Future Cities, Future Us – About the project

“Future Cities, Future Us” is a special climate action project of Urban Minds and 1UP Toronto, in partnership with Evergreen and ENCORE Lab at OISE. Our climate is changing. The City of Toronto recently declared a climate emergency, but this will mean nothing if we don’t change the way we design and build our cities.

This project is designed in hope to build a youth-led, intergenerational exchange of ideas with the goal to create a collective, actionable vision of future cities. The following ideas were submitted by youth to help us build a physical and digital display for the upcoming Future Cities Canada Summit (November 7 and 8) and Community Studio (November 23 and 30) at Evergreen Brick Works. City-building professionals and visitors of all ages will respond to these ideas and help inspire our youth to take real action.

Vision for a Sustainable Future

From the visions for a sustainable future contributed by students, seven themes emerged. 

  • In their vision, buildings and infrastructure will build upwards to reduce deforestation, buildings will be designed and developed to be more energy-efficient, and we will keep our cities more like towns — more quiet and peaceful. 
  • There will be a shift in how we think about city transportation to make biking and walking safer, put less emphasis on building roads and bridges and more focus on our public transportation. The city will transition to fully electric buses and adopt faster, more cost-effective transportation systems. 
  • We will increase the amount of green spaces in the city, not only to make it safer to bike and walk, but with more areas for gardens, to plant more vegetation, and grow local, sustainable food. These green spaces will also respond to the increasing stress, anxiety, and lack of meaning experienced by the people of our cities. Nature and green scenery will help people to de-stress and contribute to their physical well-being. 

We can stop using plastics and change [our] lifestyle because climate change is a growing problem.

  • Since there is a growing amount of waste in our cities, we will continue to pursue ways to reduce and recycle. We will put more trash and recycling bins around the city to reduce littering, cut back on paper, go digital in schools, discontinue the sale and production of single use plastics, explore ways to reuse waste material, and try new recycling methods which ensure that items are more effectively recycled. 
  • A major focus of their visions was on renewable energy. There should be greater investment in renewable energy, more green energy such as wind turbines, nuclear, solar, or hydrogen based methods to supply electricity and discourage the use of fossil fuels. Alternatives to gas vehicles should be used with more electric forms of public transportation. 
  • This effort will be aided by new innovative technologies such as recovering carbon dioxide and using it for other applications. We will take inspiration from other countries to find creative solutions, such as building solar panels into our roads. 
  • Their vision also encompasses education. People will be taught more about the environment they live in and greater priority will be given to environmental consciousness.

Ways to Take Action

When describing how to take action to get closer to this future, some described this as an issue starting with their schools and making lifestyle changes, while others talked about their engaging with decision-makers and their communities. 

  • At school we can ban non-reusable water bottles, reduce paper by completing tasks and assignments digitally, avoid getting driven to school, demand more education about these problems such as an environmental awareness course, and have “spirit days” to encourage people to be more green.

Buy products from ethical and sustainable clothing brands, since, as teenagers, we do our own shopping.

  • Our lifestyle changes can include using less single use plastics (such as straws), using reusable water bottles, cutting back on meat consumption (e.g. beef), using less electricity, walking rather than driving when possible, reducing water consumption (i.e. turning off the water while brushing our teeth), buying products from ethical and sustainable brands, and creating a sustainable environment in our own homes.
  • To create awareness and engage the community, we can use social media as a platform to get people informed and engaged. Events can be organized such as campaigns, protests, and walkouts to show that youth want change. Fundraisers can raise money for green tech for schools. We can talk to higher authorities to inform them of our ideas, remind adults how important it is to save our environment, advocate for more green spaces and parks, support purchasing of fully electric buses, advocate for reduction in the number of buildings in our city, incorporate more nature in building plans, explore sustainable housing (i.e. solar-power, geothermal, etc.), advocate for people spending more time in nature during work and school, and vote for politicians who will address climate issues.

Set up community challenges (such as this one) to encourage and motivate individuals to help.

  • For youth engagement, we as youth can volunteer to plant trees, research topics or ideas that could help, participate in local programs which promote transit usage, and engage in community challenges like this one.