Mar 24, 2011

Question of the day

Kevin Drum says:
Here's the thing: my guess is that virtually nobody in the country thinks that cities are greener places than towns or suburbs. And by "virtually nobody," I mean maybe a few percent tops. For most people, it's wildly counterintuitive on all sorts of levels to think of big, dirty, crowded, urban areas as "green." It just doesn't compute.
I'd like to solicit some opinions here. Is that really true? What's your gut reaction? (No fair looking up stuff, I'm really just honestly curious.)


  1. If i think green, i think bicycle friendly, actual recycling and reduction of stuff, carbon emission standards for vehicles and things close enough for people to walk, cycle or take public transport to get whatever it is. This is NOT the midwest, where everything is so sprawled out, and small towns very unlikely to regulate emissions or recycling and likely to drive big farm trucks, whether hauling pigs or just a solo journey to the store for bread and milk. I think some u.s. Cities, like tucson, are on the right track. Much more green than okc, for example.

  2. I think cities are greener per capita. If you were to put all those people in a rural setting to live, the impact would be much greater to the environment. The issue is that the combined environmental impacts of cities makes a huge impact in a concentrated area, increasing the risk of catastrophic environmental events, i.e. raw sewage into the sea and such.

  3. I think that we have a breakdown here in terms of resource aggregation and usage. It is doubtless more efficient to gather all of the resources necessary to sustain modern human life into a relatively small area, then have a greater number of people share it within that area. This avoids energy loss due to transportation and market inefficiencies from constrained supply and demand.

    Does that make cities more green (as measured by net waste output)? Well, that's a little more difficult to say. I would say that per capita, cities are greener. Conversely, I would say that per square mile of land, rural areas are far greener than cities.

  4. WNYC's Radio Lab recently did a show on Cities. This question comes up:

    One of the hosts starts (and ends) with the premise that of course cities are greener because of public transportation.