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C200: Who Needs Cities?

2011 March 17
by Gene Duvernoy

< Cities need to be welcoming to all - such as this sidewalk scene from Seattle’s Capitol Hill; photo: Bradley Hanson >

I’m now told that cities are necessary to save the planet. Let’s get this straight. Nature doesn’t need our cities. Nature will bound across the countless fronts opened by what may be the latest great die-off. Time will move on, there’ll be a spanking new world ecology, and our heedless tenure will be so last geologic era.

Now that we’re past this bit of hubris, let’s get over our ambivalence and admit it is we who need cities. Desperately. We are busy adding 175 thousand people a day to the 6.9 billion people already here. At this mind boggling rate, cities are the best way to not become the next late, great bipedal species.

Cities inherently are an efficient way for us to live. They reduce growth pressure on our farm, forest and wild landscapes so these lands continue to do what they do best—provide the life support that we now call eco-system services. Cites can intensively aggregate capital needed for infrastructure to mitigate our untidy existence from solid waste to air pollution.

So let’s try out something new: promise. Let’s fulfill the promise of building cities people are drawn too, worthy of our children, and welcoming to all. Places of grace that have room for nature alongside and within.

Success will need strong civic institutions. The payoff will be a stronger civic life. Learning to live well in our built environment will help us all to live better together.

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Gene Duvernoy is President of the Cascade Land Conservancy.

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