Oh noes! Cities endanger the future environment

Urban areas with at least one million inhabita...

Urban areas with at least one million inhabitants in 2006. 3% of the world's population lived in cities. Image via Wikipedia

From Yale University

Growth of cities endangers global environment

New Haven, Conn.—The explosive growth of cities worldwide over the next two decades poses significant risks to people and the global environment, according to a meta-analysis published today in PlosOne.

Researchers from Yale, Arizona State, Texas A&M and Stanford predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by 590,000 square miles—nearly the size of Mongolia—to accommodate the needs of 1.47 billion more people living in urban areas.

“It is likely that these cities are going to be developed in places that are the most biologically diverse,” said Karen Seto, the study’s lead author and associate professor in the urban environment at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “They’re going to be growing and expanding into forests, biological hotspots, savannas, coastlines—sensitive and vulnerable places.”

Urban areas, they found, have been expanding more rapidly along coasts. “Of all the places for cities to grow, coasts are the most vulnerable. People and infrastructure are at risk to flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes and other environmental disasters,” said Seto.

The study provides the first estimate of how fast urban areas globally are growing and how fast they may grow in the future. “We know a lot about global patterns of urban population growth, but we know significantly less about how urban areas are changing,” she said. “Changes in land cover associated with urbanization drive many environmental changes, from habitat loss and agricultural land conversion to changes in local and regional climate.”

The researchers examined peer-reviewed studies that used satellite data to map urban growth and found that from 1970 to 2000 the world’s urban footprint had grown by at least 22,400 square miles—half the size of Ohio.

“This number is enormous, but, in actuality, urban land expansion has been far greater than what our analysis shows because we only looked at published studies that used satellite data,” said Seto. “We found that 48 of the most populated urban areas have been studied using satellite data, with findings in peer-reviewed journals. This means that we’re not tracking the physical expansion of more than half of the world’s largest cities.”

Half of urban land expansion in China is driven by a rising middle class, whereas the size of cities in India and Africa is driven primarily by population growth. “Rising incomes translate into rising demand for bigger homes and more land for urban development, which has big implications for biodiversity conservation, loss of carbon sinks and energy use.”

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The paper, “A Meta-analysis of Global Urban Expansion,” can be viewed on the PlosOne website at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0023777.

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59 thoughts on “Oh noes! Cities endanger the future environment

  1. What the ### is PlosOne?
    “Half of urban land expansion in China is driven by a rising middle class”
    And the brand spanking new but empty apartments and condos are for what?

  2. It’s true that cities tend to be unfortunately located, in a way, on the most attractive land. That’s where people start settlements, obviously. However, reducing rural populations has a number of up sides for “the environment”. It also, it turns out, slashes the energy cost of feeding and housing any given number of people. Locally grown and sourced foodstuffs, e.g., are much more fuel-intensive per pound delivered to the customer than even very remotely grown and transported ones.

  3. The findings really say one thing: “We think this is about to happen, and we must put a stop to it!” Otherwise I see no purpose to the exercise, because no mention of adaptation is made. And lo and behold, the hasty mention-in-passing of “carbon sinks” in the last sentence of the last paragraph. Oops! Almost forgot to mention it! Had to make sure it got a favorable review!
    Note also, that their review was of “peer-reviewed studies”. Whew! Sure glad they were careful to avoid Greenpeace, huh?

  4. What the **** has man been doing since Adam was a boy???? We have it as an art form using prime agriculture land for suburban expansion here in my state, where around 75% of state’s population living in one city..

  5. “Researchers from Yale, Arizona State, Texas A&M and Stanford predict that by 2030 urban areas will expand by 590,000 square miles—nearly the size of Mongolia—to accommodate the needs of 1.47 billion more people living in urban areas.”
    This works out to about 2,500 population per square mile or about 925 per square kilometer., population densities seen in exurbs in the US but densities hardly seen in most of the world, particularly in the developing world where much of the world’s urban growth will take place. Average urban growth will more likely be at densities of 10,000 per square mile or even more if population density patterns seen in China and India mean anything. If this is the case, then the expansion of urban areas will be on the order of one-fourth of the figure stated above.
    Another point is that most of these people will be moving from lower density rural areas to higher density urban areas, meaning that the population densities in many rural places around the world will likely fall. Many of these areas will revert to a more “natural” environment and it is entirely possible, if not likely, that the increase in “natural” environment in rural areas will exceed the loss of “natural” environment due to urban expansion. Would be most interested in seeing if this study looks into the potential gain in “natural” environment in rural regions over the study period.

