2022-03-14 11:30:34

Curridabat, Sweet City: A Model of Urbanism Based on Pollinators and Ecosystem Services

The San Jose suburb of Curridabat is home to 65,000 people, as well as a variety of pollinators (agents that assist in the reproduction of plants) including 15 species of bees, 69 species of butterflies, 4 species of hummingbirds, and 8 species of bats. The Sweet City initiative is the city’s rethink and reverse of the traditionally antagonistic relationship between city and nature. It also echoes the emphasis on biodiversity in the city’s five-year plan. It believes a balanced relationship with nature is fundamental to a healthy urban life. 

This initiative represents a major paradigm shift of the city’s urban design and planning. It puts pollinators at the centre of such processes, out of the hypothesis that an urban environment in which a pollinator can flourish will become a better place for all.

The shift comes in two aspects. The first is integration of nature in the city’s urban spaces and restoration of ecosystem services that the city can provide. This means introduction of more flora into the city, which will then be followed by more fauna, in particular, pollinators and increased biodiversity. It focuses more on the adaptation of existing spaces to this vision. For instance, the Spaces of Sweetness project has already re-designed 21 of the city’s neighbourhoods. How the project is executed can reflect the second aspect of the shift: inclusivity. Participatory processes are in place to solicit resident opinions. Another project, Pedestrian Patrol, shares the philosophy of the pollinator approach. A physically-challenged municipal staff navigates the city’s streets and identifies barriers to mobility so that adjustment can be made accordingly to make the streets usable for all.

This initiative is particularly relevant to SDGs 3 (good health and wellbeing), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 13 (climate action), and 15 (life on land).