Mastering Our Urban Future

By the end of this century, ten billion people will inhabit our planet, with 8.5 billion living in cities. This could be the stuff of nightmares; but, with sufficient political will, vision, and creativity – along with some simple, practical policy changes – we may be able to create cities of dreams.

NEW YORK – By the end of this century, ten billion people will inhabit our planet, with 8.5 billion living in cities. This could be the stuff of nightmares. But, with sufficient political will, vision, and creativity – along with some simple, practical policy changes – we may be able to create cities of dreams.

Cities are hubs of economic and social power. They drive national and global development by concentrating skills, ideas, and resources in a single location. But rapid urban development comes at a heavy cost. As cities expand, they swallow up land that would otherwise be used for food production. They drain water supplies, account for almost 70% of global energy use, and generate more than 70% of greenhouse-gas emissions.

If global growth is to be sustainable and equitable, we will need to alter the balance between rapid urbanization and the unrelenting consumption of resources that it fuels. This is a main goal of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which has warned of the unprecedented pressures that economic growth will impose in coming decades on infrastructure (especially transportation), housing, waste disposal (especially of hazardous substances), and energy supplies.

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