Would it benefit the environment if everyone lived in cities?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by jps, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. jps Valued Senior Member

    Not being a scientist, I might be missing something here, but it seems to me that large cities must be far more environmentally sound than rural communities.
    There is the the obvious environmental benefit that subways and buses have over private cars, and the close proximity of residential and commercial areas makes many tasks that would require a substantial amount of driving in the country to be done on foot.
    In addition, tall apartment buildings allow thousands of people to live on an area of land that might house a couple of families in the country. A far more efficient usage.

    It would be ironic if people's need to be in touch with nature is contributing to its destruction.
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  3. Roman Banned Banned

    Cities have dense populations and still require lots of land to support them– mineral resources, agricultural and waterways. If everyone lived in cities, they would have no connection to nature, and not see any value in it. How can you value something you are not familiar with, and do not need?
    And nature would be cleared away to support cities.

    The environmental footprint of small, rural communities is much less than that of megatropolii like Beijing or Mexico City.
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  5. Dr Lou Natic Unnecessary Surgeon Registered Senior Member

    Correct, a city inherently has a huge amount of agricultural land supporting it.

    It would benefit the environment if everyone had "a little house on the prairie". If every family had enough land for them to directly live off of, with their survival relying on the health of their territory.
    Even if every square metre of land was owned by someone and there were no wildlife reserves, the world would be a wildlife reserve with wild humans in it.
    We'd be just like all the other animals, we'd die before the environment got out of shape.

    Even if we lived like this it wouldn't mean we couldn't have clothes, or houses or even alcohol. We could still have crops, and domesticated animals, but as long as a large portion of all of our territories was wilderness (and this could be our hunting grounds) everything would be perfectly fine.

    Cities are blatant cancerous growths on the planet. There's no denying that.
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The need for travel at the level of contemporary America is an illusion manufactured by the auto companies, for the benefit of the petroleum companies, maintained by a generation of managers so incompetent that the only way they can tell if their employees are productive is to watch them work, and maintained by a government that answers only to corporations and not at all to individual citizens.

    Much of your argument hinges on the resources wasted by commuting. I'd say that about 90 percent of the jobs Americans commute to could be done as well or better at home. Most of us spend our entire work day huddled over a computer and talking on the phone after all. I have both of those devices in my home, don't you?

    As for the land wasted by suburban or rural homes, that's just because suburban and rural land is cheaper so people can afford to spread out and use more of it per person. Housing outside urban areas could be crammed as tightly as it is inside them if people were motivated to do that, and they could still at least live in smaller cities, making it easier to reach natural areas after work or on weekends, for their natural and documented stress relief.

    I suggest the following: Make telecommuting mandatory for any job that can't be demonstrated to require on-site attendance. Let the market dictate the price of real estate, with whatever zoning ordinances and wilderness protection laws you'd like to impose on the nearby greenspaces. You'll achieve a happy medium. You'll find that a huge portion of the damage done to the environment by a prosperous economy is caused by people commuting, not directly by people desperately trying to avoid living in the crowded cities.

    It's unclear what the impact on the environment would be if people were free to live in smaller, less crowded cities. But the impact on the people would be positive and enormous. While many people have the constitution to tolerate or even love living in a place like Manhattan, Shanghai, or Nairobi, most people suffer varying degrees of stress in those environments. We are, after all, still Neolithic hunter-gatherers with the instincts to live contentedly in communities of a few hundred souls, since the evolution of civilization occurred much more quickly than our psychologies were able to evolve to adapt to it.

    It's a tribute to the adapatility of human nature that we in fact prove able to live contentedly in small cities of around 20,000. In towns that size you find people leaving their doors unlocked, protecting and disciplining each other's children, and helping each other out of jams without the need for government intervention. But any "community" larger than that requires artificial structure and the imposition of laws, as people lose the sense of kinship with one another. Ultimately this results in a Tokyo or a Rio de Janeiro, with various kinds of dysfunction imposed by the oppressive closeness, the artificial order, and the lack of almost any natural surroundings.

    When people are stressed by their unnatural environment, they respond by acting a bit crazily. I submit that the damage they do and allow to be done to the planet by not living up to their potential is worse than the incremental damage that would be done by allowing them to live a little further apart from each other and from their own artifacts, and a little closer to the green and brown portions of that planet -- the portions their bodies and minds were designed to interact with.

    The lion's share of the damage to the environment is done by transportation, not by the distribution of homes. And that transportation is unnecessary except in the eyes of our president and vice president and the oil barons they are indentured to. Simply doing away with commuting for 90 percent of the population would reduce the average worker's stress level so remarkably that America would find the inner peace to start caring about its land again.
  8. lixluke Refined Reinvention Valued Senior Member

    Yes. You must have some sort of knowledge of city design.
    Swarse cities without motor vehiclese are, in my studies, the best form of city planning.
    I designed some prototypes for such a city: http://www.caliditta.com/citydesign/citystructure.htm

    This is a cery rough draft of a tower that I designed. I would like to make ir more of a circular dome though: http://www.caliditta.com/citydesign/towercity.htm
  9. -Bob- Insipid Fool Registered Senior Member

    Sounds like a hippie pipe dream to me...

    All people entitled to high level education... healthcare... dwellings.... all for free? Who the hell is going to pay for that shit? Who is going to pay to build your city? All that shit takes sweat and blood you know.
  10. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    Last edited: Mar 23, 2005
  11. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    Disney's epcot? Have you ever wondered who cleans the toilets? Who picks up the garbage? Who maintains the sewer systems? Who works at the sanitary landfills. Who cleans the restaurant's grease traps? Who cleans the streets?

    See? It's not all wonderous beauty and ideals ...there's still the shit to contend with and who does it and how are they viewed in the grand scheme of things? "Lowly workers"? epcot, like all such "dream cities", is a myth of grand proportions without any grasp of the realities of life.

    Baron Max
  12. -Bob- Insipid Fool Registered Senior Member

  13. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

    One of the best ideas I have heard was written about by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven in 'Oath of Fealty'.

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