo by: Jorge Ramirez But it's also the case that other crises haven't gone away. Our relatively brief lockdown won't solve longer-term urban problems: dependence on fossil fuels, rising carbon emissions, poor air quality, dysfunctional housing markets, loss of biodiversity, divisions between the rich and the poor, low paid work. These are going to need our attention again. Coronavirus: Limits Of Society The coronavirus crisis has offered a new perspective on these problems and the limits of the way we have run our urban world over the last few decades. Cities are critical nodes in our complex and highly connected global society, facilitating the rapid flow of people, goods and money, the rise of corporate wealth, and the privatization of land, assets, and essential services. This has brought gains for some through foreign travel, an abundance of consumer products, inward investment, and steady economic growth. {youtube}                                          Before and after coronavirus - scenes from the world's biggest cities But we are now seeing a flip side to this globalized urban world. A densely connected world can quickly turn a localized disease into a pandemic; large areas of the economy are run by large corporates who don't always meet essential public needs; land and resources can lie empty for years, and low paid workers in the informal or gig economy can be left exposed with little protection. This model has the perfect conditions for creating a crisis like a coronavirus. It's also terrible at dealing with it. So something else is required to guide us into the future. The old story—in which cities compete against one another to improve their place in the global pecking order—was never great at meeting everyone's needs. But now it's looking very risky, given the need for increased cooperation and local resilience. After coronavirus, a key question emerges: what, in essence, is a city for? Is it to pursue growth, attract inward investment, and compete against global rivals? Or is it to maximize the quality of life for all, build local resilience and sustainability? These are not always mutually exclusive, but it's a question of regaining balance. Beyond politics and ideology, most people simply want to be safe and healthy, especially faced by future threats, be they climate, weather, or virus related. Real-Time Laboratory For Urban Life: Sustainable, Green Over the last 20 years, we have been learning what needs to change to make cities more sustainable, green, fair, and accessible. Now, the lockdown has thrown us all into a real-time laboratory full of living examples of what a more sustainable future might look like. We have a perfect opportunity to study and explore which of these could be locked in to build sustainable and safer cities. Recommended:  Smart Cities, Safe, And Efficient, But Are We Being Watched? This has already started. Many things have become possible in the last few weeks. In many places, rapid changes have been unleashed to control the economy, health, transport, and food. We are surrounded by fragments of progressive urban policy: eviction cancellations, nationalized services, free transportation and healthcare, sick pay, and wage guarantees. There is also a flourishing of community-based mutual aid networks as people volunteer to help the most vulnerable with daily tasks. Yesterday's radical ideas are becoming today's pragmatic choices. We can learn a lot from these crisis-led innovations as we create more permanent urban policy choices to make life more pleasant and safer for all, below a few key areas of city life that are currently providing some options. Urban Life: Breaking Car Dependency Much quieter streets currently surround many people around the world. This presents us with a huge opportunity to re-imagine and lock in a different kind of urban mobility. Some cities are already doing so: Milan, for example, has announced that it will turn 35km of streets over to cyclists and pedestrians after the crisis. Recommended:  Urban Mobility: The 15 Friendliest Bike Cities In the World Streets with fewer cars have shown people what more liveable; walkable neighborhoods would look like. When a lockdown is over, and society returns to the enormous task of reducing transport emissions and improving air quality, we need to remember that lower car use quickly became the new normal. This is important. Reducing traffic levels, some say by up to 60% between now and 2030, maybe vital to avoiding dangerous levels of global warming. As previously outlined, this reduction would address many longstanding urban policy concerns—the erosion of public space, debt, the shift to out of town retail centers and the decline of local high streets, road deaths and casualties, poor air quality, and growing carbon emissions. Accessible, affordable, zero-carbon, public transport is key to supporting a less car-dependent urban future. This crisis has revealed significant inequalities in people's ability to move about cities. In many countries, including the UK, deregulation, and privatization has facilitated corporate operators to run bits of the transport system in the interest of shareholders rather than users. Millions face transport poverty, where they can't afford to own and run a car and lack access to affordable mass transit options. This has taken a new twist during this crisis. For many vulnerable people, whether there is a transit system to access hospitals, food, and other essential services can be a matter of life or death. Recommended:  Green Trains Or Flying High? Travel The Globe Sustainable COVID-19 has also highlighted how key workers underpin our daily lives. Creating good quality affordable transport for them is therefore crucial. Some awareness of this existed before coronavirus: in 2018, one French city introduced free buses, while Luxembourg made all its public transport free. But in the wake of the current crisis, places across the world have been creating free transit, especially to critical workers and for vulnerable people. Photo by: Viktor Forgacs To meet ambitious targets for emission reductions, there needs to be a significant shift away from personal car use within a decade or so. The pandemic has offered insights into how this could be achieved through limiting car use for essential purposes and those with mobility issues, with affordable public transport becoming the new norm for most people in cities. Recommended:  