Cities offer lessons on how to solve environmental crises, argues Benfield.
"[W]hat we realize now, many of us anyway, is that cities and towns – the communities where for millennia people have aggregated in search of more efficient commerce and sharing of resources and social networks – are really the environmental solution, not the problem: the best way to save wilderness is through strong, compact, beautiful communities that are more, not less, urban and do not encroach on places of significant natural value. As my friend who works long and hard for a wildlife advocacy organization puts it, to save wildlife habitat we need people to stay in "people habitat."
For our cities and towns to function as successful people habitat, they must be communities where people want to live, work and play. We must make them great, but always within a decidedly urban, nonsprawling form. As it turns out, compact living – in communities of streets, homes, shops, workplaces, schools and the like assembled at a walkable scale – not only helps to save the landscape; it also reduces pollution and consumption of resources. We don't drive as far or as often; we share infrastructure. While recent authors such as Edward Glaeser and David Owen are sometimes excessive in extolling the virtues of urban density without giving attention to the other things that make cities attractive and successful, they are absolutely right that city living reduces energy consumption, carbon emissions and other environmental impacts."