  6. Universities are strange places inhabited by stranger people. Kangaroos in Australia are in greater numbers now than ever before, at least certain species are. They are the species that adapted to man and man’s pastures and watering systems. In some places roos are in plague proportions and can eat out a farmers crops long before the crops reach maturity. Same with other species, such as rats, that benefit from man. A niche is developed and a species adapts to fill it. Humans are no different. Human population cannot increase beyond the carrying capacity of the land. A balance is reached at some point and the population will plateau. It is already noted that as societies become wealthier and more educated they tend to have less children. Maybe it’s simply the fact that modern diets and medicine ensure the survival of the next generation so there is no need to over produce.
    None of these researches sees the obvious example of China itself. China has a large population density but for all intents is self sufficient in food. Europe produces more than it consumes as does Australia and the Americas. India feeds itself. The only continent in difficulty is Africa and that arises from poor governments rather than poor soils.
    Once again we see a bunch of intelligent people who are not aware of the real world around them. Instead of going to uni just open your eyes and observe. Then we wouldn’t have to listen to alarmist drivel.

  7. “whereas the size of cities in India and Africa is driven primarily by population growth. “Rising incomes translate into rising demand for bigger homes and more land for urban development”
    I am glad to see that incomes in Africa are rising given that the emphasis on bio-fuels is causing African children to die of starvation by the thousand …
    Mankind is using less that 20% of the land area on this planet – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_use_statistics_by_country
    Seems like yet another scare mongering attempt. I am old enough to remember when research grants were given for looking at ways to make life better for everyone.

  8. London [quite a pleasant sprawling city] is 160 sq miles with a population of 8,000,000
    Mongolia is 604,000 sq miles
    You can get 3775 Londons in Mongolia x 8000000 pop = 30 200,000,000 or over 30 billion.
    In fact the whole world [7 billion] could live in 875 Londons requiring 140,000 sq miles which is around half the size of Texas and leave the rest of the world completely empty.
    If you replaced London with a denser packed city it would be much higher.
    Again these people talk utter tosh.
    PS I’ve just woken up and this took me 3 minutes so any arithmetical corrections welcome, but you get the principle.

  9. So what environments are NOT “sensitive and vulnerable?” Pure bedrock? A lava lake? Yeah, right, we’re running out of “elbow room” and we’re taking all the valuable “hoof and paw room” from all the darling fuzzy animals – better get a nice fat grant, quick! We’ll solve this like we always do with the awesome efficiency of Government Planning! Hurray!
    Ugh.

  10. Perhaps it’s like the Penn State paper on alien destruction – see update – it could be down to “carelessness and inexperience”. Maybe IPCC AR4 should be checked, too.

  11. Now, that’s, er, quite an insight. So, human beings, those well known social animals, like to live in human-habitable areas, near other human beings. Remarkable.
    So, dare we hope the uber-environmental crowd will be showing us ordinary folk the way forward by building PlosOveVille, say, in the middle of a desert? Can we have a webcam or two there please, to help us learn?

  12. I think there’s an error in that 3% number for world urban population. According to Wikipedia there are 205 urban areas with 2,000,000 or more. If the average is near the median there are about 700,000,000 people, or 10% of the world population in that 205. There are 796 urban areas with 500,000 or more.
    Depending on where you draw the “urban” line the number could be in the 15% to 30% range.

  13. Why when reading studies like this do I get the impression that to save the enviromant we must cull man? (I’m getting to old to apologies for my un-PC use of the word ‘man’).

  14. Hmm in Aus this present unelected cluster, are doing their damndest to make any coastal living…except the gross tourist areas, and the rich waterfront marinas, simply unavailable, to the extent of forcing sales. then they tell us we should stop farming and plant it all back to trees.
    our transport water power, especially since they sold it to privateers etc is all sadly lacking maintenance and volume to cope now. so dislocating people to already jampacked inefficient cities is the way to contain us?
    I think not!

