Resisting Dickensian Gloom

High-density development in Australia is causing more greenhouse gases than the suburbs, argues Dr. Tony Recsei of the group Save Our Suburbs, in this rebuttal of a blog post by Michael Dudley.
Photo: Tony Recsei

There has been a tremendous response to my introduction to the Demographia Survey. Many have asked me to expand upon the arguments and provide documentation (such as Michael Dudley in this space), which was not possible in a preface. This I am pleased to do.

Greenhouse gas emissions.
Advocates of high-density policies (often termed "Smart Growth" but also under other descriptions and euphemisms such as "urban consolidation", "compact development", "growth management" and "urban renewal") maintain these policies save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A comprehensive study of per capita emissions in Australia based on household consumption of all products and services appears in the Australian Conservation Foundation's Consumption Atlas. Unexpectedly, this analysis shows that greenhouse gas emissions of those living in high-density areas are greater than for those living in low-density areas. An analysis of the data (1) shows that the average carbon dioxide equivalent emission of the high-density core areas of Australian cities is 27.9 tonnes per person whereas that for the low-density outer areas is 17.5 tonnes per person. As mentioned in the Demographia Survey introduction, food and goods purchased account for most of the emissions and this amounts to more for wealthier inner-city dwellers.

Surprisingly, transport emissions amount to very little (only 10.5%), household electricity and heating fuel being about twice as much at 20.0%. (2) It should also be noted that the emissions from household dwelling construction and renovations at 11.8% are greater than emissions for transport. It is clear that transport, so heavily emphasized by Smart Growth advocates, is responsible for only a small fraction of household emissions.

Interestingly, using regression analysis to attempt to isolate variables influencing household emissions, the paper on which the data is based (3) finds that density, as an isolated variable, has practically no effect on total energy requirements. The paper also finds that density has little effect on the per person energy requirement for mobility and automotive fuel consumption.

Another study which solely measures direct household energy consumption (4) (thus excluding the effect of purchases) found that annual greenhouse emissions from this source in high-rise equated to 5.4 tonnes CO2 per person per year whereas that for detached housing was only 2.9 tonnes. So even when excluding purchases associated with wealth, high-rise still comes out worst.

Yet another study, also not incorporating factors directly associated with wealth (5) finds that the total of transport, building operational and building embodied annual greenhouse gas emissions per person for city apartments is 10 tonnes whereas that for outer suburban dwellers is 7.3 tonnes – once again more for apartments.

The explanation for these findings probably partly arises from lower occupancy rates in high-rise compared to single-residential (as revealed in the above-mentioned studies) and the use of elevators, clothes dryers, air-conditioners and common lighted areas such as parking garages and foyers. Most studies do not include this latter important element, simply because they are based upon consumer bills which do not include common consumption. In addition there is the greater energy per resident required to construct high-rise.

Looking towards the future, if we are to reduce our urban energy and water footprint by individually collecting localised solar energy and rainwater it appears reasonable that this will only be practical for dwellings that have a large roof area per inhabitant. That means low density.

In summary, in the Australian situation there is no environmental emission evidence that justifies forcing people to live in apartments - if anything the reverse seems to be the case.

Transport.
Not only does transport comprise only a minor portion of household emissions, the energy difference between the use of public and private transport modes is surprising small. The Sydney City Rail website states "greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre for rail transport is up to five times less than that of car transport" (my emphasis).

However one cannot assume optimal conditions to always prevail such as full carriages. Such theoretical figures are just that – theoretical. Theoretical figures for automobiles would also be much more favourable if one assumes for example full occupancy of seats.

In fact the actual greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre for the Sydney rail network, transporting around 500,000 passengers each day, is 105 grams. (6) The figure for automobiles in Australia, assuming an average seat occupancy of 1.3, averages 155 grams and is much less for modern fuel-efficient vehicles that emit a mere 70 grams. It needs to also be considered that direct point to point travel distances by personal transport are frequently less than that for equivalent public transport journeys so further reducing the energy difference.

Our research shows that high-density developments hardly reduce per person travel intensity at all. Dudley dismisses a Melbourne study (7) I mentioned that shows that people who moved into newly converted dense areas did not use public transport to any greater extent, and there was little or no change in their percentage of car use. He claims this is due to Melbourne being "a sprawling city". However the overall density of Melbourne is not relevant here as, in addition to being well served by public transport, the converted areas are located very close to the central business district. It sometimes seems that the last refuge of Smart Growth advocates is to declare whatever they don't like as sprawl. Indeed, it could be argued that there are no cities in the developed world that do not sprawl.

Developers recognise that units without parking are not saleable. In Melbourne medium density housing projects located near commercial or transit centres invariably include one or two parking places per dwelling. (8) The initial developers of a 5.7ha site near Sydney Central Station abandoned their proposed development of the huge multi-unit project mainly because authorities insisted that a maximum limit of 60 per cent of the units could be allocated parking. (9) This abandonment was in spite of the fact that the site could not be in a better location for public transport, being adjacent to the central railway station and major bus routes that radiate out from the locality.

The reality is that, for many journeys undertaken (including travelling to locations outside the city centre, attending childrens' sport and recreational activities, transporting pets and visiting friends), public transport is unsuitable or even forbidden as with bulky goods or pets, as well as being too inconvenient and time-consuming to be of practical benefit.

A 2008 Canadian study on the relationship between density and transit use does not alter the above assessment. It plainly shows how little density contributes to a change in automobile use. Without any evidence to the contrary, it seems reasonable to assume that the Canadian fraction of total household emissions that relate to transport is similar to that shown on the Australian Conservation Foundation's website, being 10.5%. Applying this value to the data in Chart 2 of this Canadian study one finds that for those living within 5 km of the city centre there would be a difference attributable to density of only 1% in total annual emissions per person. For people living 20 km or more from the city centre the difference would be much less at 0.2%. Yet it seems that for Smart Growth advocates this miniscule difference justifies cramming people together like sardines. These believers ignore other much more significant factors affecting emissions that completely over-ride this minute transport-related effect.

It is interesting to note that journey to work travel times do not seen to decrease as density increases. Looking at New York and some examples of large cities of different density there is no indication that these times are less in dense cities:

The increased congestion caused by high-density policies results in inefficient stop-start traffic which increases greenhouse gas emissions as a direct consequence of burning more fuel per km and increases the concentration of dangerous micro-particles from vehicle exhausts. The resulting greater traffic per area and less volume available for dispersion exacerbates this. The World Health Organization maintains that several times as many people die from these particles every year as do from traffic accidents. (10)

The evidence is that the imposition of high density policies does not lead to reduced traffic congestion, lower air pollution levels and improved travel times. The reverse appears to be the case.