Urban Car With Zero Emission, The Air-Powered Car AIRPod 2.0 Building active travel networks across regions also make more sense than ever. Many places have seen bikes as better options for getting around. Walking and cycling infrastructure can play a huge role in getting people about effectively and also making them healthier. The inadequacies of pedestrian space have also been revealed, especially for active social distancing. To build in future resilience, there's a strong rationale for creating generous pavements and sidewalks that take space from motor vehicles. And, given there are around 6,000 pedestrians killed or seriously injured in road accidents every year in the UK, a roll-out of lower speed limits could help reduce hospital admissions and make a contribution in future epidemic management. The lockdown has also brought about significant reductions in air pollution. One study estimated that the lockdown in China saved 77,000 lives just by reducing this pollution. Such decreases are particularly vital, given that worse air quality could increase the risk of death from COVID-19. Given the health and social care costs associated with dealing with poor air quality, current increases in cleaner air need to be locked in to reduce the burden on health services for the future. Recommended:  India’s CO2, Pollution, Artificial Rain: How To Survive? Aviation has taken a hit, with total flights declining by more than half during the crisis. This offers a glimpse of the types and volumes of flying that might feel surplus to requirements in the future. Cities will need to move quickly to lock in these lower mobility expectations, especially low car volumes, less aviation, quality, affordable mass transit, and active travel. We are all living the reality of merely traveling less and shifting activity online. This is a huge opportunity to review working practices, leisure, and retail habits, and argue for spending to support affordable and sustainable travel for all. R ecommended:  ‘Flygskam’: The Trend Of Scandinavian Shame Of Flying Coronavirus Real-Time Laboratory: The Socially Useful City We have become used to the shortcomings of the modern city economy—low paid and precarious jobs, independent businesses squeezed out by large corporations, land, and resources shifting from private to public hands, growing divisions between rich and poor neighborhoods. Coronavirus has thrown many of these into stark relief. Recommended:  Pandemic and Ecological Reset: The World Green Again Low earning workers, especially women, have few options but to continue working and be exposed to infection, hospitals struggle for necessary equipment, those in higher-income neighborhoods have better spaces for exercise and leisure. But what has been most staggering about the response to the crisis is the rapid uptake of measures that only days ago would have been unthinkable: mortgage and rent holidays, statutory sick pay, shifts to nationalize services especially health and transport, wage guarantees, suspending evictions, and debt cancellations. The current crisis has started to rip up ideas led by the free market. We now seem to be reveling what matters. Rather than being considered low skilled extras on the fringes of the economy, key workers, especially in health and food, are being revered for the role they play in supporting our wellbeing. Local shops are experiencing renewed support as they offer more reliable personal connections and commitment to their community. These tendencies are an opportunity to restructure high streets and create diverse local markets that can meet community needs and build resilience to weather future crises. Recommended:  Consumerism In ‘The West’: A Society Built On Exploitation This crisis has also highlighted who has enough money to live on. Beyond government job retention and self-employed income schemes, more radical propositions are emerging that are changing people's relationship to work. A universal basic income is an idea that has come of age during this crisis—a full, automatic non-means-tested payment to every individual as a right of citizenship. The Spanish government has agreed to roll out such a scheme nationally as soon as possible, and there is sustained interest in many other places. The idea of a minimum income guarantee is also gaining momentum, a renewed interest in the concept of a universal and unconditional safety net that can offer dignity and safety and offer options for more sustainable living. The social economy can provide further insights into refocusing city economies after coronavirus. Made up of community businesses, co-operatives, and voluntary organizations, this social economy creates goods, services, and employment that are more locally based and community grounded in a range of areas: renewable energy, sustainable housing, food, and microfinance. They build in benefits, including local employment and procurement, fairer pay, better conditions, sustainable resource use, democratic accountability, and a commitment to social justice. Derelict buildings and land banked by large scale developers could be redeployed by community organizations to build local resilience through community farms, renewables, and housing, as well as leisure, local biodiversity, and carbon storage. Recommended:  Smart Communities: Eco-Living Through Technology It's also clear that parts of the economy, such as gambling and advertising corporations, bailiffs, and corporate lobbyists, are less socially useful than others. There are signs of how the economy can change in positive directions. Many firms are temporarily shifting to more socially beneficial production, making, for example, hand sanitizer, ventilators, and medical wear. These short term glimpses of a more socially useful economy should inspire when considering future urban economic planning. Factories might transition to manufacturing wind turbines, e-bikes, insulation panels, and heat pumps. And excess downtown corporate office space or luxury apartments could be retrofitted to support socially useful activities—essential worker accommodation, libraries, creches, day centers, colleges for transition skills, and co-working spaces. Real-Time Laboratory: Green Urban Commons Further greening of cities after coronavirus would offer real and widespread benefits. During the lockdown, many people are more aware of how little green space they have access to on their doorsteps. Many