Preview | Tom Prugh

Cities lie at the root of under-appreciated sources of carbon emissions: deforestation and changes in land use. With the influx of migrants, cities often expand into areas of natural habitat, including forests. Even more importantly, urban growth drives deforestation as rural migrants move to cities and adopt city-based lifestyles, using more resources as their incomes rise and as their diets shift from starchy staples to a greater share of animal products and processed foods. This, in turn, drives land clearance for livestock grazing and fodder.

The impact of urban expansion can, in principle, be attenuated by focusing on proven methods of shaping urban form to emphasize compact development and higher densities. The so-called wealth effect, on the other hand, presents a thornier issue.

“The impacts may be difficult to quantify, but it appears that there is some urgency in attempting to mitigate urbanization’s direct and indirect destruction of forests.”

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