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Green Cities

Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment

Matthew E. Kahn
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Green Cities
    Book Description:

    What is a green city? What does it mean to say that San Francisco or Vancouver is more "green" than Houston or Beijing? When does urban growth lower environmental quality, and when does it yield environmental gains? How can cities deal with the environmental challenges posed by growth? These are the questions Matthew Kahn takes on in this smart and engaging book.

    Written in a lively, accessible style, Green Cities takes the reader on a tour of the extensive economic literature on the environmental consequences of urban growth. Kahn starts with an exploration of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) -the hypothesis that the relationship between environmental quality and per capita income follows a bell-shaped curve. He then analyzes several critiques of the EKC and discusses the implications of growth in urban population and surface area, as well as income. The concluding chapter addresses the role of cities in promoting climate change and asks how cities in turn are likely to be affected by this trend.

    As Kahn points out, although economics is known as the "dismal science," economists are often quite optimistic about the relationship between urban development and the environment. In contrast, many ecologists and environmentalists remain wary of the environmental consequences of free-market growth. Rather than try to settle this dispute, this book conveys the excitement of an ongoing debate. Green Cities does not provide easy answers complex dilemmas. It does something more important -it provides the tools readers need to analyze these issues on their own.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-4814-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Business, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Does growth hurt or help the urban environment? The answer, in a nutshell, is “both.” Rapid growth in Asia has caused ambient particulate levels in at least twenty-five cities to rise above three times the World Health Organization’s standard of 90 micrograms per cubic meter, and the mountains of refuse skirting Mexico City have become notorious worldwide. But in other parts of the world, many cities have made a dramatic quality of life comeback while continuing to grow.

    In nineteenth-century New York, to take a striking example, many urbanites contended daily with fouled water, soot-darkened air, and deafening noise—to...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Measuring Urban Environmental Quality
    (pp. 8-29)

    When asked to name a green city, many people would say San Francisco or Vancouver, but few would say Houston. Why? What determines whether a city should be considered green or brown? What yardsticks should be used when comparing cities or creating city rankings?

    Ecologists, public health experts, and economists approach this task in different ways. Ecologists focus on measuring changes in natural capital stocks over time. Public health researchers seek to measure the excess morbidity and mortality risk associated with diseases caused by pollution exposure.¹ Economists examine urban home prices and wages to see whether people are paying a...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Urban Environmental Kuznets Curve
    (pp. 30-49)

    In 1940 New York City had more air pollution than in 1800; in 2000 it had less air pollution than in 1940. Today, an industrializing city like Bangkok features higher pollution levels than either a poor city like Accra or a rich city like Paris. Whether one compares the same city’s pollution levels over time or pollution levels across cities today, an interesting pattern emerges. By many indicators environmental quality initially declines as poorer cities develop, but as growth continues, a turning point is eventually reached, and thereafter, environmental quality improves as income rises. This distinctive pattern is known as...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Income Growth and the Urban Environment: The Role of the Market
    (pp. 50-66)

    Market forces play a fundamental role in shaping the urban environmental Kuznets curve. Rising income levels lead to changes in the urban economy’s consumption and production patterns that have the unintended benefit of greening the city. Most important, people in richer cities are more likely to consume higher-quality products and to work in the service sector. These behavioral changes help offset the pollution-causing effects of increasing scale and put the economy on the downward slope of the EKC.

    A millionaire could afford to purchase ten times as much of the same goods as a person who makes $100,000 a year....

  8. CHAPTER 5 Income Growth and Greener Governance
    (pp. 67-92)

    Despite the forces outlined in the previous chapter, market-driven choices are unlikely to produce green cities on their own. For example, despite the tendency of richer consumers to trade up to lower-emission cars, it’s hard to imagine that car manufacturers would have focused on reducing emissions to the same extent in the absence of legislation like the Clean Air Act.¹ Similarly, left to their own devices, consumers may have difficulty determining which products are truly green. Regulation, such as the Organic Foods Production Act, which sets standards for the production and processing of organic products, can help with such tasks....

  9. CHAPTER 6 Population Growth and the Urban Environment
    (pp. 93-109)

    The environmental Kuznets curve is based on the relationship between per capita income growth and the environment. The mechanisms that drive this relationship are the subject of the previous two chapters. But other varieties of urban growth—notably population and spatial growth–also help determine local environmental quality. This chapter focuses on how population growth affects urban “greenness,” particularly in developing countries where it is commonly accompanied by increasing population density in urban areas.

    Urban population growth is a key driver of environmental degradation. As more people crowd into cities, the problems of urban air pollution, water pollution, and solid...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Spatial Growth: The Environmental Cost of Sprawl in the United States
    (pp. 110-129)

    Since the end of World War II, most of the growth in U.S. metropolitan areas has taken place in the suburbs.¹ In 1940, 48 percent of the U.S. population lived in a metropolitan area, and 68 percent of metropolitan area residents lived in center cities. By 1990 the first figure had grown to 78 percent, and the second had fallen to 40 percent.² In 1970 the average urbanite lived in a community with 10,452 people per square mile. By 2000 urban population density had fallen over 25 percent, with the average metropolitan area resident living at a density of 7,358...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Achieving Urban and Global Sustainability
    (pp. 130-137)

    Soon most people around the world will live and work in capitalist cities. Thus the quality of life of billions of people hinges on whether free-market economic development fosters the growth of green cities. This issue has generated a spirited debate. On one side stand environmentalists, who use the ecological footprint as their key indicator of overall sustainability. They argue that development and urbanization translate into greater demand for resource-intensive goods such as cars and free-standing homes. Producing, using, and disposing of such goods will require constantly increasing resources and generate growing amounts of pollution and waste. The result, environmentalists...

  12. References
    (pp. 138-150)
  13. Index
    (pp. 151-160)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 161-161)