The Urban Jungle Is The Most Environmentally Sound

Dear Hippie in the Woods,

Are you looking to help the environment? Then get out of the woods. By living in a forest you are doing no good, unless you walk around all day foraging. If you really want to do good by Mother Nature move into a cramped studio apartment in Manhattan and watch movies about the forests. You see, in the city, you’re part of a bigger mass, everything’s closer and therefore better for the environment. When you drive to the Whole Foods in your car from your woodsy pad, you’re doing a greater disservice to the Earth than when you take a subway to the Gristedes in New York. Or that’s what Edward L. Glaeser, economics professor at Harvard, says today on the Times’ Economix blog, anyway.

Economix: In almost every metropolitan area, we found the central city residents emitted less carbon than the suburban counterparts. In New York and San Francisco, the average urban family emits more than two tons less carbon annually because it drives less. In Nashville, the city-suburb carbon gap due to driving is more than three tons. After all, density is the defining characteristic of cities. All that closeness means that people need to travel shorter distances, and that shows up clearly in the data.

While public transportation certainly uses much less energy, per rider, than driving, large carbon reductions are possible without any switch to buses or rails. Higher-density suburban areas, which are still entirely car-dependent, still involve a lot less travel than the really sprawling places. This fact offers some hope for greens eager to reduce carbon emissions, since it is a lot easier to imagine Americans driving shorter distances than giving up their cars.

[Via: Huff Po]

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