Beatus ille is a Latin expression that comes from a poem by Horace: it is used to praise the calm and detached life of the countryside, oblivious to the problems of the city. It’s not by chance. The rural world is used to being a place of refuge when things in the cities get ugly.

With the rise in temperatures, this summer many people have looked to the towns in search of shelter, far from the scorching asphalt and nights when there is not even a breeze of air. As happened after the 2008 crisis, when a neo-rural spirit invaded many of those who felt drowned in the city and idealized the countryside as an escape route, today there are those who see the rural destination as the ideal place to flee and suffer somewhat less the consequences of the climate crisis.

In recent years, therefore, the demand for housing in the towns has increased, most of which only see how they fill up during the summer and empty at the end of the summer period. Depopulation continues to be the usual trend in empty Spain, and territorial imbalance, an immutable state of our country. Cities are not going to be deinhabited overnight and they never will be completely. There will always be cities and people in them. Climate change will continue to advance, but it will not make everyone leave the cities for the countryside. However, it would be positive for those who inhabit the cities if they become “ruralized”; that is to say, that they acquire from the towns all those characteristics that make them healthier and more habitable.

More vegetation, less temperatures

In a city, large temperature differences can be seen between an area with vegetation and another without vegetation cover. According to a study by the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences in Switzerland, the temperature variation in this regard is between 8ºC and 12ºC in Central Europe and between 0ºC and 4ºC in southern Europe.

Concrete, pavement or cars contribute to the so-called heat island effect, since they raise the temperature of cities. Despite this, vegetation, which is an effective element to reduce this effect, is often excluded from urban plans: for decades we have seen it progressively eliminated from many urban areas. In the years of increased global warming, vegetation will be essential for the habitability of cities, especially in the summer season.

Improve mobility, improve air

Undoubtedly, one of the most valued aspects when we leave the city behind and arrive in the countryside is being able to breathe clean air. “Ruralizing” cities also involves eliminating or reducing their pollution. Although this issue has been a fundamental pillar in urban environmental policy for years – and has even been sanctioned by the European Union in the event of exceeding certain pollution limits – there are still very few cities that achieve relatively healthy levels. Although cities only occupy 2% of the world’s surface, they are responsible for nearly 70% of the emissions from human activity.

In order to achieve its reduction, it is essential to have a mobility system that facilitates and encourages non-motorized forms of travel (such as walking or riding a bicycle), good public transport networks or the guarantee of a distribution of proximity between housing and workplaces, civic spaces, health centers, schools and shopping areas. An example of this is the objective of the so-called “15-minute cities”, which is committed to an urban model that tries to reduce the travel times of citizens to a quarter of an hour. It is a pattern designed for accessibility and proximity inspired by small communities.

More free time, more quality of life

“Ruralizing” cities is also “ruralizing” the lives of their inhabitants. Stress and conciliation difficulties are characteristics that mark the busy urban life and determine a great difference with the rhythms in the towns. It is necessary to involve the workplace so that workers can have a healthier life. Having time to spend with loved ones, playing sports, doing household chores or any hobby is essential for our mental health. In the era of immediacy and fast-paced life, gaining free time becomes an essential battle for well-being.

In big cities it is common to do the shopping at the last minute, quickly, in a supermarket or online, due to lack of time. Going to the market and buying fresh and local products at each stall takes longer, but it is healthier. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find, for example, tomatoes that really taste like tomatoes (and when you find them in the supermarket, these are usually the most expensive). Promoting local trade is promoting that citizens have higher quality products at their fingertips, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint. Local commerce is also “ruralizing” cities. “Ruralizing” cities is, ultimately, making them more people.

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