Health.
The increasing concentration of dangerous micro-particles from vehicle exhausts is mentioned above.

In addition, mental health problems are of major concern. A study of over 4 million Swedes (11) has shown that the rates for psychosis were 70% greater for the denser areas. There was also a 16% greater risk of developing depression. The paper discusses various reasons for this finding but the conclusion is compelling: "A high level of urbanisation is associated with increased risk of psychosis and depression in both men and women".

Another study of a population of 350,000 people in Holland (12) also finds adverse mental (and other) health consequences. After allowing for demographic and socio-economic characteristics, for those living in areas with only 10% green space the prevalence of depression and anxiety was 32% and 26% respectively. For those with 90% green space the prevalence was respectively 24% and 18%, a significant difference for an increasingly serious problem.

Research also indicates that bringing up young children in apartments can have adverse consequences. (13) Keeping children quiet emphasizes activities that are sedentary. There is a lack of safe active play space outside the home - parks and other public open space offer poor security.

There are other indirect indicators that relate to this question:

  • The Australian Unity Well-being Index (14) reported that the happiest electorates have a lower population density.

  • A recent study in New Zealand (15) asking people whether residents in particular areas would most like to live in that type of area, revealed that the answer was yes for 90% of rural residents, 76% for small town residents, 75% for city suburbs and only 64% for central city dwellers. Apparently as density increased, so did dissatisfaction with that type of living.

  • The inference from a study on apartment life (16) is that half of the apartment living households in Sydney and Melbourne would prefer to live in single-residential dwellings. This corresponds to only about 10% of all those in occupied dwellings in the two cities wishing to live in apartments. A recent housing preference survey (press release) sent out with rate notices by Ku-ring-gai Council in Sydney reveals a similar result. Within reasonable limits people should be allowed to live in the type of housing they prefer. They should not be forced into living in a manner prescribed by planners who profess to know what is best for them. It should be emphasised that we recognise that there are some people that prefer high-density living. What we are arguing against, is the forced imposition of high-density policies, such as is occurring in Australia and other countries, to the overall detriment of their citizens and the environment. It appears from deprecating comments about the "free market" and "libertarian" views that Smart Growth advocates are unconcerned about what people actually want.

  • Social networks should also be considered. Putnam in his famous book "Bowling Alone" sums up that "suburbanisation, commuting and sprawl" have contributed to the decline in social engagement and social capital (17): However charts in this book show the opposite. The chart below aggregates Putnam's portrayal. This indicates that involvement (18) in these social activities of people in the centres in the more spacious small towns is nearly twice that in dense large cities. It is also apparent that such community involvement is greater in low-density suburbs than in denser central city areas, especially for the larger centres.

The data therefore show, contrary to what was claimed, that as density increases, people's involvement in community activity declines. Facts available indicate that adverse health and social consequences of high-density living are significant.

Housing Cost
This aspect has been adequately covered in the Demographia Survey. It seems reasonable to conclude that the major cause of excessive housing costs in Australia lies in over-prescriptive land use regulation. In Sydney, where housing costs are the second highest in the 272 markets surveyed, the New South Wales government has restricted the release of greenfield housing sites (19 while at the same time demanding municipalities increase densities under threat of removing the councils' planning powers. Since 1977 the New South Wales population increased by 38% while the proportion of greenfields land release sites decreased from an annual average of 20% of dwelling production to 5%. (20)

As a consequence of the resultant land shortage the land component in the price of a house in Sydney has increased from 32% in 1977 to 60% in 2002 (21) and to an estimated 70% today.

High-density policies increase the cost of housing, with special disadvantage to the younger generation by locking them out of the housing market. In addition, they disadvantage the economy by throttling the competitiveness of new business trying to set up in the region.

Conclusion
The evidence available so far indicates that Smart Growth policies forced into unwilling communities do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, do not facilitate travel, do not improve health, do not increase housing choice and do not reduce overall costs.
It seems that planners are intent on sweeping us backwards into despotic, overcrowded Dickensian gloom.


Dr. Tony Recsei has a background in chemistry and is an environmental consultant. Since retiring he has taken an interest in community affairs and is president of the Save Our Suburbs community group which opposes over-development forced onto communities by the New South Wales State Government.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please see my own blog post on this editorial here.

FOOTNOTES:
1. Demographia, Housing Form in Australia and its Impact in Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Analysis of Data from the Australian Conservation Foundation Conservation Atlas (2007)
2. http://www.acfonline.org.au/uploads/res/res_atlas_main_findings.pdf, Figure 1
3. Manfred Lenzen, Christopher Dey, Varney Foran, Energy requirements of Sydney Households, Ecological Economics, 49 (2004) 375-379. See table 4.
4. Paul Myors, EnergyAustralia, with Rachel O'Leary and Rob Helstroom, Multi-Unit Residential Building Energy & Peak Demand Study. NSW Department of Planning (October 2005), Energy News VOl 23 no 4 Dec 05
5. Perkins, Alan, Hamnett, Steve, Pullen, Stephen, Zito, Rocco and Trebilcock, David(2009), Transport, Housing and Urban Form: The Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Emissions of City Centre Apartments Compared with Suburban Dwellings, Urban Policy and Research, 27: 4, 377 - 396
6. RailCorp letter 28 October 2007 in response to a Freedom of Information application by the author
7. Hodgetts, C.J.B. (2004) Urban Consolidation and Transport, Masters Thesis (Melbourne, University of Melbourne).
8. B. Birrell , K. O'Connor, V. Rapson, H. Healy, Planning Rhetoric Versus Urban Reality, Melbourne 2030, Monash University Press, Victoria, 2005, pp. 2-17
9. M. Melish, Moore sticks to her community mandate, Australian Financial Review, 24-28 March 2005
10. For data see Air Quality Criteria for Particulate Matter, US EPA/600/P-99/002aC, April 2002, Third External Review Draft, Volume II, page 284 on particulates associated with a reduction of life of 1.31 years and US Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1999 which gives the number of traffic accidents as 42,400.)
11. Kristina Sundquist, Golin Frank, Jan Sundquist, Urbanisation and incidence of psychosis and depression, British Journal of Psychiatry (2004), 184, 293-298.
12. Maas J, Verhej RA, de Vries S et al. J Epidemiol Community Health published online 15 Oct 2009
13. Bill Randolph, Children in the Compact City. Fairfield (Sydney) as a suburban case study, University of NSW, Paper Commissioned by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, October
14. 2006 Sydney Morning Herald 13 February 2006
15. UMR Omnibus Results, UMR Research, Wellington, March 2009
16. Hazel Easthope, Andrew Tice & Bill Randolph, The Desirable Apartment Life?, City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW, Housing and Urban Form Workshop (W05), 2009 Housing Researchers' Conference, Sydney, Australia
17. R. D. Putnam, Bowling Alone, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2000, p. 283
18. Average of % who have served as officer or committee member of local group and % who have attended a public meeting on town or school affairs.)
19. Urban Development Institute of Australia,The 2009 UDIA Sate of the Land, Canberra, 2009.
20. New South Wales Department of Planning Metropolitan Development Program 2007, Section 3, p 31, Figure 3.5: Sydney Region Dwelling Production - Existing Urban and Greenfield Areas (1981/82 - 2011/12)
21. Housing Industry Association, Restoring Housing Affordability – the housing industry's perspective, Housing Industry Association Ltd, Australia, July 2003.

