National Geographic : 2011 Dec
• urbanization, a back- to-the-land ethic would be disastrous. ( oreau, Glaeser points out gleefully, once accidentally burned down acres of forest.) Cities allow half of humanity to live on around 4 percent of the arable land, leaving more space for open country. Per capita, city dwellers tread more lightly in other ways as well, as David Owen explains in Green Metropolis. eir roads, sewers, and pow- er lines are shorter and so use fewer resources. eir apartments take less energy to heat, cool, and light than do houses. Most important, people in dense cities drive less. eir destinations are close enough to walk to, and enough people are going to the same places to make public transit practical. In cities like New York, per capita en- ergy use and carbon emissions are much lower than the national average. Cities in developing countries are even denser and use far fewer resources. But that's mostly be- cause poor people don't consume a lot. Dharavi may be a "model of low emissions," says David Satterthwaite of London's International Institute for Environment and Development, but its resi- dents lack safe water, toilets, and garbage collec- tion. So do perhaps a billion other city dwellers in developing countries. And it is such cities, the United Nations projects, that will absorb most of the world's population increase between now and ---more than two billion people. How their governments respond will a ect us all. Many are responding the way Britain did to the growth of London in the th century: by trying to make it stop. A UN survey reports that 72 percent of developing countries have adopted policies designed to stem the tide of migration to their cities. But it's a mistake to see urban- ization itself as evil rather than as an inevitable part of development, says Satterthwaite, who advises governments and associations of slum dwellers around the world. "I don't get scared by rapid growth," he says. "I meet African mayors who tell me, ' ere are too many people mov- ing here!' I tell them, 'No, the problem is your inability to govern them.' " for how to manage rapid urbanization, but there are hopeful ex- amples. One is Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Between and 2000 Seoul's population zoomed from fewer than three million to ten million, and South Korea went from being one of the world's poorest countries, with a per cap- ita GDP of less than , to being richer than some in Europe. e speed of the transforma- tion shows. Driving into Seoul on the highway along the Han River, you pass a distressingly ho- mogeneous sea of concrete apartment blocks, each emblazoned with a large number to distin- guish it from its clones. Not so long ago though, many Koreans lived in shanties. e apartment blocks may be uninspiring on the outside, urban planner Yeong-Hee Jang told me, but life inside "is so warm and convenient." She repeated the word "warm" three times. Every city is a unique mix of the planned and the unplanned, of features that were intention- ally designed by government and others that emerged organically, over time, from choices made by the residents. Seoul was planned from the start. e monks who chose the site in for King Taejo, founder of the Choson dynasty, followed the ancient principles of feng shui. ey placed the king's palace at an auspicious spot, with the Han River in front and a large mountain in back to shield it from the north wind. For ve centuries the city stayed mostly inside a ten-mile-long wall that Taejo's men had built in six months. It was a cloistered, scholarly town of a few hundred thousand. en the 20th century cleaned its slate. World War II and then the Korean War, which C (Continued from page ) ity dwellers tread lightly: eir roads, sewers, and power lines are shorter. eir apartments take less energy to heat and cool. Most important, they drive less.