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We are well on the way to becoming an urban world. According to the United Nations World Economic and Social Survey (UN, 2013), at least half the world’s population has been living in cities since 2007, a figure that is projected to rise to more than 70 percent by 2050. This poses unprecedented challenges in light of increasing pressures on world energy reserves, the uncertain and potentially devastating effects of climate change, other forms of environmental degradation, and a range of problems related to urban living such as overcrowding in city centers and sprawl in suburban areas and beyond.

The planning community should not abandon hope; instead, increasing urbanization makes it easier to solve such problems. As Steve Raynor (2012) has observed, increasing urbanization represents an opportunity to utilize the population and infrastructure density characteristics of urban form to create solutions that can mitigate climate change, replenish or renew resources, and improve the environment. Perhaps more importantly, it should be possible to work at the intersections of policy, energy technology research and development, human and consumer behavior, and landscape and greenway planning to incorporate these components into the future design of urban form to improve human health and well-being, create greener urban areas, and build and maintain a sense of community among urban residents.

Two areas where planners can tackle important issues can be found at the intersection of energy and nature. With continued innovations in technologies, whether personal or large scale, energy technology, in particular “smart energy” solutions, must be included not only in thinking about how cities should be shaped in the future but also in proactively planning to meet the demands of our technological era. Additionally, solutions integral to planning should seek to create what some call “cities of the future,” cities whose energy infrastructures achieve a range of outcomes from sustainability to regeneration as well as the resilience of the urban environment. This makes smart energy planning a natural companion to urban greenway planning, since both seek to contribute to the sustainable, regenerative, and resilient urban form that must mark cities of the future. Planners must explore the potential for finding synergies between smart energy and greenways that would do more than simply include them under the same smart urban planning umbrella.



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