Comments

Comments

One Take on Sprawl/Smart Growth

Not that anyone really cares about my particular view, but I thought I'd offer it up anyways in this debate (as a libertarian/borderline anarchist). As pointed out above, "...sprawl was in large part created by governmental intervention in the economy...". I think this is where a large part of the "righty-inclined" (for lack of a better word) critics get tripped up. Zoning, auto-subsidization, red-lining, etc. are all top-down (i.e. centrally-planned) government codes that essentially dictate that our urban form must sprawl (i.e. in most place it is illegal to not sprawl). Building urban areas has basically been illegal since the 20s (when most places adopted standardized, pre-written zoning ordinances). Sprawl is definitely not the "free-market" (i.e. the sum of all of our individual choices) at work so criticizing smart growth policies from that angle is off base.

However, if you assume the status quo is the "free-market" at work, then I can see where the "righty-inclined" critics are coming from. Also, I think that perspective is where the "lefty-inclined" critics of sprawl primarily get their argument for smart-growth wrong. Sprawl is decidedly a product of the current government paradigm for land use development. Where I see smart-growth proponents error is that they are simply adding additional layers of regulations on top of the already generally silly regulations. The SF Bay Area is the perfect example of this. There are open-space areas, urban growth boundaries, CEQA issues, inclusionary housing ordinances, etc., all of which, combined with the sprawl zoning that underpins everything, drives up housing prices astronomically... so much so that the poor and middle-class are driven out (not exactly sustainable). There was a great study by UCB (if I recall correctly) noting that, land-wise, all of the future population growth in the Bay Area could occur on infill sites, but zoning wise (i.e. the way that land was currently zoned) the same land could account for only about 1% of the projected population growth. This is where I see the problem with "smart-growth". If the underlying zoning remains (as it seems to do everyhwere "smart-growth" is purportedly implemented) all you get is ever-increasing land costs. Proponents mostly dismiss this argument to their deteriment as I think it the central argument for the "against smart-growth" side, and rightly so (Wendall Cox uses it to his advantage, although I think he falls heavily into the "righty-inclined" off-base argument outlined above).

My solution is to throw out all the stupid rules... but I doubt that is palatable to most here (despite the fact that every single urban place we admire was built without the rules of today?). I say this because of centrally-planned land use system is producing the same thing as most centrally-planned economic systems - an overabundance of what is deemed acceptable by the authorities and shortages of everything else. However, I definitely could envision some sort of grand compromise such as keeping the current open space laws while throwing out zoning for the developable areas...?

Just thought I'd throw out my throughts as a response from the side of someone that likely thinks differently from most people.

Why the need to label everything?

Sprawl a conservative issue? Gimme a break. People simply voted with their feet not to live in urban areas, and were looking for less expensive housing. Developers and local authorities were happy to oblige.

Worse though is the human ecological sprawl that "smart" growth zealots are creating with their attempts at radical social engineering.

Keep up the good work

Michael Lewyn.

Daytime or Nighttime Populations?

Given the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of workers, shoppers, visitors and business people who are present in any large high-density urban setting as daily transients, not residents - helping diligently to use the energy, spend the money, consume the goods, create the pollution, etc. etc. etc. - I'd be VERY interested in an exorcism of the Devils in the Details flurrying about the presentation above. For a start, one might raise a skeptical eyebrow at the facile use of 'dwellers' (apparently) as the proper unit for 'per-capita' comparisons between urban employment centers and suburban bedroom communities...

daytime AND nighttime populations

Esullivan, it's even more complex than that. How, for example, would you account for the large number of people who live in the suburban communities, but who are required to keep the urban centre functioning - bus drivers, tradespeople, and on and on? Many of those people cannot afford the expensive property in the urban centre, and look for affordable property outside instead. Without that urban centre, many of those people would not be required, and so would not "use the energy, spend the money, consume the goods, create the pollution, etc. etc. etc." And that's just one example of the hidden environmental costs of urban centres that "smart" growth cultists avoid discussing. There are many more.

You say toMAYto, I say toMAWto,

But we're both looking at the same urban system dynamics, albeit from different perspectives.

A Marxist Professor of Cultural Anthropology whose classes I attended would frequently point to rice-paddy agriculture as patent exploitation of the masses - his conceit being that without the serfdom of millions of peasants toiling away at the immensely productive but immensely labor-intensive paddies, the entire superstructure of pre-industrial Asian military, mercantile and ruling classes would have collapsed. He became apoplectic when I asked whether it was worse to be exploited and oppressed or non-existent?

While hunting-gathering and nomadic-herding lifestyles might arguably provide more egalitarian societies, Asia's carrying capacity for human populations practicing those lifestyles was orders of magnitude less than for populations practicing rice-paddy agriculture...

So the assertion that 'Without that urban centre, many of those people would not be required' is likely quite literally true - Alas, poor bus driver, but your life twas naught but a figment of a smart growth cultist's fevered imagining of a shining city on a hill...

You say substainable, I say sustainable.

And the point, of course, is that "smart" growth advocates will not even acknowledge that massive support systems are required for those "compact, walkable" cities - systems which, as noted spill over not just into the surrounding countryside, but spread even to other countries and continents. As an example, the ecological footprint of Vancouver, B.C. ("the smart growth leader of the Pacific Northwest" according to one source) has been estimated at 200 times the actual geographical footprint, including the tonnes of garbage that are regularly trucked hundreds of kilometers to be dumped into the British Columbia countryside, and also including the massive air pollution which drifts to the east and fouls the Fraser Valley airshed.

Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

Out of mind, out comes the false premise.

And the point, of course, is that "smart" growth advocates will not even acknowledge that massive support systems are required for those "compact, walkable" cities -

This is either a blatant false premise or argument from ignorance. Kahn's book and work with Glaeser pre-bunked this false statement by about three years. Not to mention it fails to account for agglomeration economies obviating dispersed development to prop up the premise.

Ah, well. Whaddya gonna do, I suppose.

Best,

D

Massive support systems

If Rick Shea designed libraries, he'd place all the books flat on the floor of a vast, open room, beneath 4 foot high ceilings, forcing patrons to crawl on their hands and knees, while he loudly proclaimed the cost effectiveness of not having bookshelves.

ad hominem ad nauseum

Ah, again with the ad hominems. Sad, mmc2068, that you have nothing of any substance to contribute here.

"You have nothing of any substance to contribute here."

"Ah, again with the ad hominems. Sad, mmc2068, that you have nothing of any substance to contribute here." - Rick Shea

LOL

Oh, that's rich, coming from a shill for the auto, oil, weapons and suburban housing developers, paid to spread lies and misinformation about the wisdom---indeed, the sacredness---of mass transit-rich, pedestrian-friendly, multistory urban development.

If I'm wrong, prove it; tell us how urban development isn't more efficient, affordable and beneficial to all.

"Sacredness" says it all...

Oh, poor, poor mmc, that you have to degenerate into ad hominems and nonsense for lack of anything better.

How is "smart" growth sustainable? Still waiting...

How is smart growth NOT sustainable?

How is smart growth NOT sustainable, Rick? What is your preferred alternative? Where are your links to support your positions? Why must you counter arguments in favor of smart growth with name-calling and a smug, self-righteousness tone? Don't you know you can catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar, hon?

tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock...still waiting.

Maybe you don't really have any original ideas, or maybe you're just playing Devil's Advocate.

Fine. I get it. Endless growth isn't possible, blah, blah, blah. As I've stated before, however, the birthrates of modern societies have plateaued. Coupled with an increase in urban development and a decrease in suburban development, I dare say that the planet could comfortably fit 20 billion people before birthrates in other societies plateaued, IF we build smartly.

But we are NOT going to be able to fit 20 billion people so long as suburbia rules the day.

time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a...

mmc2068 says "Don't you know you can catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar, hon?"

I'm not at all interested in catching flies. They're dirty and carry diseases.

Again, how is "smart" growth sustainable? And 20 billion? Sure, make it up as you go along, and dodge, dodge, dodge....

Where's the false premise?

Dano says "This is either a blatant false premise or argument from ignorance. Kahn's book and work with Glaeser pre-bunked this false statement by about three years. Not to mention it fails to account for agglomeration economies obviating dispersed development to prop up the premise."

So, you are not a subscriber to the notion of the "ecological footprint?" You don't believe that cities import massive amounts of goods produced elsewhere to keep them going? And you don't believe that cities rely on people who commute from suburbs to maintain the sewers, clean up the garbage, and so on? Hmmmmmm.

Some learnin' needed.

Ah. You can't speak to Kahn's book. His book states large cities have a smaller footprint. You can't speak to the other literature out there either.

Someone is consistently wrong on this topic. Due to being underknowledged, methinks.

Best,

D

How about literature that deals with the big picture?

Dano says "His book states large cities have a smaller footprint. You can't speak to the other literature out there either. "

I'd like to see the methodology for Kahn's conclusion. I'm betting it's just as incomplete as all the other "studies" and neglects all sorts of hidden ecological costs and other factors.

Regardless, "smart" growth is like rearranging the deck chairs for a better view while the Titanic sinks - just another enabling behaviour for our self-destructive addiction to growth.

So, regarding the other literature, I can certainly speak to books by Heinberg, Daly, Diamond, Wright, and so many others who state that our growthist paradigm is leading us on a path to rapid destruction, and that we need to short-circuit it now if we even hope to mitigate the disaster we are creating (it's far too late to prevent it, only mitigate it).

Stop Making Things Up and Take a Logic Course or Six

Please Tony, do you even bother to read the studies you quote before stating that the conclusions are actually the opposite of what you say they are.

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008001/article/10503-eng.htm States that "That is, when we kept all other factors constant, the odds that a resident of a low-density neighbourhood made all of their trips by car was 2.8 times higher than the odds for a resident of a high-density neighbourhood."

Yet you say " It plainly shows how little density contributes to a change in automobile use."

Furthermore, try taking a basic logic course, it might help a lot. You make the claim that you are "Resisting Dickensian Gloom" by hyping suburbs over denser areas and that living in suburbs produces less GHG emissions. Yet the reason why they produce more GHG emissions is that they have more money so it stands to reason that they chose to live in denser areas. Why in the world would people that have money chose to live in dense urban areas if they are miserable places to live, places with "Dickensian Gloom". Your arguments just don't make any sense.

As other people have pointed out, you also need to compare GHG emissions of people with the same incomes living in dense areas and suburbs for the comparison to be valid.

Michael Lewyn's picture
Blogger

response to response

First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Recsei for responding to my response, and in doing so with actual arguments as opposed to name calling.

Now to my thoughts:

1. He thinks Toronto is “hardly a dense city” . He is apparently thinking of the entire Toronto region including suburbia, not the city. Even after annexing many of its suburbs, Toronto has 3900 people per square kilometer . The older city of Toronto is denser still; my own Census tract (in the Annex neighborhood) has 10,720 people per SK, or about 40,000 people per square mile- roughly the density of Brooklyn. Nevertheless it is, I think, a fairly desirable neighborhood.

2. Regarding the Swedish study: the authors themselves wrote: “A few studies from the Netherlands revealed higher urban than rural rates of psychosis …. However, a study from the UK showed strong urban–rural differences in mental health that did not remain after adjustment for individual socioeconomic characteristics (Paykel et al, 2000). Other studies from the USA and the UK did not agree with our study, finding no urban–rural difference in mental health (Romans-Clarkson et al, 1990; Robins & Regier, 1991; Kessler et al, 1994; Parikh et al, 1996). In Canada, no difference was found for depression rates in urban and rural Ontario (Parikh et al,1996). In summary, previous studies of possible urban–rural differences in mental health are inconsistent.” This certainly sounds to me like (1) a focus on urban-rural differences in more importantly (2) a study that is contradicted by other studies.

