Urbanization for Population and the Planet

National Geographic recently launched its “Seven Billion Special Series“–a year-long series on global population. I hesitantly read the first article expecting more of the same old gloom and doom but “The City Solution”  offers a refreshing take on why economists and environmentalists can embrace cities.

With Earth’s population headed toward nine or ten billion, dense citites are looking more like a cure–the best hope for lifting people out of poverty without wrecking the planet, writes Robert Kunzig.

Harvard economist Edward Glaeser supports this point of view in his new book, Triumph of the City where he writes, “There’s no such thing as a poor urbanized country; there’s no such thing as a rich rural country.” Poor people flock to cities, according to Glaeser, because there is more money and cities produce more because “the absence of space between people” makes it cheaper to move goods, people, and ideas. Moreover, city dwellers tread lightly:

Their roads, sewers, and power lines are shorter. Their apartments take less energy to heat and cool…and they drive less.

The fear of urbanization has not been good for cities, countries, or for the planet. The author suggests that it is a mistake to see urbanization as evil rather than as an inevitable part of development. People (and planners) should no longer look at cities as tumors “but as concentrations of human energy…to be tapped.”


  1. There are diametric differences beween the efficiencies of urbanization and waste of sprawl, hope you understand that.

  2. Practical says:

    I have always thought that votes should be divided up between urban and rural areas and not population. There is always a big divide and, of course, the urban areas always win- in the short term. It also has to do with ‘theory’ versus reality (you know, how the eggs or hamburger got into the supermarket). Also, there is a huge world outside of cities but city people seem to just be in fishbowl. For example, our city has smog so the whole country should ban big trucks (I have 2, but don’t jet around very often and live where I work, however our work uses power-oh no!- who is greener?) or that oil/gas/coal is the most green and in good supply, so why all the fuss?…I think more people should leave cities and live in the country- just not where I am, because then it would get crowded. Also if things got as green as you would like, you would be a lot better off. I see this article as just another way to control people and not accomplish anything (not that anything is really needed). Just passing by- won’t be back you may be happy to know.

  3. John Reis says:

    Yes, by all means let’s cram everyone into dirty, congested, crime-ridden, democrat-controlled cities, because they are so “efficient”. Of course all that efficiency never seems to include the high urban costs for police, fire protection, theft, vandalism, shoplifting, robberies, private security, city hall graft, union domination, etc. And naturally, the fact that most people don’t want to live there does not matter in the least; people must be organized by their betters in the name of the common good. With any luck, it will be like living in a Seinfeld episode, just not as funny.