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World Habitat Day, 2009

Today, October 5, is World Habitat Day. From UN-HABITAT:

The United Nations chose the theme Planning our Urban Future to raise awareness of the need to improve urban planning to deal with new major challenges of the 21st century. This is because urban settlements in all parts of the world are being influenced by new and powerful forces. In both developed and developing countries, cities and towns are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, population growth and economic instability. These factors will significantly reshape towns and cities, physically and socially, in the century ahead. Many developing countries will, in addition, continue to experience rapid rates of urbanization, along with its most serious negative consequences – overcrowding, poverty, slums with many poorly equipped to meet the service demands of ever growing urban populations. With over half of the world’s population currently living in urban areas, and this number set to rise to two-thirds in another generation, there is no doubt that the ‘urban agenda’ will increasingly become a priority for governments, local authorities and their non-governmental partners everywhere.

Parks and the public realm are part of this agenda. In developing countries, it means upgrading slums to provide recreational offerings and quality, sanitary public spaces. It also means concentrating urban growth without sprawling into the countryside as has happened in this last century in developed countries. In those developed countries, the goals are about how to entice more compact, sustainable living where land use, housing and transportation decisions are made together. Neighborhood parks and playgrounds are one component of this. Also included is the conservation of important ecological areas, reclaiming of brownfields and using parks as stormwater management tools. In both settings, there’s the issue of adaptation — more trees to reduce urban heat island and flood protection. There are more, but these are just a few main issues coming up around the topic of this day.

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