are also stuck in cramped conditions with little or no access to outdoor spaces. Recommended:  Green Urban Sustainable Project: Marine One In Singapore Quality public and green places need to be radically expanded so people can gather and heal after the trauma of this experience. Now is an excellent time to supercharge such plans. Diverse green spaces directly underpin our emotional and psychological wellbeing and offer a range of positive effects on carbon sequestration, air purification, and wildlife preservation. Neighborhood design inspired by nature can support this. Interweaving the places we live with great natural spaces linked to active travel opportunities can reduce car dependency, increase biodiversity, and create options for meaningful leisure on our doorsteps. They can also incorporate local food production and features to cope with floodings, such as sustainable urban drainage and water gardens, further increasing future crisis resilience. There's also a strong rationale for prioritizing street-by-street retrofit. In the event of future lockdowns during cold months, warm, low energy and well-insulated homes can help reduce other problems around fuel poverty and excess winter deaths. This moment offers a real opportunity to lay the foundations for a new deal for nature and animals. This is more important now than ever. Animals and wildlife, typically in rapid decline, are finding ways to regain a foothold in this respite of human activity—but they may be further threatened when lockdown comes to an end. Ways to create an equal balance with our fellow species include expanding habitats for wildlife, restoring damaged natural areas, reducing dependency on intensive animal farming as well as meat-based diets. Besides, researchers are starting to understand how zoonotic diseases (those transferred from animals to humans) like COVID-19 may be a hidden outcome of the global scale of human development. A recent report by the UN Environment Programme explored how the rapid growth of urban populations across the world, along with reductions in pristine ecosystems, are creating opportunities for pathogens to pass between animals and people. Regenerating and protecting natural spaces could be a crucial part of future disease resilience. Coronavirus: What Next? COVID-19 presents a significant juncture. There is still trauma and loss ahead. There may be market collapse and prolonged depression. There are also tendencies towards political and corporate bodies exploiting this crisis for their ends. Empty restaurant during the coronavirus Recommended:  Climate Change: Cause Of The Next Global Economic Collapse For our urban world, this could mean more of the negatives discussed earlier—insecurity, privatization, division, and authoritarianism. And as lockdown ends, there may be a rebound effect, as people understandably rush to embrace travel, work, and consumerism, creating significant emissions and pollution surge. No particular urban future is inevitable. The future story, and reality, of our towns and cities, are up for grabs. The positives that are glimpsed during this crisis could feasibly be locked in and scaled up to create a fairer, greener, safer urban future. We can all live well and even flourish, in cities also if we have and do a little bit less of the things we have become used to. Revaluing what's essential—community, friendship, family life—allows us to see how much we already have that can improve our wellbeing. Recommended:  Earth Matters. Nature And Us: What Was, What’s Left: Hope? Often ideas start to converge under a single banner. Many in this article can be understood through the concept of the Green New Deal – a proposed set of policies to tackle climate change and inequality, create good jobs, and protect nature. It's an approach that has a lot to offer cities after this coronavirus crisis. It points to an urban economy based on critical foundations of public services, an economy operating within the ecological limits of our precious biosphere, with a social safety net for all. These ideas are now being seriously considered by some cities, such as Amsterdam, as they think about how to rebuild their economies. How city governance responds in this crisis and afterward will be essential. There will undoubtedly be a much more significant role for the state, and this might be more authoritarian as new emergency powers over border controls, surveillance, and enforced quarantines attest. But there is a way of countering these tendencies—by creating an enabling, responsive, participatory state where solutions are reached with citizens, rather than imposed on them. A meaningful state-civil society contract means the state can act powerfully but also take the side of citizens though, for example, shifting assets, resources, taxes, and welfare in their favor. We see glimpses of this already through a new municipalism, with Barcelona as one of the leading examples. It's difficult to predict how things will turn out in such a fast-moving environment. What I have presented here are some glimpses of doable, commonsense actions that could be used to build sustainable cities out of the coronavirus crisis. Real-Time Laboratory For Urban Life: Ten Ideas To Improve Cities These can be summed up in ten ideas that cities could implement after this crisis: Reallocate road space for daily exercise and active travel Subsidize free buses for key workers, and re-regulate public transport to create affordable, zero-carbon mass transit Trial wage guarantee or basic income schemes to make sure no one is left behind Shift subsidies to promote socially useful production Plan to ensure homes are warm and comfortable for any future crises Allocate unused land for exercise, leisure, wildlife, and biodiversity Support community businesses and provide property to increase the supply of local food Commit to speed reductions to reduce deaths and ease the strain on health services Create more support for local businesses and invest in local shops and high streets Use indicators to count the things that matter, especially unpaid care work, key workers, quality of life, and environmental protection. Before you go! Recommended:  Rooftop Garden: Sustainable Urban Agriculture Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about life after the coronavirus? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'
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