Doubling the Built Environment

There is little question that how cities develop is key to attaining a secure ecological future. The global population is currently increasing by 1.4 per cent, but the rate of urbanization can be many times higher, particularly in developing countries. From 1950 to 1990, the world’s urban population increased by 200 million to about 2 billion, adding just 1.1 percent of the 1950 level each year. In the 1990s, the pace of urbanization picked up. The world’s urban population is expected to have grown by about 50% in this decade to almost 3 billion by 2000. By 2025, the UN projects that about 5.1 billion people will reside in cities, an increase of 70% in the first quarter of the Century (UN 1995). This means that in the next 27 years, the urban population alone is expected to grow by the equivalent of the total human population in 1930. In 2015, almost 17% of urban dwellers will live in large cities of over 5 million and there will be 71 such mega-cities by 2015. Most of the growth in these cities will occur in the less-developed countries. To illustrate, in 1950 the only city to exceed 10 million people (New York) was in a developed country. However, 23 of the 27 cities expected to reach this size by 2015 will be in less developed countries. Similarly, of the 44 cities of between 5 and 10 million inhabitants in 2015, some 36-39 will be in the developing world (UN 1995). Material Considerations Many cities in the developing world have been woefully ill-prepared to accommodate the first wave of newcomers. In the mid 1990s as many as 25% of urban dwellers in the developing world did not have access to safe potable water supplies and 50% lacked adequate sewage facilities. Even by 2000, more than 600 million urban dwellers will still lack adequate sanitation and 450 million will suffer from unsafe drinking water (NRTEE 1998). Accordingly, the World Bank estimates that developing countries alone will need to invest $US200 billion a year in basic infrastructure in the period to 2005, most of it for urban regions. Given anticipated urban population growth and material demand to 2025, “…it would be reasonable to expect the total volume of investment [in infrastructure] to reach $6 trillion by that time” (NRTEE 1998, 11). Keep in mind that the world must construct adequate new physical plant to support an urban population increase in just the next 27 years equivalent to the total accumulation of people in all of history up to the 1930s! In effect, we will be doubling the 1970s’ urban presence on the planet. This means millions of new dwelling units, stores and offices; thousands of new schools, hospitals, and water and waste-water treatment plants; countless square kilometers meters of new roads and parking facilities for tens of millions of additional motor vehicles; and all manner of supportive transportation, communications, and related urban infrastructure. On the face of these data, it is little wonder that most people expect cities to be “using much more energy,[materials,] water, and land than ever before and doing so in more concentrated, land-, capital-, knowledge-, and technology-intensive ways” (NRTEE 1998, 2). What is not as readily clear is how we can reconcile the expected use of so “much more” of everything with growing evidence that global carrying capacity has already been exceeded. Increased throughput growth on the scale implied here is simply incompatible with ecological sustainability (see Goodland 1991).
source: The Built Environment See also XlnkS43D

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by michel. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.