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Point of view: A plea for colourful cities

Magdalena Holzer, Project Manager at CIPRA International. (c) Caroline Begle, CIPRA International

Corona has strikingly shown how important accessible local recreation areas are for our well-being. Over 70 percent of the Alpine population live in cities. There is a great deal of potential for action there in particular, says Magdalena Holzer, Project Manager at CIPRA International.

On house façades, on roofs, in private gardens: the volume of greenery in the city must be massively increased – for the eye and for the climate. Measures such as the unsealing of asphalt deserts will eliminate heat islands, store more CO2 and improve the quality of life. Some cities in the Alps are already doing amazing things here, such as the Alpine Towns of the Year, Annecy and Chambéry in France, with their river renaturation in the urban area, Belluno in Italy with its entry into the European Network of Pesticide-Free Cities, or Villach in Austria as an “edible city”. These all need to set an example; urban planning needs courage to face the micro-wilderness.

At least 50 square metres of green space in the immediate vicinity of a city should be available to every inhabitant, maintained pesticide-free and planted with regional flora to minimise transportation and CO2. Less mowing and weeding will reduce the amount of work involved and make an important contribution to promoting biodiversity. There would be plenty of room for this: shopping centres are often unlovely grey designs. This became even more apparent during the corona lockdown: no one wanted to go there. In the design and management of parking areas, too, profitable solutions still lie fallow. Living and quality of life are also factors outside the home and are reflected in the well-being of the entire community. What a sigh of relief for our lungs – and not only in corona times! There is enormous potential for the planning of attractive, green and low-sealing urban areas. 

Flowering islands in the city are “stepping stones” that connect elements of biotopes and are important for ecological connectivity. They help bees or other pollinators to perform their vital function. Each of these stepping stones gives us the opportunity to learn more about interconnectivity in nature and forms part of a network that can help us in the climate crisis. Areas with high biodiversity are undoubtedly more resilient. Nature is on our side if we give it enough space.