  15. Funny!
    “It is likely that these cities are going to be developed in places that are the most biologically diverse,”
    Like Dubai?

  16. David Schofield – the 160 sq miles you use for London seems small – on Wikipedia – it reports area as 607 sq miles. So 1000 Londons in Mongolia or capacity of 8 Billion. Wide awake or not, the point you make is nonetheless still valid. These people talk utter tosh.

  17. All the US has to do is quit sponsoring flood insurance:
    “The promise was national flood insurance. It made my house and my neighbors’ homes possible. After all, no bank will give you a mortgage unless you have insurance.
    Private insurance companies were reluctant to sell insurance to those of us who build on the edges of oceans, and were they to offer it, they’d charge an arm and a leg to cover the risk. But this wasn’t a problem for me, because you offered to insure my house. I know you didn’t do it personally, but you, as a taxpayer, are the guarantee behind federal flood insurance. Should a big storm wipe out half the coast, you’ll cover our losses — up to a quarter-million dollars. Thanks — we appreciate it — but what a dumb policy.
    The subsidized insurance goes to affluent homeowners on both coasts — from Malibu Beach, where movie stars live, to Kennebunkport where the Bush family has a vacation home, to Hyannisport, where the Kennedy family has a summer home, to the Hamptons, where I bought my house.
    The insurance premiums were a bargain. The most I ever paid was a few hundred dollars. Federal actuaries say if the insurance were realistically priced, it would cost thousands of dollars. Why should the government guarantee water’s-edge insurance? Why should the government be in this business at all? ”
    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Insurance/story?id=94181

  18. Once the space aliens get here, problem solved.
    Do you think the warmists are teetering on the edge, about to go over?
    Seems the real problem is we have too many people, and some need to go. Any volunteers?

  19. Here in Michigan, Detroit is showing the way toward the new “urban environment.” Vast tracts are being “returned to nature.” One can see wild flora springing from the abandoned center of what was once a highly-concentrated human habitat. In fact, Detroit has led the state and the nation in showing what environmental responsibility means. Each year the CO2 output of this region has declined.
    Let’s hear it for visionaries!
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-k0iknMwVAOA/TkKzsjXhDEI/AAAAAAAABEc/ve2W4oLq-ng/s1600/deadcoop.jpg

  20. So. It really is all my fault. It’s all your fault, too.
    Sorry, just testing… I’m trying to put myself in “their” shoes, you know.
    Think I’ll stick with who I am. It must really suck to be “concerned”.
    No more guilt trips, I promise.

  21. Jim says:
    August 20, 2011 at 4:30 am
    “The subsidized insurance goes to affluent homeowners on both coasts — from Malibu Beach, where movie stars live, to Kennebunkport where the Bush family has a vacation home, to Hyannisport, where the Kennedy family has a summer home, to the Hamptons, where I bought my house. The insurance premiums were a bargain. The most I ever paid was a few hundred dollars. Federal actuaries say if the insurance were realistically priced, it would cost thousands of dollars. Why should the government guarantee water’s-edge insurance? Why should the government be in this business at all? ”
    Well Jim, I just paid my flood insurance. $1054 for the year and I live 1 mile as the crow flies from the beach with an elevation is 13 ft (pretty high for coastal Florida). My property is valued at $120K and there are tens of thousands of properties like mine so your statement about “subsidized insurance goes to affluent homeowners” isn’t true for the majority. Flood insurance is also available for those who live near any body of water that could flood including inland lakes and rivers.
    FYI my insurance premium is low because of a little known grandfather clause. At the time of construction, prior to 1992, my house was built above the base flood elevation which was 11 ft back then. After Hurricane Andrew, FEMA needed to replace the losses they paid out so they remapped the coastal areas and raised the base flood elevations. In my area they put it at 15 ft. Now the grandfather clause says that if your house was above the base flood elevation at the time it was built, subsequent increases of base flood elevations do not apply and you keep your flood designation that was assigned at the time of construction. My property was originally designated as Flood Zone D and was then changed to Flood Zone AE which would more than triple my premiums. Newer construction pays the higher premium which is well above the “few hundred dollars” you claim to paid.

