Second talk in the “Cities Against Inequality” series on health in urban environments
One of the conclusions of the talk, which was organised by Casa Amèrica Catalunya and DIPLOCAT, was that if we cannot change the climate, we have to change our production model
The second talk in the "Cities Against Inequality" series, organised by Casa Amèrica Catalunya in collaboration with DIPLOCAT, took place on Wednesday. The series consists of three talks about factors that can play a key role in transforming cities into fairer, more liveable and more sustainable places: namely, access to decent housing, public health, and improving public safety. On this occasion, discussions on the subject of "Health in Urban Spaces" were led by Mr Sebastián Figuerón, a responsible businessman from Uruguay who boasts B-Corp certification and works in the field of industrial and organic food production (and also works to improve the environment), and Mr Pere Alzina i Bilbeny, a biology graduate whose work as an environmental consultant involves the development of diagnostics and action plans related to biodiversity, waste, and air and water pollution.
Mr Figuerón began by explaining his company's commitment to the production of hydroponic vegetables (specifically lettuce), which are of higher quality, are grown more efficiently and sustainably than in traditional agriculture, and have shorter production cycles. His approach also incorporates a social aspect by prioritising the hiring of women, who are often excluded from the labour market. Between 70 and 75% of the company's employees are women. Moreover, the firm's B-Corp certification accredits its status as one of the 4,000 "best companies in the world". This certification takes into account the company's economic, social and environmental impact, along with its commitment to global sustainability, gender equality and building the capacities of its employees.
Mr Figuerón also highlighted the need to change the current model of production, in view of the fact that "although food is not scarce, the distribution system has failed". He added that society needs to focus on producing in new areas, "because if we cannot change the climate, we will have to change our production model". The Uruguayan businessman went on to explain that the use of pesticides and toxic substances to tackle problems on agricultural land is harmful to human health, and that we must explore other phytosanitary solutions that are better not only for our health, but also for the sustainability of the planet.
Mr Figuerón was followed by Mr Alzina, who presented an environmental diagnosis of Barcelona. The Catalan capital is a "dual city", 81% of which is built-up land while 11-12% is woodland (principally the Collserola area), with a few other green areas. Agricultural land is virtually non-existent. One of the city's main problems is its population density, which at 16,000 inhabitants/km2 is much higher than cities such as New York, which has a density of 11,000 inhabitants/km2. Another of the negative factors for the city's health - and one which Mr Alzina refers to as the "black hole" - is waste management, in view of the fact that the amount of waste generated has grown by 94% in 20 years. In this respect, he pointed out that Barcelona has achieved less than 50% of the targets set by the European Union.
However, Mr Alzina also highlighted positive aspects that are clearly improving (even though there is still work to be done), such as water management and air quality. Barcelona has reduced its water consumption by 21% in recent years and has created rainwater collection tanks, which prevent the streets from flooding and enable the water to be used for irrigation. According to Mr Alzina, if these measures were implemented throughout Catalonia, the current water situation would be less critical. With regard to air quality, he emphasised that it is an issue inherent to all big cities, and although the situation in Barcelona is not perfect, it is not as bad as it is sometimes made to appear.
The "Cities Against Inequality" series will come to an end in June with a talk on public safety. The aim of these talks is to reflect on the fact that, at a time when the majority of the world's population lives in cities, urban centres have often become a source of unease, conflict and loneliness for many people. Cities must evolve if we want them to be more welcoming towards their inhabitants while improving people's physical and mental health and, indirectly, their social relationships. Both public and private sectors and the third sector can play a decisive role in the evolution towards a friendlier metropolis.