A natural solution for environmental problems in the cities

There are many environmental, social and economic challenges that these cities face. Apparently, the environment and its benefits seem to have converted themselves into a viable solution.

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Over half of the world’s population lives in big cities. Therefore, there are many environmental, social and economic challenges that these cities face. Apparently, the environment and its benefits seem to have converted themselves into a viable solution.

The UN last said it in 2014: in that moment, more than 56% of the world population, around 4,000 of the 7 billion people living on the planet, lived in cities. Obviously, this figure has increased considerably over the past 5 years because the UN’s calculation for 2050 is that 2 out of 3 inhabitants of the planet will not live in small localities, but in cities.

At a national level, Spanish villages go on decreasing in population. In 2017, the number of Spanish people living in localities of less than 10,000 inhabitants was 9.6 million people, 0.6% less than in the previous year. This is around 20% of the total population, only 1 out of 5 inhabitants in the country.

Most of the Spanish, European and world populations live in cities and the typical problems of this overpopulation create a real crisis for the sustainability of the planet. An unlimited list of problems could be made, but this article will include some of the solutions launched in the past years.

Nature4Energy looks for natural solutions. The goal is addressing the environmental, social and economic challenges that European cities face

The UN is heading up this work. Therefore, to improve urban planning and management aimed at the urban spaces being more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, the UN has included it in the Sustainable Development Goals launched after having achieved the Millennium Development Goals. These are 17 measures formulated to eradicate poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for everyone, protect the environment and face climate change at a worldwide level. Banco Santander has joined these initiatives as a way of committing to achieving them and it has defined 10 responsible banking targets for 2025.

Nature4Citites: a weapon against environmental challenges

Nature4Cities is one of the most original projects to work in this field. This is an initiative of investigation and innovation financed by Horizonte 2020, which reports to the European Union, to create a Platform of Reference for Environment-Based Solutions that offers technical solutions, methods and tools to facilitate the decision making in urban planning.

Considering the lack of sustainability of our cities, the project looks for natural solutions. The goal is addressing the environmental, social and economic challenges that European cities face. How? By utilizing the environment in innovation, planning and the implementation of advanced thinking. This new technical and governability vision implies models of collaboration boosted by citizens, researchers, politicians, and leaders of the industry, using processes of co-creation and exchanging good practices.


The consortium Nature4Cities already includes the participation of 28 partners from 9 European Union countries, such as several universities and dozens of leading companies in sectors like technology, investigation and industry. Likewise, some of the cities of the continent have taken part to put into practice some of the environment-based solutions. Currently, the cities are Milan and its metropolitan area, in Italy; Ankara, in Turkey; The Hungarian Szeged and the Spanish Alcalá de Henares.

An edible forest in Alcalá

An edible forest is a forest vegetable garden carefully designed to obtain food while preserving the benefits of a natural system. Such a vegetable garden is located in Isla del Colegio, Alcalá de Henares (Madrid).

At the moment, the food obtained is essentially for those animals located in this natural space, taking part in the dissemination of seeds or the pollination of the forest. Also, taking into account the mycological interest of the locality, the symbiosis between roofs and microbial life was included in the design of this space.

The edible forest creates an increase in the biodiversity of Isla del Colegio. Likewise, it diversifies the functionality of the space where they contemplate recreational aspects and the performance of a dumping system for reducing the urban pressure on the forest, currently in a recovering phase, at the banks of the Henares river.

This is just the first example of natural applications in the solution of typically urban deficiencies. It is too early to evaluate the result of such a specific action, but people in charge are optimistic about its future and the start-up of many other actions of this type.

Recovery of natural space thanks to Banco Santander

Actions such as those carried out by the EU through the program Nature4Cities are applicable to the urban environment, but every institution, both public and private, should include at the top of their duties the objective of turning the natural environment into a sustainable place.

Accordingly, through its Foundation, Banco Santander carries out many specific actions of restoration of some degraded natural spaces that require this kind of action, aimed at aiding the care of the environmental and the natural heritage conservation.

The Foundation Banco Santander collaborates with more than twenty projects from restoring dune ecosystems in the Valencian Community to the recovery of the bearded vulture, the conservation of the black vulture and the settlement of the imperial eagle in Picos de Europa, Badajoz and Doñana; also, supporting beekeeping in Cantabria, the restoration of the burned space in Riba de Saelices (Guadalajara) and the conservation and preservation of sea turtles in Barcelona.

Information about these projects and others can be found on the website of Fundación Banco Santander. In this space, it is possible to propose projects for restoring damaged natural spaces or protecting flora and fauna threatened or at risk of extinction.

Banco Santander, along with more than 100 banks, signs the Responsible Banking Principles to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, demonstrating its commitment to a sustainable and inclusive future.




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