Thinking Twice About Growth

Although denser is inherently greener, cities whose populations boom have their own set of challenges regarding sustainability. According to this article, achieving a balance between urban and rural growth is the most sustainable way to go.

"The Oregonian has a story about local academics who are participating in a national 'speak out' on population control this month. Says Jon Erlandson, a University of Oregon anthropologist, "...You can reduce your carbon footprint per person, yet if the population keeps growing you're making no progress." Oregon, despite the paradigmatic green urbanism of Portland, has experienced that dynamic:

From 1990 to 2004, the state succeeded in slightly reducing its per person carbon emissions, for example. But the overall level still rose - by 22 percent - the state says, thanks to 700,000 new residents.

Recycling rates have risen most years since 1992. But the amount of trash landfilled has still mostly gone up, despite state mandates to reduce it, with population growth and increased consumption to blame.

Metro, the Portland area's regional government, predicts the population of Portland and surrounding areas, including Clark County [WA], will about double by 2060, from about 2 million people to 4 million."

Full Story: Is Seattle's growth unstoppable?




This is yet another fearmongering article from Seattle opposing density. For example,

Another concern is the way it keeps progress on sustainability out of reach. It's hard to reduce our impact on the planet with more and more people.

Yes, Seattle's total carbon emissions continue to rise because its population is growing. But if Seattle has lower per capita carbon emissions, then the planet is benefited overall. It's hard to understand how the author can cite effects on the planet while ignoring the effects elsewhere on the planet in the same sentence.

Also, the correct URL is

Reductio Ad Absurdum of NIMBYism

This is the most absurd application of NIMBYism I have ever heard of. Even when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, which is clearly a global problem, they only care about the emissions from within Seattle boundaries.

Of course, what matters is per capita emissions and total population (not Seattle's population). Shifting population from Seattle to the suburbs will reduce emissions in Seattle but increase emissions in total.

Charles Siegel

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