3. I am not quite sure I understand Mr. Recsei’s point about the Dutch study. He notes that the study (1) doesn’t consider suburban “gardens” (which I assume means front and back yards) and (2) considers green spaces to be not particularly useful in urban areas. But once you have eliminated urban parks and suburban back yards, what’s left? As far as I can tell, a finding that suburbs with parks are healthier than those without- not a finding that proves anything particularly controversial.

4. Regarding congestion and density, Mr. Recsei cites a quite long paper by Wendell Cox – long enough that to thoroughly address it would take us in quite a different direction and take quite a bit of my time. Mr. Cox is certainly a learned commentator on this subject; however, I do note that other people who know more than I do have quite different views. For example, see Todd Litman’s exhaustive discussion at http://www.vtpi.org/sgcritics.pdf and Chris Bradford’s statistical analysis at http://www.urbanreturns.com/2009/07/density-and-congestion-etc.html .

5. Regarding parking spaces and condos: I certainly agree that in a very automobile-dependent city (such as, say, Jacksonville, Florida) a developer would probably be well advised to supply parking with condo units. But I would qualify the point by adding that if a city changes, becoming more like Toronto and less like Jacksonville, this is less likely to be the case. Or to put it another way, not every place is Melbourne, and in 20 years Melbourne itself might be different.

6. Re houses vs. apartments: Mr. Recsei reiterates that surveys show the popularity of houses, and asserts that “people should be allowed to choose to live in the type of houses they prefer.”

The point I was trying to make, which I think is consistent with that point, is that just because most people prefer houses to apartments does not mean they prefer sprawl to other forms of nonrental housing.

This possibility has ample support in consumer surveys: for example, a 2004 California survey showed that even though the overwhelming majority of respondents preferred a single-family home to other options, almost half preferred “a neighborhood where single-family homes are close together if it means you could walk to parks and outdoor recreation” to a more car-dependent, less compact area.” ( http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_1104MBS.pdf , page 11). And a 2003 survey of Houston voters showed that 55 percent preferred “a more central urban setting with smaller homes on smaller lots, and be able to take transit or walk to work and other places” to “a suburban setting with larger lots and houses and a longer drive to work and most other places.” (http://www.blueprinthouston.org/N_Archive.htm ).

7. Regarding burdens of proof, etc.: why shouldn’t the burden be on the proponents of sprawl to defend the status quo? I cannot speak intelligently about Australia, but in the last half of the 20th century, sprawl exploded in America, and yet traffic congestion and psychotic behavior somehow increased, even in cities where densities nosedived.

Parking and Condos

In Berkeley, condo developers insist on providing one space per unit, even in downtown, saying that condos can't sell without parking. I suspect that, if they unbundled, they could sell some units without parking.

But even if they are right, that is not an argument against smart growth. People who live in those downtown condos will often walk to restaurants or to the UC campus and take BART to San Francisco. They want cars for occasional trips, but most of them will not drive every day, as they did before they moved to downtown.

Apart from condos, developers of rental housing downtown do not want to include parking. The city requires 0.25 spaces per unit, and spaces remain empty because the tenants don't even use that much parking. Developers have applied to build rental housing downtown with no parking, and the city has denied them - despite the city's claim that it is crusading for affordable housing and against greenhouse gas emissions.

Charles Siegel

False premises abound.

Charles says "They want cars for occasional trips, but most of them will not drive every day, as they did before they moved to downtown. "

I happen to live on a farm in a very rural area, surrounded by farms, and a bit of a distance to the nearest town. I might drive twice a week, at most. Your premise is completely false, unless you have the data to back it up.

I note that Los Angeles experimented with building condos downtown with NO parking spaces and, after many complaints, had to reverse that decision. Perhaps San Francisco is just saving time and money, and acknowledging reality.

And you have yet to demonstrate that adding more people to a city through densification will somehow decrease greenhouse gas emissions. It would be more honest to say that it MAY mitigate the INCREASE in emissions. But there will still be an increase.

Density and Ecological Footprint

People are not moving to downtown Berkeley condos from small farms. They are moving there from the Berkeley hills, where virtually everyone drives every time they leave their house.

I think this debate gets nowhere because we are talking about two different questions:

-- Does increased population increase total environmental impact? I agree with you that it does, and I think everyone else agrees that it does.

-- For any given population, does it reduce environmental impact if people live in cities or denser suburbs rather than in the low-density sprawl suburbs where most Americans now live?

This is what Smart Growth advocates are saying - not that they want to increase population but that they want higher densities to reduce per capita ecological footprint.

I don't see how anyone can deny that people living in denser neighborhoods have a lower ecological footprint per capita than people living in sprawl.

We can see the environmental benefits very clearly if we compare neighborhoods at two different densities. One million people would take up 500,000 acres at 2 people per acre, a typical suburban sprawl density. One million people would take up only 100,000 acres at 10 people per acre, the density of the old streetcar suburbs that were popular with the American middle-class a century ago.

The denser development would benefit the environment in many ways:

* Only one-fifth as much land would be developed.
* Driving would be cut by more than half because of shorter distances alone. Driving could be reduced by even more, because higher density can support better transit service. There would be a dramatic reductions in gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
* Water use would be cut dramatically, because people would have smaller lawns, the biggest urban use of water.
* Land for growing food would be available nearer to the city, reducing the distance that food has to be transported.
* Large parks would be available nearer to the city, providing wildlife habitat and providing easily accessible recreation.
* Far less land would be paved for roads and parking lots.

That is quoted from a blog post I wrote named "From Smart Growth to Smart Shrinkage," which may help to clarify the debate because it discusses density and population growth as two separate issues. See http://preservenet.blogspot.com/2009/06/from-smart-growth-to-smart-shrin...

Rick, try reading that blog post before responding, so you can see what I actually believe rather than responding to your own fantasy of what I believe.

(PS: Demographers all agree that population growth is more rapid in rural areas than in cities. Population growth is slowing worldwide because people are moving from subsistence farms to cities. Are you advocating that people worldwide should all live in rural areas, like you? Don't you realize that that would mean faster population growth?)

Charles Siegel

"smart" profits

Again, Charles, there are so many fallacies in what you post that it's difficult to know where to begin. For example, you neglect to mention the enormous amounts of "degraded land" required by urban dwellers in order to support the massive infrastructure required. Without going into more than that, suffice it to say that you have an overly optimistic idea of the impact of "smart" growth on land use, the reduction in driving, and so on.

I have to say this again, and again. "Smart" growthists claim deceptively that there will be a reduction in all kinds of things as a result of their social engineering policies. I don't believe that for a nanosecond. As we add more people (and that is what always happens), there MAY be a modest reduction in the INCREASE in those things, but there will still be an increase.