  22. David Schofield says:
    August 20, 2011 at 1:20 am
    To extrapolate on David.
    You could transplant the whole 7 billion humans now living on the planet to a mega complex in a friendly climate environment like the north east cost of Australia and then use the rest of the world’s agricultural areas to feed that population. Heck you could probably just use the rest of the agricultural land in Australia to do this.
    Of course this would all rely on a nice utopian version of human co operation.

  23. Most likely expanding cities will expand around the current location of said cities. I doubt developers will go out of their way to hit environmentally sensitive areas. As an offset, the rural population keeps diminishing as the young move into urban areas and the old die, creating large interconnected areas with low human populations for many species to migrate to.

  24. Logistics. The issue is not how many people you can cram into a given area, but rather the logistical strain of supporting that many in a small area. At some point the logistics will break down.

  25. I live in Hong Kong, which has a very concentrated population, yet 70% of the city is left to nature. The diversity of wildlife, birds, butterflies etc is amazing. I frequently hike in the hills near where I live in Kowloon. Recently I had an encounter with a huge snake and a few months ago I came across a porcupine on the Peak. Much wildlife with thoughtful planning can adapt to human settlements. Only 2% of those who live here own a car and public transport is fast and cheap. Cities like HK are making very efficient use of resources per capita. Furthermore I understand that population growth has stabilized.

  26. Actually,
    we likely have two choices:
    1. “decrease the surplus population” – preferred choice of the clueless, self anointed ones
    2. step off this rock – what China is doing but we have abandoned (EOL – space shuttle)
    But then, “those that can, do, those that can’t, tell others what to do”
    LOL in Oregon

  27. As mentioned in posts above, it looks like the theme of this paper is that we need to control population. I have a suggestion. It might be mean, but it would kill two birds with one stone. My suggestion is that all the liberals, progressives and greenie/environmentalists all stop breathing. This would reduce the CO2 exhaled by them, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. And their elimination would reduce population pressure on the planet.

  28. This is a very timely story for me after viewing a PBS story last night about the Atchafalya Basin.
    The Atchafalaya Basin is a huge swamp near here which presently takes about 30 percent on average of the annual flood waters of the Mississippi River.
    Native Americans once thrived on this rich fishery resource.
    A family of Cajuns settled in an area of the basin known as “Crook Chene” after their exile from Nova Scotia. In the mid 20th century there was even a post office and a school in Crook Chene, even though there was no road to get there. All transport was by boat.
    The residents of Crook Chene thrived there for about 100 years until the Corps of Engineers surrounded the Basin with levees and began controlling the annual flood of the Mississippi River by selectively diverting water from the Mississippi through the basin. The levees were built about 80 years ago, and since that time sediment has filled this huge area such that the ground level has risen 20 feet in many places.
    The result of the levees was that the annual floods were catastrophic to the Crook Chene community, and by the end of the 20th century only a few camps were left, and there were only two continuous residents. The rest had moved to the city.
    There are a number of camps in the basin, but overall it is now a wild place.
    Here is the connection to the thread. The program initially covered the downfall of the Crook Chene village (with a soundtrack of a sad and haunting cajun fiddle) despairing over the loss of culture caused by man. Then toward the end, they issued a plea that the basin never be “taken over” by man, since it is such a beautiful wild place (with a soundtrack of a cajun two-step),.So what is the message, are we sad or glad, that man left the basin?
    The point is, these professional environmentalists are must get very dizzy from all the spinning in circles. An example being that windmills that chop up birds are environmentally sound and “sustainable”. Their gyros have obviously tumbled.
    Out of habit it seems, it’s never a positive message, always sadness and despair, regardless of the issue. Professional whiners.
    Some say I am an optimist. That may be but someone has to counteract the sad moaning emenating from all of the “Debbie Downers” out there.
    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=debbie+downer&view=detail&mid=7E9283AB29723F0593977E9283AB29723F059397&first=0&FORM=LKVR

  29. The alternative, since population is going to grow in those parts of the world for the foreseeable future, will be much more land intensive settlements by rural communities. The pure living space of rural communities, especially when combined with slash and burn style agriculture, is much more devastating to the environment than the more efficient use of land in cities and modern agricultural techniques, for the same amount of people. So really when people say that cities are bad for the environment, what they really mean is that “too many people” are bad for the environment.

