Alföldi György, Kovács Zoltán (szerk.): Városi zöld könyv, Kulcs a fenntartható városhoz ; Budapest: ÉTK ; MTA FKI ; Rév8 Zrt, 2007. 195 p.; ISBN:978-963-513-207-2;

György Alföldi, Zoltán Kovács (ed.): Urban green book, key to a sustainable city.; Budapest: ÉTK ; MTA FKI ; Rév8 Zrt, 2007. 195 p.; ISBN:978-963-513-207-2;

The future of our cities – joint responsibility and joint action. Cities comprise a part of our natural environment, their development started more than 5000 years ago. Besides offering protection, cities have also been the engines of constant progress and continuous change. They came into existence at a time when social organization and population density made the creation of central governments possible. It was made possible because a leader/organizer/expert layer was formed which did not have to take part in the everyday agricultural activities anymore since society was able to support them. This proves that society actually needed this layer, mainly because the development of production brought about new systems which needed central organization and control. 

Throughout their development, cities have always been governmental and economic centers. This concentration is one of the key conditions and at the same time one of the main consequences of progress. Concentration also led to dense spatial structures. The landscape is quite different nowadays: natural environment disrupted by cities here and there has been replaced by continuous urbanized regions in many places all over the world. The territories of natural environment keep shrinking. The naturally or rather, unnaturally growing cities experience significant problems in their environment and development. The economic power concentrated in the metropolis attracts people from the country and from all over the world who want to work and live in the city, creating an ever growing social/cultural gap between social groups. The welfare state keeps withdrawing from city development and conflict solving, leaving local governments alone with the hardships of maintenance and social equalization.

But what role do green spaces and green space development play in city development today if the future of the cities are determined by two conflicting needs? One need is gaining a better position in competition which aims at further enhancing economic concentration and economic power. The other need is sustainability which aims at maintaining the liveability of cities and preventing social/natural catastrophies. The culturally and socially diverse population of European cities requires green space, which are easy to access, and are of high quality and secure. People have more and more free time, but their mobility has significantly decreased with the energy prices on the rise – the economically active population therefore gets stuck in the cities and they do need the multifunctional green space where they can relax and exercise with their families and colleagues.

In the cities of growing population the communication and cooperation between various social groups and local cultures living side by side is one of the most important bases of liveability, the feeling of security and the strengthening of local identity. An outstanding field for this cooperation would be joint green development and park building. The objective of green space development is the protection and development of nature, the reestablishment of balance in urban societies. Progress in Europe seems to have slowed down and the countries need to act jointly to keep the continent competitive and at the same time preserve the cultural value transmitting role of the natural environment. Local governments and non-governmental agents must keep looking for a way to push the urban region towards cooperation, to enable the residents of city quarters to build parks and gardens suiting their own needs.

Nowadays the environmental criteria of sustainability and the “ecology” attitude blossom in the confines of smaller settlements, as far as low emission, renewable energy and energy saving are concerned. Traditionally, rural settlements have a better basis of joint ecological awareness because of the traditionally vivid economic-social co-operation, people know that they need each other. In the big city, communities of diverse social/cultural backgrounds do not have memories about joint actions, there are no traditions of cooperation and co-dependency. Urban people live side by side – they have only the city in common and no connection to each other at all.

Green surface development plays a crucial role in the construction of the city of the future, because it serves both the “macro-environment”, that is, the future of the Earth, and the “micro-society”, the residents of our cities. The present publication contains studies about the roles of green space as well as the condition and social effects thereof. Besides, we publish the experiences of smaller experimental steps towards environmental sustainability. One community for instance developed their yard by installing solar cells and a container for collecting rainwater so that they can water their garden without actually paying for it. We hope that the joint construction of the new “green yard” and its results will have a permanent impact on the residents’ everyday lives; and that during maintenance, the need for cooperation and ecological awareness will develop in the people. This vision was meant to be reinforced by the bilingual studies of practical value, all included in this book. [György Alföldi, Zoltán Kovács]