It’s very important to protect the health of a city’s people, but how ecologically friendly are our “green cities” on a global scale? London, the capital of a country that has just shown great interest in the environment at a political level in our recent elections, was ranked 2014’s 5th greenest city on planet Earth according to ecowatch.com. The likes of Mayor Boris Johnson promoting not only a greener lifestyle on the part of its inhabitants, such as getting into the habit of cycling everywhere, but by also making investments in energy efficient buildings. But, while Londoners are increasingly being told they live in a cleaner, healthier city, our local metropolis could put more effort into following the steps of Scandinavian role model, Copenhagen, which positions itself at the top of the list of greenest cities, where they take a much more systematic approach to avoid how Western economies cause external damage in cities like Delhi.
How much the rest of the world took away from the 2009 conference in Copenhagen is debatable but, the city had plenty to share: it has made impressive progress in improving energy resources in the Cleantech Cluster programme, the local authorities have installed tight regulations on sorting waste and the entire urban area is heated by an efficient, locally managed system of district heating. It aims to be carbon neutral by 2025 and has cuts its emissions by 20% from being pretty low at their halfway point this year. The city has also clearly been an inspiration for Boris with the popularity of bikes over polluting forms of transport, which, of course, ticks everyone’s box of getting their daily exercise.
On the contrary, Delhi is an example of a city that needs a lot of help and I don’t mean that in a patronising way. India’s situation where they’re having to respond to the pressures of a highly destructive global market is causing a worrying surge in air pollution levels almost 4 times worse than London’s as this economic pressure clashes with serious population problems. On ground, the pollution prevails in the uncontrolled leak of human toxins in the streets because of a poorly established sanitary system. Delhi does everything the opposite to Copenhagen – it’s increasing its traffic, waste production and industrialisation rather than decreasing it. Why? Because the 2 cities are complete contrasts in their economic developments. We all know that. So where does London stand on this spectrum of green cities?
As mentioned, London is doing great in making the air nicer to breathe and litter harder to create. The eco-life has also become very optimistically integrated into the city’s cultural life as families enjoy participating in summer-holiday cycles on closed roads. Londoners are en route to living as healthily as those in Copenhagen. But it’s all very self-benefiting. A green city for its people does not mean green for the planet. Britain is a lot less self-sufficient and more international than Denmark and our economy still functions on keeping a high profile in global finance and consumerism, as well as using unfriendly energy resources overseas. So, as much as we’d like to think sanitizing our own environment is going to prevent potential apocalypse for other parts of the world, it simply isn’t.
I’m not saying it’s a load of rubbish. Unlike David Cameron, I’m for promoting, not getting rid of, the “green crap” and, as someone from London who spends a lot of time there, I’d hate to attack the city when the increasingly fashionable eco-life is promising and progressive. Rather, I say, keep it up. I am merely picking our local capital as an example of many cities home to our modern lifestyle. Because the concept of the “green city” that global mayors compete to label their cities as is deceiving, it’s insufficient and causes complacency for the development of a sustainable planet beyond the bubble of the city itself. Copenhagen’s not perfect either and any passionate environmentalists would argue Denmark’s survival of exporting fossil fuels is as hypocritical as our peaceful UK exporting military arms to add to our GDP, though we can give the Danes credit for their ethical consumer habits. But it makes me wonder if our cities would be better off like Delhi, where the waste and pollution we actually cause is dumped in our own streets before our eyes to prompt us to make proper progress. Currently, we are washing our crap out of our 1st world living spaces into the sewers that make up the rest of the planet. I’ll treat you to some possibilities on how to actually save the planet in the next environmental piece. Don’t know how much of a difference I can make, though.