For reasons that we’ve expanded on in the past, the pandemic has given fresh impetus to the necessity of implementing broader and deeper wellbeing policies. This is particularly evident in the domain of air pollution as new evidence accrues, suggesting that the situation is worse than we thought. According to a new report, burning fossil fuels causes nearly one in five of all deaths worldwide—a death toll almost twice as high as previously thought.
In the fight against air pollution, cities are ahead of governments, leading by example. Bogota is a most successful case study, demonstrating that an ambitious policy to cut air pollution can be implemented with just two “simple” things: (1) more trees and (2) more cycle lanes.
Columbia’s capital just added 50 miles of bike lanes, reducing particulate pollution by up to 80% in these areas. This, in addition to better walking networks, the planting of trees (800,000 new ones + 400,000 that have been preserved), and the creation of shared public gardening spaces, has succeeded in substantially reducing air pollution.
Furthermore, in the longer term, the policy should also lead to a “fitter” and happier population (trees and regular moderate exercise are very good for us). These policies are now being emulated in cities around the world. Places as different as Paris, Bangkok, NYC, Nairobi and Barcelona are following the same path, creating as many public spaces as possible and planting trees. Apart from rendering these big cities less polluted, these policies have the added advantage of making them more pleasant and encouraging us to walk or bike more. These are all-around wellness-positive solutions.