Let’s Empty Half the Earth of People

the suburbs

The housing pattern pictured above is not sustainable, nor is how we as a species consume the planet’s resources. A way to think about our sustainability is to think of it as an annual budget and by August we’ve already consumed our annual supply of renewable resources, meaning the rest of the year is over budget and we have to consume non-renewable resources. A way to reduce our carbon footprint to help us survive the ongoing climate crisis is to move people into urban centres and depopulate large swaths of the planet. By leaving large open areas for nature to thrive we can help the planet deal with the 8 billion people consuming all of its resoruces.

So emptying half the Earth of its humans wouldn’t have to be imposed: it’s happening anyway. It would be more a matter of managing how we made the move, and what kind of arrangement we left behind. One important factor here would be to avoid extremes and absolutes of definition and practice, and any sense of idealistic purity. We are mongrel creatures on a mongrel planet, and we have to be flexible to survive. So these emptied landscapes should not be called wilderness. Wilderness is a good idea in certain contexts, but these emptied lands would be working landscapes, commons perhaps, where pasturage and agriculture might still have a place. All those people in cities still need to eat, and food production requires land. Even if we start growing food in vats, the feedstocks for those vats will come from the land. These mostly depopulated landscapes would be given over to new kinds of agriculture and pasturage, kinds that include habitat corridors where our fellow creatures can get around without being stopped by fences or killed by trains.

This vision is one possible format for our survival on this planet. They will have to be green cities, sure. We will have to have decarbonised transport and energy production, white roofs, gardens in every empty lot, full-capture recycling, and all the rest of the technologies of sustainability we are already developing. That includes technologies we call law and justice – the system software, so to speak. Yes, justice: robust women’s rights stabilise families and population. Income adequacy and progressive taxation keep the poorest and richest from damaging the biosphere in the ways that extreme poverty or wealth do. Peace, justice, equality and the rule of law are all necessary survival strategies.

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USA Urban Population Growth Outpaces the Suburbs

Regular readers know that in the modern world an urban lifestyle is more sustainable than a suburban lifestyle so it’s pretty good news to see that more people in the USA are moving into urban centres. America is where the suburbs started and have had the largest cultural impact and seeing a transition away from unsustainable suburban living in America is definitely a good thing!

Even among those who are buying homes rather than renting, there is a strong preference now for close-in locations, where sales prices driven by demand have increased while those in outer suburbs have plummeted. Where home purchase prices are still recovering, the recovery has been much stronger in inner, urban locations than in outer suburbs.

Roughly 52 of the 73 US cities with population of greater than 250,000 showed faster annual growth (or slower rates of losses) in 2011 than their average growth over the last decade. Primary cities in large metropolitan areas with populations of more than one million grew by 1.1 percent last year, compared with 0.9 percent in surrounding suburbs. Cities switching from declines to gains included Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, both previously written off by some as “shrinking cities” because of what was perceived as irreversible decline because of the loss of manufacturing.

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India’s Tiger Population on the Rise

For the first time in many years India’s tiger population is increasing! This is great news for conservationists and people who champion the environment, and of course, it’s grrrreat news for tigers!

The tiger census found 1,706 of the animals in India last year, compared with 1,411 in 2006, officials in New Delhi announced — though they said much of the increase was due to more thorough counting.

“We have expanded the survey to cover the entirety of India now and our estimate is now more accurate,” said Rajesh Gopal of Project Tiger, the government’s tiger conservation body.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh welcomed the figures as “a very encouraging sign.”

Read the rest of the news here.

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change


Today is Blog Action Day 2009 and this year’s issue is climate change. If you’re a blogger you should join in on the awareness-raising campaign by posting about climate change. The ultimate goal this year is to influence the upcoming Copenhagen conference.

Here’s some climate change news that goes underreported: you can slow climate change by having and promoting safe sex.

In Pakistan, for instance, family planning and reproductive health services “still remain out of reach for millions of Pakistanis,” she said in a 2008 research commentary she co-authored, ‘Population, Fertility and Family Planning in Pakistan: A Program in Stagnation’.

Yet, Hardee asks, how come scientists and climate change experts fail to make the crucial connection between sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and climate change? She says the global architecture around climate change addresses mitigation and adaptation policies on technological solutions while social sectors, including health, are not sufficiently included on its radar.

The senior researcher at the Washington-based Population Action International (PAI), which promotes universal access to family planning and reproductive health care services, says it is critical that voices supporting SRHR and family planning are heard in the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held on Dec. 7 to 18 in Copenhagen.

She calls for “more people-centered global and national adaptation approaches that meet the full range of people’s needs”.

Read more about population and climate change.

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