In August, Horizon takes a look at the quest to make Europe’s cities environmentally sustainable, while also ensuring a healthy and prosperous population. We speak to geographer Professor Harriet Bulkeley on why cities have such an important role in fighting climate change, what it means for a city to be sustainable and the big challenges that lie ahead. We look at the construction of zero-energy housing, homing in on the case of Nottingham, UK, and find out how scientists are putting nature back into the old Spanish capital of Valladolid. We also talk to the city officials breathing new life into historical buildings in Bologna, Italy, and learn how urban planners and architects are taking emotional feedback into account when designing new public spaces and homes.
Lining rundown historic areas of cities with plant life and smart sensors and reusing old buildings for new purposes are helping to breathe new life into Europe’s decaying urban spaces.
Cities across Europe are trialling schemes such as roof gardens and ‘mobile forests’ to embed more nature into urban areas in an effort to protect their citizens from climate change events like heatwaves, floods and droughts.
As the world moves towards a carbon neutral future, many different areas from industry to manufacturing are working to reduce their emissions. But scientists are beginning to look at a different area – houses – to work out if it’s possible to reduce emissions from Europe’s homes to zero by retrofitting on a mass scale. And the early signs are promising.
Virtual reality and scenario-testing models are being built to help urban planners and architects get real-time feedback about the impact of their designs on mental health, particularly for older people.
Cities have a critical role to play in fighting climate change but hard conversations lie ahead about the best way to achieve the transition to sustainability, according to Harriet Bulkeley, professor of geography at Durham University, UK.
As commutes dropped during coronavirus lockdowns, many of Europe’s city-dwellers breathed cleaner air. In July, Horizon takes a look closer look at our air pollution problem, what it is, how it affects human health and whether now is the time to make the move to greener transport. We spoke to social epidemiologist Dr Basile Chaix about what it will take to capitalise on the post-coronavirus calls for greener cities to really change our urban spaces – and transport habits. We dissect the properties of particulate matter to understand how characteristics such as particle size or number relate to toxicity, and what they do to human cells. With wildfires known to strike particularly in the summer, we look at how scientists are tracking this lesser-known source of air pollution to better understand the impact on human health. And we find out how a soybean-related asthma outbreak in 1980s Spain is influencing air pollution research today.
In June, against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, a climate emergency and an uncertain future, Horizon takes a look at anxiety. Are we becoming more anxious? What do we really know about the condition and who suffers from it? And how can we best treat it? We speak to anxiety disorder expert Professor David Baldwin about when anxiety turns from a normal response into a long-term problem and what we know – and don’t – about why this happens. We take a look at one particularly vulnerable group – teenagers – to understand how anxiety affects them and how they can best be treated. We explore the link between anxiety and our awareness of bodily sensations to understand, for example, why breathing can calm the mind, and we also talk to the researchers who believe the key to improving anxiety therapies is to look at how different people respond when under threat.
Building façades and pavements in Dutch and Italian cities are being turned into smart, energy-harvesting surfaces and equipped with sensors to power, heat and cool spaces and even monitor roads.
People in cities experienced cleaner air during lockdowns, but a permanent shift to greener modes of transport and habits is ‘extremely complex to achieve’ given how much space is devoted to cars and the groups resisting change, says Dr Basile Chaix, who studies the health trade-offs we make as we travel.
Everyday urban spaces can help heat and cool our homes.
The red planet may be our best bet for finding out whether we’re alone in the universe.
Dr Basile Chaix says mobility changes are 'extremely complex' to achieve.