The Exponential Population Growth
We’ve heard about it a lot. The world’s population is on the rise.
It’s been just about one year since we got the big news about 7 billion. A staggering number being that in just over 10 years we added another billion people to our planets population. I don’t want to give away my mother’s age(sorry mom) — but baby boomers like her have lived through a doubling in the world’s population over the last 50 years.
Here’s a graph to showing the growth in the worlds population and its regions.
It’s pretty safe to say, that on our current growth path, we could expect another doubling in the population; that would be going from 7 billion to 14 billion by the end of the century. In theory that would lead to a doubling of the strain on the Earth, it’s resources, and our impact on it’s environment and weather conditions.
We’re lucky, because it seems that sustainable projects are on the rise, and the a vision for a sustainable future is being shaped all over the world. Last week, after the devastating storm Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast, NYC Mayor Bloomberg and New York’s Governor Cuomo endorsed Barak Obama(who just won last night, congrats Obamster!) citing environmental concerns. Everyone is aware of a change in the climate, and whether we call it “climate change,” or “global warming,” or “that scary weather thing,” it’s here, and doing what we can as individuals and together will make a difference in our immediate and long term future. As I’m writing this, only a week after a historic hurricane, a snow storm is here, affecting New Yorkers and New Jerseyans even more.
Urban sustainability is a fancy term isn’t it? It’s being thrown around a lot, and everything from green roof projects, to bike friendly cities, and the mixing of residential and commercial spaces in neighborhoods helps lead to the end goal of lowering our impact on Mother Nature. This is an international movement, and we can be proud that we are working towards this goal.
Here are a few examples of cities working on sustainability:
1. In Switzerland, the cities of Basel, Zurich, and Luzern all now require all new flat roofs to have green roofs. Here is a link to a short article on Green Roofs if you’re interested:
2. Copenhagen, Denmark shoots for 50% bike commuting in the city by 2015 and invests in Green Bicycle Lanes for increased security and a lower impact
3. Iskandar Malaysia works towards creating a completely sustainable city emitting green house gases no greater in volume than level that can be absorbed by nature. Read the
full article on Iskandar as a model for Urban growth.
4. New York City takes a big step to creating a pedestrian zone out of Time Square, including Pedestrian walkways and Bike Paths which sees a lot of success. Here is one older article on the success of the project, and if you’d like to read a more recent article going over a proposed change to the Broadway area, check this out.
The fact of the matter is that cities aren’t working hard on this for no reason in particular. It’s estimated that 80% of the U.S. population currently live in urban environments and 50% of the world population. And, that’s on the rise.
The United Nations estimates that the human population will grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, of which more than 6 billion will live in urban environments, almost double today’s number. The increase necessitates building the equivalent of a city of 1 million every week until 2050, experts calculate. – from Scienceblog.com
And although most of the worlds carbon emissions are emitted from cities, in many cities, the carbon foot print per capita is much lower than in suburban and rural areas. For example, NYC is responsible for 1% of the green-house gases in the U.S., but also has 2.7% of the population. That means that New Yorkers green-house gas emissions are almost a third of the average. A fact I learned in David Owen’s book, Green Metropolis. New York City is also ranked lowest in per capita gasoline usage. In some ways, we can think of shrubless, lawnless, urban centers as a sacrifice to the greener country sides and suburban sprawling neighborhoods.
But, being that cities do consume and expel so much, focusing on cities for sustainability is a smart investment. And encouraging simple ideas like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and biking to work can help immensely.
In suburban and rural commuters, the same ideas apply. Originally from NYC, my family moved when I was young to the burbs in central New Jersey. In nearby neighborhoods like Princeton and New Brunswick, bike commuting seems to be on the rise, and we are seeing increased bike routes and shared bike/car lanes(which is a step). All day yesterday I worked the election in New Brunswick, and shared bike/car lanes seemed to encourage more bikers in the city since only 2 years ago when I was attending Rutgers University. Many people each hour would roll up on their bikes, park and lock it, vote and roll away. Even the Rutgers University shuttle buses are equipped with bike racks, something NYC still needs to work on.
Far way from New Brunswick, I was recently volunteering in Verteillac, France. The owner where I worked made it a point to ride his bike to the nearest town(only 2km) any time he went. When going further he generally drove. But, that little step, is really a big one. In fact, in the same town I was able to take a carpool to a city an hour’s drive away, and using carpools is another great way to cut out unnecessary car trips and gas usage.
Creating New Habits
Now with the new year around the corner, it’s a good time to think about changing the ways we think, but also changing the ways we act. I read somewhere that once you create one good habit, other good habits begin to follow. Think about creating a new good habit today.
Think about promising to bike any trip within 2 miles of your home or apartment. Two miles can be done easily in 10 minutes, can help congestion in your neighborhood, your health, the health of others, your wallet, and of course, the environment. If at least some of the 7 billion here, and 7 billion more on the way try to work towards a better future, we’ll all have one.