Words by Tom Smith
In issue 09 of The Possible, we explore some of the ways that life in cities impacts life outside them. Climate change is illuminating connections that may have been hidden — in natural systems, in trade networks, in the consequences of our actions. Today, we can vividly see how carbon emitted anywhere in the world presents an existential threat to us all, most urgently to the “frontline communities” experiencing its first, worst effects.
A more extreme, less predictable climate is ratcheting up the tensions in fragile global webs too. Water is fundamental to every process on Earth, and supplies are already under pressure from urban population growth. As drought and flooding become more frequent, we consider “the new shape of water” and solutions for greater resilience.
We need to make national economies more resilient too. Over the last three decades, globalization has strengthened connections between cities on opposite sides of the world, but led to a widening gulf within countries, severing leading regions from lagging ones. We can’t afford to leave anyone behind, not least because thriving industrial and agricultural regions will be crucial to the green transition.
Cities are where most of the resources we extract from the Earth are ultimately consumed, yet urban residents and policymakers are often detached from their sources. Now that we have these new insights, we can act upon them — to pool our ideas and work together to equip ourselves for what is coming
Tom Smith is global director, property and buildings, at WSP