Monday, May 5, 2008

Demographics and Sustainability

One of the most interesting sessions I attended at the APA Conference was “America at One Billion” – given by Robert Lang and Arthur C. Nelson (“Chris”) from Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute.


This presentation discussed the possibility/probability of America reaching a population of one billion. The presenters agreed that it is quite likely that we will reach 1/2 billion by mid-century (America rolled 300 million in October 2006), and that one billion is not an unreasonable guesstimate for the turn of the century. According to the speakers, this gives the US a growth rate of 1 to 1.5% per year, and faster growth in sheer numbers than any country other than India or Pakistan.

The growth will come from a high birth rate (the speakers estimate approximately 2.12 children per woman of childbearing age), longevity (average lifespan of 79 years) and high rates of legal immigration (nearly ¾ of which is relatives of existing legal residents).

So what does this mean for the environment? Will our carbon footprint increase in direct proportion to population growth? The speakers argued no: The US is very well prepared and trends are pointing toward greater use of sustainable principles. Lang suggested that innovation will get us out of the ‘oil age’: “The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.”

One of the many suggestions of the presentation was to think about redevelopment of existing sites rather than continued expansion into greenfields. Mr. Lang suggested that existing parking lots presented a tremendous redevelopment opportunity: they are large, flat and drained; there is infrastructure already in place, they are already zoned and used for non-residential purposes; they are accessible; and, many are transit-ready.

To view the presentations, check out the MI website (they are not up yet, but there are a number of other interesting presentations available): http://www.mi.vt.edu/web/page/957/sectionid/569/pagelevel/2/interior.asp

Image source: PeopleJam

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the many suggestions of the presentation was to think about redevelopment of existing sites rather than continued expansion into greenfields. Mr. Lang suggested that existing parking lots presented a tremendous redevelopment opportunity: they are large, flat and drained; there is infrastructure already in place, they are already zoned and used for non-residential purposes; they are accessible; and, many are

Also called "Land Banking" as James Kunslter likes to refer to it. While it serves a low quality urban use, it does allow for easy future redevelopment. Of course it raises the question of why should we wait to put the land to better use?

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