To make cities better for people and the planet, the approach must become more systemic and pragmatic, and include the global south.
More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas, and both the proportion and numbers continue to grow. In future, we will require drastically different ways of planning, building and governing cities.
Since at least the 1970s, researchers have been doing long-term studies to understand how cities alter ecosystems. Now, the lens is on what ecology can do for cities. The ecosystem approach incorporates nature into urban settings to make them more sustainable, liveable and resilient, and means managing cities themselves as ecosystems: intricately connected, dynamic subsystems of social, built and natural components. The approach encompasses concepts such as green infrastructure, nature-based solutions (adopting sustainable practices that harness the natural world) and ecosystem-based adaptation (managing natural ecosystems to help cities face climate change).