Empowering Lessons for Livable Places

Thanks to the Australian-American Fulbright Commission and UN-Habitat’s World Urban Campaign, fundamental relationships at the heart of urban public health and livability are under scrutiny in tropical Australia.

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Cairns, Queensland, Australia — avoiding humidity using active transport. Photo by Chuck Wolfe

Beyond paradise and the importance of context

When reviewing traditional postcard imagery or the portrayals of stage, screen, and modern social media, the words “tropics” and “paradise” often seem synonymous. However, in today’s complex urban settings, this simplicity is inaccurate, because the movement/settlement dynamic is skewed by climatic conditions. Livability and human interaction is often compromised by intense seasonal heat, severe humidity, and torrential rains. Without adjustments or safeguards, outdoor activity becomes highly undesirable during certain parts of the day, and social cohesion may be inhibited or lost entirely.

The relevance of the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda [pdf], drafted by UN-Habitat, and endorsed in late 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly, contains an empowering “call to action.” It enables everyone to benefit from inevitable global urbanization trends, based on implementation of equitable frameworks.

Urban Thinkers Campuses: Understanding Cairns and Townsville through the urban diary tool

We posed these questions to groups of over 50 people in each city — though UN-Habitat World Urban Campaign Urban Thinkers Campus sessions in Cairns and Townsville in June, 2018. Drawing on the urban diaries described in detail in Seeing the Better City, these events provided the fundamental basis for understanding the context of each city through a local lens.

Place-based urban planning and design

Climate-responsive planning and design are important to assure that urban residents in tropical climates incorporate incidental exercise into everyday routine. We believe that people can better use public spaces if they are designed with the premise of mitigating the negative impacts of tropical climates.

  • Social inclusion
  • Healthy eating

Author Charles R. Wolfe founded the London-based Seeing Better Cities Group to improve the conversation around how cities grow and evolve across the world.

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