While it is true that cities get a great deal of attention, there is a reason for that: cities contain the majority of the planet’s populations. Internationally, there are cities that have so many people that they put the cities in the United States to shame. People who live in cities decidedly have different perspectives than those who live in rural communities. There is no purpose in saying that cities are more important than rural areas, because as long as human beings will need to eat food, there has to be rural areas to grow it. However, the fate of the planet rests on the ability to influence the largest number of people to restore the ecosystem, and the largest populations are in cities.
Air quality has gotten so bad in the cities that studies have been shown to demonstrate that the air is just as bad as cigarette smoke in some cases. Yet and still, the car culture is so dominant that there is a legitimate concern that cities will not have sufficient parking for people who still “prefer” to drive. Oceans have built up a collection of trash so great that it is believed to be the size of Texas, and yet companies continue to persist in not using plastic alternatives that have already been proven effective and less expensive. Temperatures in urban cores skyrocket in urban cores and skyscrapers create wind tunnels to more effectively distribute litter. Basically, cities have done the most damage to the planet and are responsible for cleaning up the mess of the planet, and constituents have the responsibility for holding local governments accountable for the damage.
Conversely, cities are viewed as attractive spaces for those with extensive resources, hence the obnoxious battle for Amazon’s HQ2. Thus, cities are the places with the most influence because people who have gained and hold the most capital reside in cities, and given the most reasonable option of fundraisers and flattery, organizers can cover the most ground. While socioeconomic segregation is a severely limiting factor, independent scholars and media have finally breached the sightline of the elite, proving them cowards for not engaging with more of the people they have disenfranchised. Within cities, there are more opportunities for the elite to be exposed to effective uses of their wealth, provided that they are open to solving the problems they have created.
Most importantly, cities can make changes the fastest. With federal legislation, the machines are so gaudy and elaborate that it takes decades to acknowledge problems and truly address issues. Cities can become more equitable cities with the flick of an election cycle, as was evident with Minneapolis. The mayor of Bogota created an enviable pedestrian/cycling trail through the city and enhanced the rapid bus system. Internationally, cities like Nairobi are exploring ways to go car-free rather than expand highways. Instead of waiting for people too high in the hierarchy to make long-term decisions about sustainability, cities have the luxury of being close enough to their constituents to be effective.
No longer do residents have to wait for their national government to stop glad-handing long enough to see the planet’s woes. In France, multiple citizens have become activated enough to garner an international audience, demonstrating that the people have the most authority to demand of their local government. Waiting for the elite to feel comfortable sustaining the planet for future generations is no longer acceptable. Local decision-makers need to respect the urgency of climate change and exercise their authority to ensure existence for future generations.