If you believe cities are not a significant issue for sustainability, consider that by 2020, nearly 55% of world’s population will live in cities, with more than 85% of the U.S. population living in large, urban areas, up from about 79% in 2000, according to the U.N. Population Division.

Mark Cohen, a lecturer in intellectual property and innovation at Fordham Law School, describes a “new geography” of urban centers, which often have more in common with one another than they do with their own urban siblings. These centers are responsible for most of the intellectual innovations that move the world economy, and may provide many of the ideals and technology needed to meet the 2030 Challenge goals. Considering their impact, proportion of population, and intellectual advantages, the political concern with “Will it play in Peoria” seems outdated.

To take a glimpse into the near future, when those of you in your 20s will be in your 50s (we’ll have 9 billion people on the planet and probably no oil), take a look at city life in 2050 with Peter Head, principal of Arup, a sustainable urbanist and civil engineer responsible for the international design of civil structures that are economically, socially, culturally, and ecologically sustainable.

As advisor to the C40 cities group, Head co-authored “Climate Action in Megacities” -the first comprehensive analysis of actions under way to address climate change in the world’s megacities. The 40 member cities represent 297 million people, 18% of global GDP, and 10% of global carbon emissions. 

Head’s international consulting work focuses on finding innovative and efficient ways to provide for more people with fewer resources, helping cities become more resilient to climate change and reduce their impact on the environment. Head provides a unique perspective on how cities will both exacerbate and perhaps help solve many of the riddles that remain for the 2030 Challenge, setting the milestones we must achieve on the way if we are to get there, and beyond.