The IEEE Spectrum recently interview William Meyer who is the author of the book The Environmental Advantages of Cities: Countering Commonsense Antiurbanism. The book’s central thesis is that we need to change the discourse around cities from a negative one to a more positive conversation about the efficiencies of cities compared to lower density areas.
Steven Cherry: Good. Let’s go back to the list then. Cities are ravenous consumers of natural resources, true or false?
William Meyer: Okay, well, they are in an absolute sense, yes, and that’s the distinction between absolute and proportional impact. Cities do consume a lot of resources because there are lots of people there consuming, but the question is: If you had the same population, would it consume more resources if it lived in a less-urban settlement pattern? And the answer is no, because per capita, people in cities consume less. Cities are much more efficient in the consumption of resources, notably energy, but also materials, also water, and also, of course, land, because of their higher densities. So it’s true that they are large consumers, but the people who live in them are not, and, again, if we had a less-urban settlement pattern, we’d have more resource consumption.