Ancient Cities Were Unsustainable Too

Over the last several decades, researchers have examined how our cities deplete natural resources and change the climate and ecosystems of their surrounding areas. But new evidence shows that such impacts aren't a purely modern phenomenon.

"Writing for Nature’s Scientific Reports, a team led by David Kaniewski showed that the development of Akko, a port city along what is now Israel’s northern shores, coincided with a collapse of the local ecosystem, with dense coastal forests transforming into a dry, shrubby grassland," writes Colin Schultz for Smithsonian.com.

Researchers conclude that residents of Akko, one of the world’s oldest cities, taxed the local water supply and produced an urban heat island effect that helped transform the area's climate and ecosystem.

The results of their research helps to upend some common assumptions about the sustainability of ancient cities, say Kaniewski and his colleagues:

This questions the long-held belief of a ‘‘golden age’’ of sustainable early urban development. The same mechanisms that degrade or overexploit the ecosystems nowadays were already at work, even if technologies and agroinnovations were markedly different during the pre-industrial era. Accepting large urban concentrations might need to concede an intrinsic impossibility to produce locally sustainable development.


Full Story: Urbanization Has Been Destroying the Environment Since the Very First Cities

Comments

Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

New! 4th Edition of the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs just released.
Starting at $24.95

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $209

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.
$19.00
Book cover of Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning

So you want to be a planner...

Check out our behind the scenes look at 25 careers in the Urban Planning field
Starting at $14.95