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Paradise paved? World’s cities to expand by more than twice the size of Texas by 2030

Paradise paved? World’s cities to expand by more than twice the size of Texas by 2030 thumbnail

Cities worldwide are on track to expand by nearly 580,000 square miles – more than twice the size of Texas – in less than 20 years, according to experts at a major international science conference.

Yale University professor Karen Seto said the North American suburb had “gone global, and car-dependent urban developments are more and more the norm.”

The world’s population is expected to grow from the current 7 billion to about 9 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Experts meeting at the Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference in London said in a statement released by the organizers Tuesday that unless changes were made, “humanity’s urban footprint” would increase in size by 1.5 million square kilometers (nearly 580,000 square miles) by 2030.
This is significantly more than twice the size of Texas or, according to a “back-of-the-envelope calculation” by Seto, more than 43,000 football fields every day for the next 18 years.

”The way cities have grown since World War II is neither socially or environmentally sustainable and the environmental cost of ongoing urban sprawl is too great to continue,” Seto said in the statement.

“People everywhere, however, have increasingly embraced Western styles of architecture and urbanization, which are resource-intense and often not adapted to local climates,” she added. “The North American suburb has gone global, and car-dependent urban developments are more and more the norm.”

Eco-friendly skyscrapers?
Seto was one of the authors of a report in the journal PLoS One about global urban sprawl, along with Michail Fragkias of Arizona State University, who is one of some 2,800 participants at the London conference.

The Planet Under Pressure conference is designed to give an idea of the health of the globe ahead of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June.

Fragkias told that “the answer [to urban sprawl] is denser cities.”

“The main message is we are not going to get away with cities like Phoenix or cities like Los Angeles,” he said. “These are the typical cities of the single-family house, with a huge lot and huge highways that connect various areas of the cities because there is no way you can have an efficient or cheap enough mass transit system to support them.”

Instead, densely populated areas such as Singapore or Manhattan — but not New York City’s surrounding urban sprawl — provided possible models for the future. “If cities can develop in height rather than in width that would be much more preferable and environmentally not as harmful,” Fragkias said.

But Seto told that density was only part of the answer, saying someone who lives close to where they work in Phoenix could have a low environmental impact, compared to someone living in a densely packed city who commutes through congested streets in a car.

Cities are not ‘bad’
And she said that increasing the urban population was “absolutely” the way to deal with the rising number of people in the world.

“For a long time, environmental activists said ‘cities are bad.’ The rationale was cities take up space and that could be better used for gorillas and butterflies,” and other wildlife, Seto told
But she said the global population was increasing and “we certainly don’t want them strolling about the entire countryside. We want them to save land for nature by living closely [together].”

The conference statement said that creating more environmentally friendly cities included better infrastructure planning; “reversing the trend to ever larger homes;” and ending subsidies that favor cars over public transport.

Inner city schools should also be improved and other urban issues such as income inequality and crime rates addressed, the statement said.

“Cities are being built so quickly, we have to rethink how we do things … Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Chinese cities are,” Seto quipped, saying most urban growth was taking place in Asia.

On Tuesday, organizers of the conference also highlighted a website called Welcome to the Anthropocene, referring to a term adopted by scientists and environmentalists to describe what they say is a new epoch, one uniquely influenced by human actions.

The idea the world had entered the Anthropocene was first put forward in 2000 by Dutch Nobel laureate Professor Paul Crutzen and U.S. academic Professor Eugene F. Stoermer.

“This century is special in the Earth’s history. It is the first when one species — ours — has the planet’s future in its hands,” Martin Rees of the Royal Society, Britain’s academy of sciences, said at the conference Monday according to the AFP news agency. “We’ve invented a new geological era: the Anthropocene.”


6 Comments on "Paradise paved? World’s cities to expand by more than twice the size of Texas by 2030"

  1. Rick on Wed, 28th Mar 2012 1:16 am 

    Too many f**king people. I had no kids, but apparently others think we live on a infinite planet.

  2. MrEnergyCzar on Wed, 28th Mar 2012 3:01 am 

    It must assume infinite conventional oil…


  3. Bill T on Wed, 28th Mar 2012 3:21 am 

    What f**king experts? These people look a narrow piece of history and project the future. BS!

    I am looking out the window at a new 34 story condo tower here in Makati. Granted it is one of maybe 100 going up in Metro Manila, but, that pace will slow. They are already having problems pre-selling the units because prices are going up and the world economy is getting more and more shaky. Since a lot of these are sold to Filipinos who are working over seas, as the world economy shrinks, more and more will lose their jobs and come back to the Philippines. fore fitting their condos because they can no longer pay for them.

    I expect the growth of most cities to slow and stop in the next decade, and the exodus to begin as more and more see them for the death traps they could become if oil stops. And, it will eventually stop. Mother Nature guarantees it.

  4. Gandolf on Wed, 28th Mar 2012 10:03 am 

    I just got back from Hong Kong today and man do they know how to squeeze them in

  5. BillT on Wed, 28th Mar 2012 10:13 am 

    This is like the other article above. Cities will not expand to cover anything close to the size of Texas unless they are farms. they certainly will not be paved streets with all the construction of current cities. Why? As I said above, there is not the energy to do it. A cubic yard of concrete take the energy of a barrel of oil to make and place. Every office or condo tower takes millions of barrels of oil to build then many million more to maintain. Growth is over.

  6. Kenz300 on Wed, 28th Mar 2012 5:09 pm 

    Too many people and not enough resources.

    Over population is the problem. Endless population growth is not sustainable.

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