This year Amsterdam is hosting Bloomberg Citylab, the annual event for civic leaders, planners and urban-minded academics run by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute. Some 40 mayors are in town this week for the three-day gathering and, given the links to Michael Bloomberg – the founder of the US financial and media giant, as well as a garlanded former mayor of New York – there’s a strong showing of American players, including Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser (pictured, on right), who will be on this Thursday’s episode of The Urbanist. Bloomberg has created the impressive Cities Network, which allows these mayors to share information and grow as urban-minded CEOs. This collaboration also explains why there is a clear consensus in the room about the challenges that we face today and even the potential solutions. You don’t come here to see people locking horns.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t some fire in the speakers. This year one of the best strands has been the various attempts to illuminate how climate stresses, from heatwaves to floods, don’t hit everyone in a metropolis in the same way. Eleni Myrivili, chief heat officer of Athens (see issue 155 of Monocle), explained that her city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods had the highest numbers of shading trees, while Marta Segura, her counterpart in Los Angeles, said that her own city suffered from a “shade equity” issue, which was compounded by the fact that the poorest districts were often the most polluted. On a panel about “waterproofing cities”, Randall Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, said that in the past his city developed segregated communities for black residents on floodplains and between highways. These places are now vulnerable to the increasingly frequent floods caused by water running down the valley that the city sits in.
The panellists agreed that while creating fairer places for all will take time, there are simple measures that should be adopted now: for example, plant more trees, get rid of asphalt car parks and create more green spaces for nature. These are steps that can easily get everyone’s buy-in and make us all feel invested in building a more sustainable future. In short, it’s time we all got a bit more shady.
Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor in chief.