  30. “Seems like yet another scare mongering attempt. I am old enough to remember when research grants were given for looking at ways to make life better for everyone.”
    Our governments, universities and the press have created this largely by throwing money at people with the biggest scare story. If funds for the Hansens and Gores of the world were to dry up, they would sober up quickly enough.
    Solve global warming by taxing energy use to the point where we return to the horse and buggy age is not a solution. It is economic disaster and starvation for billions. If that is all the Hansen and Gore can come up with, isn’t it time to fund plan B?

  31. “Urban areas, they found, have been expanding more rapidly along coasts. “Of all the places for cities to grow, coasts are the most vulnerable. People and infrastructure are at risk to flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes and other environmental disasters,” said Seto.”
    Boop-boop-boop! Red herring alert! They like to pretend to be “concerned” about people and infrastructure, as a way to throw the unwary and gullible off. It is a common ploy of the eco-greenie scaremongerers. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from turning around and screaming “billion-dollar+ disasters are on the rise, another “proof” of CAGW, we’re doomed unless we stop using fossil fuels”, etc.

  32. Jim says:
    August 20, 2011 at 4:30 am
    “Why should the government guarantee water’s-edge insurance? Why should the government be in this business at all?”
    Because federal bureaucrats surf!!!!
    Or think they do. Or hang with the people who do. Or think they hang with them.

  33. Jim says:
    August 20, 2011 at 4:30 am
    Right you are, we (aka our government) should not be in the business of insuring anyone.

  34. (SarcOn)Wouldn’t it be so nice if the Mob that thinks Global Population Growth is Killing Us would seperate themselves from the Anthroprogenic Global Warming Mob (and all the Other Mob’s on the Planet)? Really, they do tend to confuse the issues just a little and their messages are rather mixed too. Oh, if the World were just a little simpler things would be so much more peaceful. We really should enjoy the relative calm, there’s always another Kaiser, Hitler, Tojo, Etc., just waiting in the shadows; and he(she?) is a might overdue. The World is ripe for mayhem, pillage, rape, and murder, once again, and here we are arguing about nice warm days in Moscow and clear skies over London, Tokyo, Paris, Rome, Beijing, Berlin, Cairo, Jerusalem, and New York. True, we do have a little Depression to deal with at the moment, but the last one didn’t stop the Big One a’tall. You know, if people didn’t kill each other so much maybe they wouldn’t have to breed so fast and heat everything up so much. Go figure.(SarcOff)

  35. coasts are the most vulnerable
    =============================================
    only to morons…………………….
    Snow storms, ice storms, tornadoes, drought, flood, fires, earthquakes, wind storms, etc
    At one time I searched for a safer place to live…………nada there’s not one

  36. Disappearing carbon sinks? At least where I live, in California, mature towns and cities have many times more trees than existed when natural. But I know that will vary place to place.
    Seems to me environmentalists have been encouraging us all to live in cities, in denser housing, to lessen sprawl.
    Here in the sierras, animals seem to adapt pretty well. I have, for example, a mountain lion nearby (lots of houses around here) that ignores us all and goes about his business of eating deer (and a goat if you tie it to a stake for him)
    Even in the SF Bay area, there is a lot of open space, and some of the local planning over the years will pay off. And about Detroit, proves it doesn’t take long for nature to reclaim.
    Some of these people need to chill.

  37. Part of the problem is that since 1870 real income per person in the U.S. has increased by a factor of 12. One example of the harm that this growth in prosperity has caused: As recently as the 1940’s my wife was living a truly eco friendly life as a child cotton picker in east Texas. No electricity, rooftop water collection, bath weekly or less in a wash tub. Now she has become acclimatized to a more luxurious lifestyle and lives in an urban area with numerous amenities. She doesn’t measure up to the standards of the celebrity who recently stated that a person should limit toilet paper by using “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required”.

