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All Cooped Up – The Unnatural Order of Things

Touch the Soil News #442 (feature photo: ProtoplasmaKid / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Policy planners and environmentalists loosely agree – humanity’s encroachment on the world’s resources is so dramatic that urban sprawl must be converted to higher density living.

WorldWatch Institute ( does a good job at looking at the global social and environmental condition. The Institute recently published a report called: “Can a City Be Sustainable?”

From this report, emerges a disturbing number. It is estimated over 8.15 million acres of agricultural land are lost each year due to urbanization. It is numbers like this, that policy makers rally around to justify why people must live in closer quarters. For perspective, 8.15 million acres is equal to a farm that is 10 miles wide and 1,275 miles long.

The urbanizing of the world’s peoples is one of the largest mega trends today. Depending upon the standard of living, it takes almost 2 acres of land to sustain one person when considering housing, roads, parking, shopping, industry, food growing, parks and golf courses and on and on. The non-profit “Per Square Mile” estimates that it would take 4.5 Earths to sustain the world’s total population at U.S. standards.

Following are some interesting figures from the WorldWatch report:

  1. Cities worldwide are growing by 1.4 million new inhabitants every week.
  2. In 1950, there were two cities in the world with populations of 10 million or more. Today there are 29 cities in the world with populations of more 10 million or more.
  3. Sixty percent of the roads and buildings needed to accommodate the urban population by 2050 are not yet built. At present, the construction industry consumes 40 percent of all water, 70 percent of all timber products and 45 percent of energy.
  4. More than 90 percent of the urban growth is happening in developing countries.

The brunt of the ills that come from dense urban living are projected to visit developing countries, where incomes and basic services are already below par. Incidental to the conversation is that in the U.S., the average American woman has 1.9 children in her lifetime. In Africa, where mega-cities are set to explode, the average African woman has 4 to 5 children in her lifetime.

Street market in Lagos, Nigeria - the largest city in Africa with a metropolitan area population of over 20 million people. Global planners are suggesting massive infrastructure spending and high-rise towers for living. Green policy planners are saying that future cities must be heavily clothed in green spaces, vertical plant walls on buildings and massive urban food infrastructure.

Mega cities may be able to take people away from direct connection with food and soil. However, the basic need for connection to food and soil cannot be taken away from people. A response to being cooped up in a city has been the birth of horticultural therapy – finding open space and interfacing with the basic forces of life in order to find balance. Following is an interesting short video clip on horticultural therapy:

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