Earth Day 2014: Nurturing cities of the future

MOTHER Earth is a motif that commonly appears on the mythologies of different cultures around the world. It depicts Earth as a goddess embodying fertility and motherhood, such as Gaia in Greek mythology and Terra in Roman tradition.

In Southeast Asia, particularly in Myanmar, Cambodia Thailand and Laos, the Earth goddess is known as Phra Mae Thorani. She is depicted as a young woman with water flowing from her hair. In Indonesia they have Dewi Sri, who is the goddess of rice and fertility. Dewi Sri, is considered as Mother Earth in Javanese culture. She encompasses birth and life and controls rice, the staple food of the Indonesians.

In today’s culture, the term Mother Earth is still used to personify nature. The term embodies the nurturing character of the planet. It is the common expression for the Earth that reflects “the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet.”

In 1972 the United Nations organized the first UN Conference on the Human Environment to respond to the emergencies posed by global warming and the damage human activities are causing the Earth. It started the global awareness of man’s “interdependence” with Earth. In 2009 the United Nations General Assembly declared every 22nd of April as International Mother Earth Day. It aims to promote a view of the Earth as the place that sustains all living things.

‘Green cities’

TODAY more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows and the effects of climate change worsen, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Green Cities.” The International Mother Earth Day 2014 focused on “green cities, mobilizing millions of people to create a sustainable, healthy environment by greening communities worldwide.”

Having launched last year, the Green Cities Campaign aims to help cities and communities around the world accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier and more economically viable future. An initiative of the Earth Day Network, the campaign focuses on three key elements—buildings, energy and transportation.

Three key elements

BUILDING account for nearly one- third of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. To build “green buildings,” building design should improve energy and water efficiency, reduce waste and pollution, use sustainable buildings materials and move toward renewable-energy sources. Cities need to update ordinances, switch to performance-based building codes, and improve financing options.

Another key element of the Green Cities campaign is energy. The current world’s energy infrastructure pumps greenhouse gases into the air and contribute to climate change. Green cities should use cheap, clean and efficient energy by constructing more solar panels and wind turbines throughout communities. Education and policy advocacy should start now to make this energy future a reality.

The urban lifestyle prompts more people to rely on cars for transportation. This makes transportation as the fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions. The campaign pushes all the sectors to increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve walkability and bikability of cities.

Cities of the future

FOR the Green Cities campaign, right investments should be made in energy, transportation and green buildings for the cities of the future to be different from the cities of today. The future communities will be cleaner and more sustainable, and the quality of life will be better.

The future cities will have more energy-independent homes and buildings. Solar panels will become vital part in the construction of houses. Buildings will be equipped with comprehensive water-management systems for efficient water use. Cities will be connected by solar-powered public-transportation options that are convenient and eco-friendly. Solar energy from space will be harnessed to provide clean and efficient electricity.

Urban biodiversity

“THE cities of the future should be a haven of rich biodiversity,” according to lawyer Roberto V. Oliva, the executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity. “Ecosystems provide food, raw materials, water and medicinal resources; regulate the quality of air, water and soil, and control flood and disease; and enrich the physical, social, aesthetic and spiritual life of urban dwellers. This makes biological diversity a vital component for cities to function properly,” Oliva said.

“We should start building the cities of the future by making urban-planning guidelines to be more ecological and sustainable. It should also integrate the tools in monitoring and evaluating biodiversity in the cities,” Oliva added. He also encouraged city governments to adopt strategies that aimed to empower and to be implemented by the public and the business sector. This can be community-driven initiatives like community farms, aquaponics or urban gardening for additional food resource. Or can be business sector-supported projects, such as adopting a public park or acquiring idle lands for park development.

In building our cities of the future, all our development initiatives should carry the nurturing tradition of Mother Earth.

Retrieved from –