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From Grays to Greens
From Grays to Greens
In every city-building video game, it’s always easy to create a well-functioning city. However, the costs increase as time passes, which makes the city difficult to maintain. This is also true in reality, except the problems are amplified. To solve this issue, green infrastructure, or a framework of environmentally-friendly structures, can be implemented.
This type of foundation can improve every aspect of a city. Environmentally-sustainable infrastructure is important in our society because it ensures that cities continue to function efficiently for a long time.
One important benefit cities can reap from implementing green infrastructure is resiliency. This means that places with natural areas are better able to withstand challenges that may face them in the future. According to experts in the field, “…natural and constructed protective systems include levees, natural floodplains, man-made and natural wetlands, groundwater recharge areas, and urban forests… that absorb pollutants… and filter impurities in air and water.”
It is also important to note that there are other methods in improving a region’s resiliency, and not all of them are related to vegetation. As an example, replacing traditional cityscape with permeable surfaces can help to better deal with runoff, erosion, water quality degradation, and stormwater. This ensures that a city can continue to run well even as it grows and faces an increasing number of environment-related problems.
It isn’t just the environment that sustainable infrastructure benefits, though. It also plays a large role in improving a city’s economic success. The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) stated that “Well-designed park systems that are integrated into developed infrastructure can enhance nearly all of the infrastructure functions, often at a fraction of the cost of man-made systems.” In other words, a city with green framework is able to execute more tasks than one without, and can perform them without spending as much.
Another way to cut costs related to environmental foundation is low impact development (LID). This is an idea in which simple concepts are utilized to gain the benefits of sustainable infrastructure. LID is becoming more and more common, and includes things like shade trees, bio-swales, and bio-remediation. Shade trees are just what they sound like—they provide shade for a community as well as purifying the air with a steady supply of oxygen. Bio-swales are areas of landscape that remove silt and pollutants from surface runoff. They are gently sloped and twisting, and are usually filled with vegetation. Pollutants can also be removed with bio-remediation, in which microorganisms are used to do so.
Clearly, green infrastructure should be implemented whenever possible. Systems of this variety can lead to a myriad of future benefits, which can improve a city’s functioning socially, economically, and environmentally. As cities continue to grow, it becomes increasingly important that they can reliably function, even as time passes. Because the majority of people live in these areas, our population will be greatly affected if cities aren’t sustainable. Therefore, we need to ensure that our cities will continue to run efficiently for a long time, and establishing environmental framework is a great way to do so.
Imagine a day living in a city that has invested in green infrastructure. The sun rises up into a bright blue sky, which isn’t obscured by smog. You hear the chirping of birds coming from the massive oaks that line your street. Despite the fact that you live in a fairly busy subdivision, the sounds that surround you are peaceful. There is no smell of industry, only clean air. Driving to work, you are enveloped by green plants and the bright colors of flowers in full bloom. You pass by a pond where a family of ducks swims happily, and the smell of the pine forest surrounding the blue water is entrancing. This is the way society needs to be, and implementing sustainable infrastructure can help us get there.
If our society supported green framework, our cities would run much more smoothly. This could create more opportunities for the multitude of citizens living in these areas, and could ensure that the city they live in continues to function the way it should. This is important because the resiliency of a city is directly tied to its success economically, and could therefore lead to success in other aspects of a balanced city. Green infrastructure keeps a city and its citizens happy and healthy for a long time.
Unfortunately, many people are afraid that the sometimes high initial costs of implementing green infrastructure could lead to debt for the city. This could turn into higher taxes, and make it hard for people financially. However, because of the sustainability of green infrastructure, it is an investment that ends up saving money for the city and potentially lowering taxes. This means that once it is implemented, the city is saving more and more, while providing its citizens with a better social and healthy lifestyle and experience. In the beginning, changes can be made on a small scale to eventually make the city fully “green,” which can therefore reduce initial costs. This increases the need for this type of infrastructure and proves that it is a good idea.
The average human life lasts about 80 years. Will a city last that long? The answer to that question heavily depends on its foundation. Administering green infrastructure helps to ensure that a city is able to last as long as the people living in it. This could impact the success of all those people. We need to ensure that sustainable techniques are implemented in abundance so that cities can continue to function well for generations to come.
Dolesh, Richard. “Parks are Green Infrastructure.” Parks and Recreation May 2012: 31+. Junior Edition. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
Gallagher, Timothy. “A Wide Open Field for Conservation: Think Comprehensively about Sustainability Programs.” Parks and Recreation Feb. 2013: 27+. Junior Edition. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.