  38. Land use and population questions are interesting. These folks have only scratched the surface. I did some work to try to understand how much of the land area of the earth (about 29.2% is land – the rest is water) is presently “urban” so that I could decide whether the surface temperature measuring sites were representative of global climate trends. All definitions of land use are somewhat controversial but methods of defining and determining these concepts are rapidly improving especially with access to satellite data. Anyway the CIA Factbook states that only 1.5% of land surface is urban. My research indicates that it is more likely to be 2.4% with a conservative number being 3%. Arable land is generally agreed to be about 10.7% of land surface with almost half of it (4.7%) in annual crops. Permanent pastures cover 26%, Forests and woodlands 32%, and Other 29% (deserts are about half of “other” with the rest being permanent ice, tundra, mountains, steppes, saltly bogs, coral atolls, etc).
    A sidelight on US forests that the person from Detroit touched on is the fact that eastern US forests are in a remarkable recovery mode due to early “contact” (begins in 1600s) eastern farms rapidly reverting to forests. The 19th century took a toll on US forests in general but since the 1920’s they have been in an amazing recovery mode to the point that they have stabilized and expanded to where they are now more than 70% of the original “European contact” extent.
    Anyway I concluded that the vast majority of temperature measuring sites (probably over 90%) were in an urban setting which are probably mostly urban heat islands that represent less than 3% of the land surface. Another interesting study (can’t find it right now) showed that 2% of the global land surface was roads. I assume that the majority of those roads are included in urban land area. All these values must be regarded with some skepticism but I heavily cross referenced my effort here to the point that I can see some convergence (and I expect the next 10 years of effort to get us very close to the reality of these subjects). Also these are very complex and interactive variables that are hard to baseline.
    The population part of the question (especially as it relates to land use and carrying capacity) is also very interesting and VERY controversial. We could probably double the amount of “arable” land without destroying the planet if we did it with some thought and planning. And as Zorro from Hong Kong notes, even urban development can be done with the environment in mind. Also it is a well known fact that arable land productivity has increased very rapidly over the past few decades and continues to do so. Carrying capacity depends on the type of diet with the so called Dutch diet (meat etc.) carrying the least, the Asian carrying more, and subsistence (near starvation) carrying the most. Dutch = about 9.3 billion. Asian = 15.8 billion, and subsistence = 157 billion. The vast majority of the world diets are probably covered by the last two diet types.
    Population growth rates are rapidly dropping – from just over 2% in 1970 to close to 1% now (and continuing to drop). Population is expected to peak at 10 billion (maybe as much as 12 billion) toward the end of this century.
    This is a very interesting subject. My notes alone covered quite a few pages and only took a day or two (over several weeks) to compile. Zero cost because a lot of other folks put some serious effort and money into it. I would say much more effort (if not money) than this group did. This seems pretty light weight and agenda driven.
    Bernie

  39. The solution is obvious (at least from the enviro point of view) – Kill all humans. See, you can’t spread them out because they will just spread their evil Gaia-detroying works with them no matter where they end up or in whatever concentration. That leaves only one solution. And of course we all know who will be in charge.

  40. “Of all the places for cities to grow, coasts are the most vulnerable. People and infrastructure are at risk to flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes and other environmental disasters,” said Seto
    C’est la vie! So what, that’s their choice.

  41. The real and larger problem that will result from increased urbanization is that most of these city dwellers will be helpless, just like those of today, and expect others to take care of their needs leading to more and more socialism and less and less people working to support a more and more dependent population. The proof is in the election statistics in the US. Rural areas vote right and urban areas vote left. Living in the Rocky Mountains we see tourists who cannot change a flat tire and are significantly spooked when they need to drive 50 miles between populated areas and see nowhere to stop for “help”. Too many folks in the cities is not good for society, aside from any potential environmental consequences. The European financial situation is a good example and the US is headed down the same road..

  42. The comment about coastline development is particularly devoid of common sense.
    Urbanic culture as we know it only developed after the stabilization of sea level 7000 years ago when the glacier melt largely stopped. Of course people will congregate on the sea shore, it provides access to food and commerce, unless the sea shore moves. Until the sea level stopped rising our ancestors could not build near the coast. We were nomatic, not urbanic.
    During the next period of glaciation sea level will subside as it has in the past, as water is accumulated in new ice. It is doubtful that we will see any significant sea level rise until that time since we are nearing the end of the current interglacial period. There is no reason to fear coastal development today.