As far as your "demographers agree" statement, I'd like to see the data. Regardless, I gather you didn't read my earlier comment about the food requirements for cities and, as we add more people, food has to come from farther and farther away. How is that sustainable? And what happens when that city has reached maximum tolerable density? Oh, whoops, I guess we now have to build elsewhere.

"Smart" growth is simply an enabling behaviour for our continued addiction to growth. It is a social engineering experiment that no one has demonstrated will be sustainable. Cramming more and people into less and less area serves only to make developers wealthy, and keep planners employed. As such, "smart" growth is one of the problems, and not one of the solutions.

FYI

Incidentally, Charles, the U.N. population projections have recently been revised upward. The original projections contained several scenarios and, for some reason, the media latched onto only one of them, but the others (higher growth) were also supported by data. And, despite theories of "demographic transition," there are examples, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, where the population growth rate is increasing in developed nations.

Where is YOUR Data?

"As far as your "demographers agree" statement, I'd like to see the data."

If you want the data showing that urbanization reduces population growth rates, just:

-- Search for fertility rates and for urbanization rates in different countries. You will see that countries with high levels of urbanization, such as Japan, have much lower fertility rates than countries with less urbanization. In fact, these very urban counties have fertility rates well below the replacement level, which solves the problem of population growth.

-- Search for historical fertility and urbanization rates in individual countries or continents. You will see that the fertility rates have gone down as urbanization rates have gone up during the last 50 years.

-- Of course, those correlations don't prove causation, but the causal connection is very clear: children cost little and provide economic benefits in rural subsistence economies, and children cost a lot and provide little or no economic benefits in urban economies.

These are points are truisms that demographers all agree with, so I don't think I have to spoon-feed you the data. If you are really interested, you can easily find the data yourself. (Have you heard that Japan is very urban and that its population is about to begin a sharp decline, or is that news to you?)

Now, let me ask you for data to substantiate your claims:

-- Show me data proving that smart growth increases population growth. In America, population growth seems to be most rapid in cities that do not have smart growth policies: for example, cities in Nevada and Arizona. Tony Recsei cites the Wendell Cox's survey showing that smart growth policies have increased housing costs in Sydney, and higher housing prices clearly reduce population growth in Sydney because fewer people can afford housing there. Show me hard data proving 1) that there is a correlation between smart growth and population growth and 2) that there is a causal relation between smart growth and population growth.

-- Show me data proving that rural agricultural economies are sustainable and will not be overwhelmed by population growth. Ever since the invention of agriculture, rural economies have had rapid population growth, causing chronic famines and causing people to spread from the small areas where agriculture was invented and to displace hunting and gathering people who lived more sustainably. For a good history of this process, see Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel." Show me hard data proving that there are lower fertility rates in rural areas than in cities. Show me hard data proving that the demographers are all wrong to believe that rural areas worldwide have high fertility rates.

My claim that urbanization reduces population growth is common knowledge among demographers, and it is easy to find data to support it.

Your unsubstantiated claims 1) that smart growth causes population growth, and 2) that population growth is a problem of cities but not of rural economies, are both eccentric theories of your own. I think most people will agree that is impossible to find data to support either claim.

Rather than making these unsubstantiated claims, show me the examples! Show me the hard data!!

You are very good at demanding data from other people, but you are not able to produce a scrap of data to support your views.

(Would anyone like to wager 1) that Rick will respond by saying I am guilty of vaguely defined logical fallacies, and 2) that Rick will not respond by producing data to support these two claims about population growth.)

Charles Siegel

a logical fallacy avoided, finally.

Charles says "- Of course, those correlations don't prove causation"

And that says it all. Thanks.

Don't Feed the Troll

Again, the response is: "gotcha on one petty debaters' point. Ignored your main point. Therefore I win."

Do I need to state the obvious: you can only prove causation with a controlled experiment, which is impossible in this sort of case. The social sciences always work by showing correlation in the data and coming up with theories of causation, just as I did above.

As I expected, Rick did not respond to my request that he provide data:

-- Show me data proving that smart growth increases population growth.
-- Show me data proving that rural agricultural economies are sustainable and will not be overwhelmed by population growth.

He does not have any data backing his claims, no evidence of either correlation or causation.

I think we can all see how Rick works:

He demands data from others, and declares "I win" if the data does not meet his impossibly high standards. But he does not provide any data at all backing his claims.

He accuses other people of ad hominem arguments, and claims "I win" because that is a logical fallacy. But he uses the lowest sort of ad hominem slurs himself, such as saying that the Sierra Club just cares about getting funding. (I myself know many Sierra Club volunteers who work hard on these issues without getting a cent.)

He ignores the substantive points that other people make and instead responds with petty one-liners that let him claim "I win." Like a typical troll, he keeps several threads going at once and responds with petty one-liners to each of them, in order to jam up the discussion.

The only response is for everyone to remember the old saying: "don't feed the troll."

Charles Siegel

"smart" trolls abound

Pretty typical, Charles, of someone whose intellectual library is empty.

But thanks. It has become abundantly clear that those participating here care nothing for this planet, given that they are actively promoting further growth in high consumption cities and countries. It is intellectual dishonesty to say that you can reduce per capita consumption while at the same time hiding the fact that you are enabling an increase in total consumption.

Growth is the problem, and not the solution, and "smart" growth is just another enabling behaviour for that fatal addiction to growth.

Here's your solution to growth, Troll

Rescind tax breaks for all married couples with children and give them to childless singles, instead. Penalize couples who have more than 2 children with additional taxes.

Also, legalize gay marriage and encourage heterosexuals to try other forms of non-procreative sex.

Encouarge this in pop culture and public schools.

Perhaps mandatory birth control before marriage could be implemented, as well.

Yep. That oughtta do it.

Happy now?

mmc2068 says "Rescind tax

mmc2068 says "Rescind tax breaks for all married couples with children and give them to childless singles, instead. Penalize couples who have more than 2 children with additional taxes.

Also, legalize gay marriage and encourage heterosexuals to try other forms of non-procreative sex.

Encouarge this in pop culture and public schools.

Perhaps mandatory birth control before marriage could be implemented, as well.

Yep. That oughtta do it.

Happy now?"

Oh, no, you clearly have misunderstood. I'd rather people procreate their brains out until we are shoulder to shoulder on every square inch of this land, and knee deep in our own excrement - just like anyone else who promotes infinite growth on a finite planet.

You, too, misunderstand

Smart growth advocates are no more in favor of unlimited growth upward, than you are in favor of unlimited growth outward.

