Rural residents are surrounded by greenery and breathe fresh air. Urban residents are surrounded by concrete and breathe polluted air.
On the other hand, rural residents live in wasteful single-family homes and depend on private cars for transportation. Urban residents live in efficient apartments and use public transportation.
So which lifestyle is greener? According to most analysts, urban living is better for the planet than rural living. But a few aspects of the question remain unsettled.
Forty years ago, many writers took it for granted that close-to-nature rural living was more environmentally friendly than living in a concrete jungle. These days, on the other hand, when writers bring up old clichés about polluted cities, it’s usually as a setup for a “yes, but” twist.
For example, a Time magazine article from 2012 noted, “More and more people are moving into cities around the world — and those cities are getting bigger and bigger. The urbanization shift could wreck the environment. … Between now and 2030, urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 sq. mi. (1.2 million sq. km). That’s equal to 20,000 U.S. football fields being paved over every day for the first few decades of this century. … In China and in India, cities will balloon. … That’s worrying because much of the urbanization wave is happening with little to no advance planning, amplifying the environmental cost of stuffing hundreds of millions of poor people into half-built metropolitan areas that often lack basic sanitation, waste management or water services.”
Sounds like an open-and-shut case, right? The twist comes later in the article: “Residents of cities like New York … tend to have smaller carbon footprints, especially compared to their counterparts in the countryside and the suburbs. Dense urban areas reduce…