  43. The more people who live in cities, the less people in the country-side which means that there is more room for nature.
    Add to this more efficient farming methods that have made yields jump exponentiatlly recently, and you have the perfect recipe for increased environmentalism in general. This study should be considered a good thing because the fact is progress and society has made man use less land then they did in the 1900’s. The farming yields in question along with advances that made huge cities possible is what accomplishes this. Even though human population is so much larger then it was in the past, we use less land! This should be a good thing.
    But alas, we get propaganda that always shows human progress of any kind to be a hinderance as opposed to a blessing.
    If these trends continue at even a similar pace as in the past, our society in 2050 or 2100 will use less land, consume more energy and will do all of this while using less natural resources. We will also be wealthier, and will enjoy a higher standard of living while our progress on the environment will undoubtably advance.
    That is unless we let greens dictate policy to us. In their world, we go back to the 1900’s, use more land, have less humans and in general de-industrialize and the effect of this is a terrible back-lash in ecological development and understanding over the last 100 years. Its a backwards step for environmentalism as well, and yet these same self-described environmentalists tell us this is the step forward in the “green fashion.”

  44. i recieved the latest issue of Scientific American in the mail the other day. this issue is devoted more or less to population centers and the theme of one of the lead off articals is that large numbers of people living in cities is much more “effecient” than a more agrarian lifestyle.
    my first thought is “not with the current crop of idiots running the show”.
    i cite as a prime example the city of detroit. it has been administrated by “politically correct” individuals for what 40 years now and is considering returning large portions of the cities acreage to farmland because it has been ABANDONED.
    a secondary example is the current proposal of the los angeles mayor to force more businesses out of the state by increasing their property taxes. the adage “when your’ walking on eggs , don’t hop.” comes to mind. there are already several outfits in nevada and texas making very good money facilitating businesses moving out of california to their states already.
    C

  45. As far as I can tell from reading the “Methods “ section of the paper, this study used a search of English language literature to obtain data to construct a model of city growth. They did some statistical analysis on 292 “unique geographic locations” using data obtained from the literature search. However, the study covered only 48 of the current 100 largest urban areas, since that’s all they could find in the peer reviewed literature.
    There was little detail about the actual data analysis, just a lot general statements about what they did. It is a little bothersome that they dropped 14 cases where there was a negative urban expansion rate or which were largely rural locations. Also, negative values of both population and economic growth rates were set to zero..
    So having left out cities that were not growing and not considering negative values of population and economic growth rates, they went on the calculate city expansion.
    Table 2 of their study shows that 100 percent of the North American’s city growth, 90 percent’s of European city growth, 71 percent of China’s city growth, and 53 percent of India’s city growth can be explained by population and GDP (demographic and economic factors). Despite that, in the discussion of their results they say “Although demographic and economic factors capture a fair amount of urban land expansion in China and India, much of the observed expansion in other regions cannot be accounted for by the explanatory variables of the model.”
    Thus we have the purpose of the study: to show that other factors are as important as population and GDP in driving city growth. Two of those factors are mentioned in the final sentence of the report: “….the results indicate that many non-demographic factors, including land use policies, transportation costs, and income will shape the size of global urban extent in the coming decades.”
    I think I concur with the comment above that it was a pretty light weight study.

  46. From Grant on August 20, 2011 at 8:16 am:

    Seems to me environmentalists have been encouraging us all to live in cities, in denser housing, to lessen sprawl.