What we are saying is that growth will happen in the interim, until humanity limits birthrates to your satisfaction voluntarily and without the pressure of draconian tactics. We are also saying that urban development, itself, may have the power to reduce birthrates, as rural areas tend to have higher birthrates than urban areas.

During this interim period, we might as build smartly, rather than wastefully.

Is that so difficult to understand?

build it and they will come

mmc2068 says "What we are saying is that growth will happen in the interim."

Only because there are so many people who believe it to be so. But it doesn't have to. I note that, as we are going back and forth on this one, a new political party is being constructed right now in Australia with the specific goal of halting population growth immediately.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/new-party-wants-population-debate-2010020...

Clearly, the Aussies have more sense of the urgency of the matter than we do, although groups like GPSO ( http://gpso.wordpress.com/ ), started in the U.S. but now international in scope, give me cause for hope.

What, then...

What then, do we say to those who use population control as an excuse to keep the suburban sprawl status-quo?

And what do we do with all the existing compact, walkable, mass transit-rich, multistory urban cities that currently exist, and thrive?

Tear them down and build more suburban sprawl?

okay, now we're getting somewhere

mmc2068 asks "What then, do we say to those who use population control as an excuse to keep the suburban sprawl status-quo?"

Tell them that Rick says suburban sprawl is unsustainable too. Quote George Bernard Shaw, if you have to: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

"And what do we do with all the existing compact, walkable, mass transit-rich, multistory urban cities that currently exist, and thrive?"

Start to dismantle them before they fall apart on their own because they run out of the non-renewable resources they need in order to keep going.

"Tear them down and build more suburban sprawl?"

Um, why would we do that if the population has been significantly reduced?

No suburbs. No urban development.

So, where will people live?

On isolated, rural farms?

How long until inbreeding occurs?

And what will happen to modern technology and culture?

Yes, what is next?

mmc2068 says "So, where will people live?"

Excellent question, and one I'm still wrestling with. If Peter Salonius or Richard Duncan ("Olduvai Theory") are anywhere near correct, then we need to look far into our distant past to answer that question. That goes against everything we want to believe, given our "modern" world, but it is one of the possibilities. Any suggestions?

"On isolated, rural farms?"

Did all of humanity ever live that way in the past? No, and I don't think that will be the case in the future either. We tend to be social animals. Even those on isolated, rural farms rely on, and share with, close neighbours.

"How long until inbreeding occurs?" You're too late, apparently, given much of what is happening in the world today, especially in the political world.

"And what will happen to modern technology and culture?" Likely the same thing that happened to the "modern" technology and culture of past civilizations. Parts of it that are viable and useful will survive, but the rest will change. The evidence is there, for me at least that, "business as usual" is not in the cards, though, especially for those parts of what we do that rely on non-renewable energy and resources. And, if you think about the implications of "Liebig's Law of the Minimum," it won't take much to bring that idea into reality.

Don't forget the name-calling he does.

I have to give Rick some credit, though. He keeps us on our toes, doesn't he? We have to be, as there are so many people who really do think sprawl is superior to urban development. I get that he might not actually support sprawl, but his obsession with a future population apocalypse---though it may well come to pass---doesn't help in the search for sustainability, nor does he seem able to grasp the possibility that smart growth may well stop overpopulation and the harm that comes from it from happening in the first place.

His argument sounds rather like one I've peddled, in which I take issue with electric cars and hybrid cars, as they still require hundreds of billions per year in road spending. The fact of the matter, however, is that such cars are a necessary first step in getting Americans to think about transportation and their environment differently. I have to concede that my concerns have their time and place, but now is not that time.

Rick should come to a similar conclusion, but we will have to wait and see.

Thread spam.

Someone is simply spamming the thread to short-circuit civil discourse and knowledge exchange.

Best,

D

Speaking of sustainability

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4801

I take the last sentence very seriously. And, speaking of intelligent discourse,

http://sustainablesalmonarm.ning.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-reduce-popula...

As well, given that Dano and mmc are just predictable clones of so many others I've encountered, I'll anticipate some of their knee-jerk reactions in

http://sustainablesalmonarm.ning.com/profiles/blogs/accusations-of-racis...

cold, calculating "smart" growth

Charles says "One million people would take up only 100,000 acres at 10 people per acre"

That is an extremely simplistic statement, give the requirements for degraded land for energy and food production, waste processing, and all the other components of the ecological footprint.

However, let's do a little calculation here, using the 100,000 acres for dwellings and the land required for food production alone. I know the number is contentious and can change with eating habits, but one figure published in the U.S. is about 2 gha per person for food production alone, or about 5 acres. So, these one million people also need about 5 million acres for food production, for a total of 5.1 million acres for dwellings and food production alone. (For those about to argue the "2 gha" figure, that is at current agricultural production rates. If Peak Oil theorists are anywhere near correct, then those rates are about to crash.)

So, divide 5.1 million by 640 (acres per square mile) to get just under 8000 square miles. If that was a perfect circle, the radius would be 50 miles (which, yes, is better than the thousands of miles we currently transport food). But much agricultural land in the U.S., and all of it in Canada, is seasonal. Our current practices make food available all year round, by buying it from whichever part of the world is in production at the time. What will we do to compensate for this? Storage takes space and energy, and we cannot produce locally all the types of food we currently enjoy in most of the U.S. and in Canada.

Given that you seem to be promoting relocalization, exactly how will that work for large and relatively dense cities which are already hard up against other large cities (there are many examples)? Adding more people to those cities only increases the radius of required agricultural land (and degraded land and so on), and the amount of food which will have to be transported long distances and/or stored seasonally.

Again, it is deceptive to claim that the distance required for food transport, or the energy requirements, will be reduced.

Oh, and by the way, the biggest urban use of water is not for household lawns. Please check your facts.

Implications

Rick,

Your posts imply that you are simply against population growth, no matter the form it takes..."smart growth", "sprawl", whatever? I think the basic underlying assumption behind "smart growth" is one of growth, so then the question becomes how shall we grow as opposed to whether shall we grow or not. In the question posed about 1,000,000 people in 100,000 acres of a million people in 500,000 acres, it's perfectly logical that the 100,000 acres would be more environmentally benign than the 500,000 acres in terms of ecological footprint. But if you're comparing either scenario to 0 people, well, that's a whole different story...

Don't beam me up just yet, Scotty.

