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Climate change in the suburbs

By Steve McCann

What’s worse for the environment: suburbs or cities? Most people would say cities, and understandably so. Towering skyscrapers, pavement as far as the eye can see, the honking horns of cars idling in traffic and the incessant noise of jackhammers. Any green space is limited and surrounded by the concrete jungle.

However, there is an ecological benefit to dense urban cities. For starters, it packs everything into one crowded, yet convenient space. In a nutshell, if you’re going to pave over nature, you might as well keep it compact – take up as little room needed and leave the surrounding areas green.

As with most things from the pandemic, the urban dynamic is changing, and it has consequences on our climate. People are moving out of major cities for a number of reasons. Working from home has allowed people to move away from the office, cheaper living expenses, and heaven forbid – more space. The mass exodus has even prompted the Canadian government to conduct a first-ever Census of the Environment – measuring how much green space is being lost to urbanization and industrialization.

It’s an uphill battle to convince people to move back into the city, especially if they don’t need to be there for work, but not all is lost on making future communities environmentally friendly.

Topping the list of suggestions is how new developments are built. That includes enforcing rules to save watersheds, forests, and wetlands from being paved over. Another is implementing clean energy like solar and ground source heat pumps and improving insulation and airtightness on new homes.

Another suggestion is making the suburbs feel like a city. The first is increasing population density. While this may be the reason many people are flocking to the suburbs, it’s an unsustainable model. In established communities, many homeowners are already remodelling their houses into multi-unit homes. As suburban populations rise, it’s vital to provide towns and communities with just as many amenities as the big city, saving on gas-guzzling trips.

The post-pandemic generation is on the move, and whether it’s to a city or away from it, governments and developers have a keen eye on what this means for climate change, and could mean a change in your living situation.


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