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Sustainability Blog Post

Sustainable Cities and Communities: The Sooner, the Better!

By Javaria Anwar
Javaria is a student in the Political Science and Sustainability Studies program at Ontario Tech. Her eagerness to learn, gain an understanding, and connect the dots to find answers and solutions for our evolving environments is her way of paying forward.

Students have many anxieties nowadays, we have anxieties about climate change, housing affordability, and our aspirations as independent members of society. With these anxieties, one question lingers amongst students: Is hard work and effort worth it when the future appears costly and disproportionate?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #11 aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. When cities are built sustainably, they are built to ensure that everyone can have a fair life and contribute to growth without hurting the environment.

According to the United Nations report, the global population reached 8 billion in 2022, with more than half living in urban areas. With the growing effects of climate change and urban sprawl, it's projected that by 2050, roughly 70% of the world's population will live in urban areas.

The report also included that presently,1.1 billion people live in slums or slum-like conditions within cities, and an additional 2 billion people are expected to add to that number by 2050. This will not only lead to the deterioration of the quality of human life but also the degradation of our entire ecosystem.

Take the example of Canada, abundant in natural resources especially clean water, amounting to 7% of the world’s renewable water supply, which puts it in an inevitable position to accommodate climate refugees. According to StatsCan, just last year, Canada's population increased by over 1 million individuals, with the majority not being climate refugees. However, as climate change continues to grow, global temperatures will rise, and extreme weather events will become more frequent. Take the example of Bangladesh, a country where half its population lives less than 5 meters above the mean sea level, and it is predicted that 17% of the land of the country will be lost by 2050. This is even though Bangladesh is not among the 20 countries that produce 82 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions. Extreme climate events and escalation in displacement globally will lead to further population growth in Canada as it becomes a host for environmental refugees.

The cost of implementing sustainability measures is relatively small compared to the benefits they have to offer. For example, affordable housing or an efficient public transportation system costs money, but it improves the quality of people’s lives by allowing them the freedom of mobility which in return helps the environment, boosts the economy, and makes the city both convenient and sustainable.

When time is of the essence, our understanding and participation in policies and demanding prompt action from our leaders becomes key. Ontario Tech University provides many opportunities for students to participate and engage in these areas through courses like Community Development, Social Change, Ecojustice, and Policies for Sustainability in the Political Science program and the minor in Sustainability Studies program which offers a wide range of courses from Environmental Sciences to Indigenous Studies, that offer various perspectives in attaining sustainability.