Building Healthy Cities
In 2008, for the first time, there were more people living in cities than in rural areas. By 2050 it’s expected that nearly 70 percent of the population will reside in urban areas. This historic urban growth, coupled with a changing climate, challenges us to team up with communities and partners to ensure that cities are resilient, equitable and sustainable—for both people and nature.
“Many of the crises we’re facing on the planet are driven by human behaviors, meaning that the solutions to these challenges will also be driven by human behavior,” says James Cole, Director of Conservation Programs in Missouri. “We need to engage with big communities to catalyze big solutions.”
In St. Louis, we’ve invested in a Cities Program Manager whose initial focus includes green infrastructure demonstrations—prioritizing on stormwater retention and Mississippi River nutrient reduction—while maximizing benefits to underserved neighborhoods within the city, thereby helping create more resilient urban communities. “St. Louis sits at the confluence of two of the biggest river systems in the country and as so, we are uniquely positioned as a city to invest in practices that reduce the nutrients that flow into these systems,” says Cole.
These are complex challenges that combine environmental, social and economic stresses; and we know that we don’t have all the answers. “There is already great work underway in St. Louis, and we are excited to bring our science to the table to collaborate with partners and catalyze transformational change,” says Cole. “Additionally, the Conservancy has incredible cities projects in action across the country that we can draw from.” Likewise, the work we do in St. Louis can be used to advance these same strategies in cities and communities across the state.
We are demonstrating how green infrastructure, such as planting trees in cities, can address urban challenges, including stormwater run-off, air pollution and heat islands, and also generate benefits for communities, for people’s health and for the economy.
ACROSS THE CONSERVANCY
The Conservancy's Planting Healthy Air Report found that an investment of just $4 per resident in tree planting in 245 cities could improve the health of millions of people – demonstrating the role of urban trees in addressing pollution and extreme heat. Read the full report below.