Urban Policy, Climate Resilience, and Food Security

According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that number is likely to be two-thirds, as people move in search of economic opportunity and flee climate-stressed rural areas. In addition, the global population will have increased to almost ten billion. In the United States, many large cities already face housing shortages, crumbling infrastructure, and those on the coasts will confront rising sea levels.

As a response, cities in the U.S. need a more resilient, diversified, and integrated plan for coping with climate change, feeding people, and protecting their food- and watersheds, while at the same time reducing energy costs, lowering their carbon footprint, handling waste, and offering citizens access to affordable, healthy food options.

This paper looks at New York City, and particularly work being done in Brooklyn, on reducing food waste; protecting and sustaining community gardens, green roofs, and greenmarkets; developing vertical and hydroponic farms; diverting and reusing stormwater run-off and grey water; lowering the heat-island effect; protecting against storm surge through replanted oyster beds; and other practices.

The paper also suggests making plant-based diets the default in all public institutions; offering tax breaks for companies that do the same in their cafeterias; extending pilot programs to use plant-based food as medicine in public hospitals; placing “carbon count” indicators on menus; levying a carbon tax on meat and dairy products; and other policies.

The paper ends with a vision of a future New York City, rich in biotic life, more able to deal with extreme weather fluctuations, and with a population that is not merely resilient but well-nourished and thriving.