20 July 2006

So long Istanbul


This photo I took while flying out of Istanbul yesterday morning shows the vast expanse of the city. The Sea of Marmara and a sliver of the Bosphorus are visible in the background. The land below is Europe, while the hills in the background, likewise smothered with concrete and asphalt, are Asia.

A pet peeve of mine is the seemingly endless growth, sprawl, of cities that are already way too big. In many developing countries like Turkey land development is not as well planned and controlled as it may be in more developed countries. As a result, such development robs the countries of their naturalness and irreversibly destroys wildlife habitats. I have touched upon this subject before.

One idea that I have been running into lately is that densely populated, but compact high-rise cities are actually good for the environment, because they free up land elsewhere that could be restored. (For example, see this interview with Jesse Ausubel; full text requires subscription to the New Scientist.)

One problem with this approach is that the city dwellers can't be expected to spend their entire lives in vertical habitats; they also need to go on vacation in more horizontal places. And this means highways, airports, hotels and houses will continue to be built elsewhere. At the end, there is no net gain in land.

The population of Istanbul was about 800,000 in 1927; by 2000 it had reached a staggering 10 million. There will be no solution to the problem of land destruction until this maddening population growth of humanity, and the religious fundamentalism that fuels it, are curbed and controlled.


deniz said...

how can it be only so called religios fundamentalism that fuels population growth? in certain places in Africa and maybe the islands, isn't it more a matter of having children to help farm the land or go work for others and send home money?
And it's not the over-populated under-developed countries that build highways and highrises and hotels and all the "modern" gobbledeygook that goes along with it (churning up the oil sands in Alberta just to squeeze out drops of over-priced oil so that everyone can keep driving SUVs) - it's the so-called *developed* countries that produce all this. And they're the ones having the least kids! (e.g. Sweden, Canada, etc.)
I agree that developing countries have no idea about mazimizing their resources and using better city planning when it comes to an awful spread like Istanbul now is - but for that city in particular, it's not so much that tons of Muslims are having babies - it's all the villagers migrating from the poorer areas, erecting shanty towns and then being linked to the water and electricity grids in exchange for voting for whoever wants to maintain political power in the district.
I don't know what it's like in Iran or Saudi Arabia where fundamentalism is rampant - are they building terrible sprawling cities there too? London's also getting bigger and bigger but that's also due to immigrants and not more people having babies. I have no idea what's going on in China. The main thing I've always wondered is, why now?? Why in the last hundred years have we gone from 1 billion to 6 billion? Religion can hardly be the answer as it's been around a lot longer than that. Is it industrialism? Capitalism? American capitalism influencing the world? Television? Or are we just turning into insects, seething over the planet? Oh! on that topic I have a slug photo to send you!

clare said...

You're back! Excellent.

About population growth - I guess you've read Thomas Malthus? I suppose like he said (so very long ago) we will grow exponentially in number until something stops us. I was going to list the possibilites but it was too depressing...

Anonymous said...

In Arabian penisula,there are lots of immigrants from various countries. There are only few cities (since ages) developed and over-populated. Saudi Arabia is among the countries with highest birth rate average (together with USA). In African countries, i dont know such phenomenon as you mentioned, but quite clearly see the highest child deaths and lowest life expectancy instead.
In China there has been a war for population growth. So the pop. growth is at steady levels but the limits of local resources is a serious problem. Your and our answer is definitely the industrialism, at least for Istanbul it is so. The growth in pop. in Istanbul begins with 1950s. Should be glad that China isnt used to be the capitalist giant of the world. If it was so results would be quite visible. But i think events or some "powers" are pushing this country into realms of capitalism

budak said...

Every man should have a vascetomy, like me!