Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tim OReilly on Stewart Brand on cities

The effect of 1,000 people leaving a county of 1,000 people is much greater than that of the same 1,000 people showing up in a city of one million. Density of occupation in cities has many environmental advantages yet to be examined.

I'm a bit suspicious of this. Are we comparing like-with-like? We're talking millions coming from absolute poverty in the countryside to live in the cities and *increase* their material wealth; and yet those millions are meant to be consuming fewer resources?

The people coming in to live in the favelas aren't the sort of people who were driving around the country in SUVs and requiring a lot of industrially produced stuff to be shipped out to them. In the country they aren't driving anything (more likely to take the bus or use a horse). Their village probably doesn't have electricity, sewage or water. And the little food they get, is produced very locally.

It's quite understandable why they want to leave that for the relatively better conditions in the favela, but very hard to see how their net consumption of energy and products derived from oil can be going *down* in this situation.

Obviously, higher-density living is much better for people who are already reasonably rich. Extended suburbs are a disaster for energy consumption.

Of course, in the city, the birth-rate goes down. But that's only important if the overall rate (country + city) is going down. If the country is simply producing more people to compensate for the outflux then the city isn't having any sort of regulatory effect.

Still, it would be interesting to see the "useful analysis of the "ecological footprint"".

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