Although rural residents in poorer countries can exert minimal impact upon their environment, the exact opposite is true of their counterparts in our country. This is because richer rural residents possess both the means and the motive to travel long distances to gain access to urban amenities. As a result, cities might not be as bad for the environment as some have imagined.
The reasoning is simple. Concentrating a bigger population in a smaller space means that fewer resources are consumed in getting them from the suppliers to their end consumers. This is applicable to food, to toiletries, to utilities, and almost all products and services that can be imagined. As a result, mid- and high-rise apartment buildings can be considered essential to sustainable cities.
Still, encouraging urban living as a means of reducing environmental impact isn’t as simple as providing the incentives and then letting it build its own momentum. Modern cities must consume enormous amounts of resources, meaning that even short-term disruptions to the logistics that provide those resources can result in enormous suffering. Good urban planning is needed to ensure that the urban population boom doesn’t cause a fall in local living standards.
Live in the city? Feel good about it. Now, hop on your bike instead of driving to the grocery store…