Thursday, 11 November 2010

City vs Country: Is the Concrete Jungle More Sustainable?

Excerpt from New Scientist
08 November 2010 by Shanta Barley

They may not have so many trees to hug, but city slickers lead more environmentally friendly lives than their country cousins.

On the Ordos plateau in north central China, shepherds can remember the grass being tall enough to hide a horse. No longer. It is now so short and sparse that in places even a scurrying rabbit has no cover. To try and halt this loss of habitat, the government has paid farmers and shepherds to move to the district capital, Ordos City. Some 435,000 of the region's inhabitants - almost half the total - have left as a result.

"What the Chinese government has realised is that these people will do less environmental damage living at high density in a city than when they're spread out across the countryside," says Gordon McGranahan, an urban economist at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London who visited Ordos last year.

The idea is rapidly gaining weight outside of China, with a wave of recent research showing that cities may provide the perfect environment to deal with impending environmental crises. Some even claim that cities are the best way to reduce poverty and stem population growth.

The latest issue of New Scientist provides a new perspective to challenge our assumptions that the big city has a bigger impact than rural living. To read the full article visit New Scientist (subscription required).

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