    What it does is encourage socialism.
    Think about the on-campus college experience. Everyone is packed into communal housing, accepting at least one roommate is virtually required, few can escape it. I’ve found the requirement at some institutions that everyone must live on campus for at least freshman year. There are communal bathrooms, study and lounging areas. Everyone is indoctrinated into the “we all must get along and support each other” experience. Individuals who do not appropriately respect the communal areas are punished and/or shunned, they are not being considerate enough to those they share space with. And there’s also that additional touch, the communal meals in the dining hall, where by standard practice you basically are required to eat what everyone else is having and like it. I’ve noticed more places banning cooking in the dorm rooms citing fire concerns; even the small sign of individuality of cooking your own meals is discouraged.
    If you have any complaints, any concerns to be addressed, take it up with the central authority, their decision is final, note the use of committees of “fellow citizens” to resolve many issues.
    And, which some find amazing, college campuses are hotbeds of socialist/communist thought, which has as a basic tenet the otherwise-laudable goal of people working together for the common good, but it has to be done through a central authority, with everyone participating. Also the norm is students coming to expect housing and food to be magically provided automatically by the central authority without any thought required as to who or what ultimately pays for it.
    The city living experience has many of the same elements. People are packed into apartment buildings where they must learn to co-exist with each other. Rents are so high that two incomes are often required, thus roommates of some sort. Public transportation, public restrooms. Communal recreational areas (parks etc). Having your own car is increasingly discouraged, “green” city designers want car-free zones with everyone walking. Sometimes even bicycles, that small example of individual independent transportation, are banned. Everyone is expected to shop at the same neighborhood stores, mingle at the same eating and drinking establishments.
    And if there are any problems, any complaints or concerns to be addressed, there is the central authority, the city government, the final arbiter. Which has a penchant for using “neighborhood committees” composed of “fellow citizens.” Also “the city” is who is expected to provide food and housing for the “less fortunate,” if you don’t have it then blame them, and don’t wonder how “the city” pays for it.
    Yup, the sooner everyone possible is packed into cities, where those in charge can squash the independent streak of individuals who foolishly believe in living by themselves on their own terms on their own property where they can do practically anything they want without needing the approval of “the community” or the central authority, the sooner the Perfect World Order may finally be brought about.

  47. Theo Goodwin says:
    August 20, 2011 at 7:24 am
    Jim says:
    August 20, 2011 at 4:30 am
    “Why should the government guarantee water’s-edge insurance? Why should the government be in this business at all?”
    “Because federal bureaucrats surf!!!!
    Or think they do. Or hang with the people who do. Or think they hang with them.”
    The reality is billions of $$ collected in property taxes.

  48. kadaka says:
    August 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm
    “Yup, the sooner everyone possible is packed into cities, where those in charge can squash the independent streak of individuals who foolishly believe in living by themselves on their own terms on their own property where they can do practically anything they want without needing the approval of “the community” or the central authority, the sooner the Perfect World Order may finally be brought about.”
    Good grief!. Cities exist because people are more productive when producing goods and services when they live closer together. City size and population densities tend to be correlated with the mix of goods and services produced in a given city. Cities with a manufacturing base tend to have a lower population density than do cities that are service-based. This is an outcome of capitalistic, market-driven economies; socialism has nothing to do with it. Eco-nuts advocate higher population densities than are usually optimal for a given city’s output of goods and services. If population densities are too high for a given city’s output of goods and services, then living standards are lower in that city than they would be otherwise. THAT is the problem with the eco-nuts position.

  49. Can’t live if you do, can’t live if you don’t, can’t just squash ’em all…
    The ‘green’ or eco view of humanity. For years we’re treated to all sorts of articles about how surburban sprawl, rural living, large yards, etc etc is bad bad bad. Destroys the environment, damages greater land area, less efficient, requires more roads, more transportation, kills biological diversity… and on and on. Pack ’em all into cities, the sooner the better, quick quick! & the higher the small apartment skyscrapers and the denser the population per unit area the better! (tho, of course, obviously less humans would be preferable even to that).
    Now presto, we discover urban bad, damages more environment, damages more sensitive environmental areas, kills biological diversity…. well, you get the idea.
    Takes all kinds I suppose. Just torture, twist, mutilate, omit, or cherry pick the data and by golly gee, you can make it say just about anything you want. Makes no difference just how contradictory the resulting conclusions from ‘study’ to ‘study’ might happen to be, who needs to go looking too deeply or accounting for confounding factors or doing actual field work or taking any actual measurements and data, or justifying why one’s results are somehow better than those that are contradictory and already out there, just shove that new ‘science’ out the door, do that meta-analysis, ‘research’ already existing literature of research, write that assumption based computer model, pound that keyboard!!!
    /irate cynicism for the day. apologies.

  50. I liked the analysis above by John Tofflemire. In Indonesia, rural villages have population densities over 2000 per sqare kilometer. A minim density of 5000 per sq km is used for defining urban areas with 2500 representing peri-urban.
    In the Mediterranean area cities are densely packed as they are in most developing countries. I wonder how much field experience these researchers have?

  51. Lots of comments showing clear flaws in the study. As areas progress and industry develops, more people move to cities and population growth declines. If you want to slow the population growth of the world, industrialize the third world. These green nuts are really weird.

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