Thursday, June 25,2015

Stupidly dense or openly sprawling — what should cities do? (Shrink.)

“Dense” may mean packed, but the other meaning of dense is “stupid.” “Sprawl” on the other hand means to open up. Which do we want for our cities: openness or stupidity? Those who study the effects of nature on children have learned that outdoors play in natural settings stimulates intelligence, observational powers and confidence as well as physical fitness. Cities apparently make people stupid, even as they’ve made raccoons and crows smarter.

In Countdown, George Monbiot explains, country by country, how overpopulation makes urban places unlivable, while destroying natural environments and animal habitat.

A good companion read is Jim Sterba’s Nature Wars, which describes the history of people’s relationship to wildlife in the New World. First: they were a resource (the furbearers, especially the beaver, suffering near wipe-out), then for recreational enjoyment (hunters enjoying killing but not in the numbers that the first pioneers killed), and now we see wildlife as a nuisance as it invades the cities because growing cities have eaten up the wild animals’ habitat.

Although Sterba seems self-consciously choosing to be unsentimental about eradication of wild “pests,” there is much interesting factual information in this book about species and their extinctions. But beware: they guy hates cats.

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