Thanks, Ricardo. I'm glad that there is intelligent life out there after all. However, I disagree with your assumption about a correlation between a smaller geographical footprint versus a smaller ecological footprint. One only has to look at the differences in consumption between some of the developed countries versus the developing countries to see that that is not necessarily the case. There are many, many other factors involved, and I believe that "smart" growthists do not wish to even consider them.

In the natural world, the assumption of perpetual growth is really the radical position. Steady state, declines from overshoot, and sometimes population crashes are more characteristic.

You have likely spotted the fact that I do subscribe to Peak Oil theory, and I go farther to say that, given human history and the current parallels to past civilizations, I believe that the Olduvai theory has great relevance for us.

So, there is one of my assumptions for all to see. We cannot afford to "accommodate" any more growth, especially in the high consumption nations.

So far, everyone here has avoided answering the question "How is "smart" growth sustainable"? Deep down, we all know that it isn't. Some here are honest enough to see that it is only a transition, but to what, and why not now? See http://sustainablesalmonarm.ning.com/profiles/blogs/smart-growth-and-the... if you are interested in more of my thinking on that one.

The arguments from authority here can just as easily be met with arguments from authorities regarding Peak Oil, social collapse, technological failures, and so on. It might be wise to consider the fact that, if indeed we are just as subject to the limits of this planet as every other species, "smart" growth social engineers may be setting us up for horrendous suffering. Even Norman Borlaug, considered to be the father of the Green Revolution, said that we must halt population growth or face some pretty dire consequences.

How many other species must disappear during this human-caused Sixth Great Extinction before we finally get the point?

Density and the Food Shed

I should have said that the biggest residential use of water is for household yards. Good catch.

Your talk about food transport misses my point. I compared a compact and sprawl city of 1,000,000 people to show that the compact city has less environmental impact. You respond by talking about the food transportation needed for the compact city. You don't mention that even more food transportation is needed for the sprawl city because it paves over more nearby land (as I said to begin with).

Do you think that there should not be any cities of 1,000,000 people? That is what your argument about food implies.

If so, do you think there should be any cities of 100,000 people? The comparison between a compact city with 1/10 acre per person and a sprawl city with 1/2 acre per person applies just as well to cities of 100,000 as to cities of 1,000,000. Higher density reduces the ecological footprints of people living in small cities as well as of people living in large cities. And your argument about food does not apply to dense cities of 100,000.

Or do you think that no one should live in cities, that everyone should live on small farms?

Those of us who face the reality that there are cities of 1,000,000 or even of 100,000 support designing them in ways that are as sustainable of possible. Whatever the total population of a city, high density has less environmental impact, as my comparison shows.

My comparison also answers your frequent claim that smart growth is not sustainable because no form of growth is sustainable, by saying that smart growth is just the first step toward smart shrinkage.

Charles Siegel

some are more pregnant than others, I guess

Charles says "...designing them in ways that are as sustainable of possible."

And again, they are either sustainable, or they aren't. Which is it, and why? (sloppy, sloppy, sloppy thinking)

Charles says "My comparison also answers your frequent claim that smart growth is not sustainable because no form of growth is sustainable, by saying that smart growth is just the first step toward smart shrinkage."

And, if the U.N. high demographic projection is true, smart shrinkage will not occur, only very stupid collapse.

Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions...

Speaking of ad hominems...

Look in a mirror, Rick.

No Substantive Response

Rick shows that he is not interested in serious discussion by not responding to my substantive question about cities of 100,000, which might help clarify the issue of whether higher densities or lower densities have less impact.

Instead, he make a petty verbal point about being a little bit pregnant or a little bit sustainable: of course, I meant that we should design cities in a way that minimize their impact. And he makes another petty debaters point about the UN high projection, though the high project is considered unlikely and the midrange projection that I use is most likely.

It is exasperating to try to have a sensible discussion with someone whose invariable response is: "I gotcha on one petty debaters' point, and I ignored your main point; therefore I win."

Charles Siegel

dodging the real questions, again and again

Charles says "It is exasperating to try to have a sensible discussion with someone whose invariable response is: "I gotcha on one petty debaters' point, and I ignored your main point; therefore I win.""

It is also exasperating to try to have a sensible discussion with someone who ignores the larger picture of what we are doing to this planet, who demonstrates such fuzzy thinking as to believe that "sustainability" exists on some sort of gradient, and who seems to believe that "smart" growth is not growth.

Again, I asked long ago, how is "smart" growth sustainable. In short, it isn't, so stop pretending, and stop hiding from the truth.

Rick, what are your public policy suggestions?

in regards to land use, urban growth, other, etc.?

A decent question, hopefully a decent response.

Thanks for asking, contrarianplanner. Rather than repeat myself again, some of my suggestions are encapsulated in these two articles (which I have already mentioned):

http://sustainablesalmonarm.ning.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-reduce-popula...

http://sustainablesalmonarm.ning.com/profiles/blogs/smart-growth-and-the...

At what some consider the extreme end of things are the Olduvai Theory, and analyses like this from Canadian soil scientist Peter Salonius: http://culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1... Follow the link at the bottom of that article to part two.

Working from my assumption that Peak Oil and depletion of other resources will decimate our economy and our global population, you can guess that I am not at all in favor of further urban growth. If the national measures I mentioned in those articles were implemented, then there would be no growth imperative in most developed countries. Locally, to stop further migration to what I believe are unsustainable large cities, just stop issuing building permits. That does not preclude sensitive and sensible redevelopment, or reclamation of areas to a natural state.

For those who believe that Herman Daly's prediction that approximately 2 billion people is the maximum sustainable human population on the planet is extreme, there are more recent analyses which predict a crash to as low as 100 million http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWduFB_RX0

Whatever we can do voluntarily to reduce our population immediately will have quick payoffs in terms of the problems "smart" growth and other schemes are attempting to address, and, as I have stated, help to mitigate what I see as the very real and looming disaster.

I look at the histories of other relatively complex societies (in Diamond and others) which also were very resource dependent, and note that they crashed because of many of the same behaviours we are exhibiting now - quasi-religious faith in technology, belief in perpetual growth, and so on.

That's not exactly what I call a solution to overpopulation

"Whatever we can do voluntarily to reduce our population immediately will have quick payoffs..." Rick Shea

That's not exactly what I call a solution to your melodramatic and misplaced concerns about overpopulation. Once again, you fail to state what your ideas are or provide proof to back them up.

Fine, then. Whatever.

What about AFTER we stabilize and/or reduce the human population via your as-yet unarticulated method?

Would you concede that compact, walkable, mass transit-rich, multistory urban development would be the most sensible way to organize people, goods and services?

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