Are cities more “sustainable” than other modes of living?
Martin has blogged on the subject.
I have previously linked this LBNL case study that disects energy use in Suzhou, a modern city in China.
My perception is:
From the point of view of “operational energy use”, by virtue of their density, cities are more “sustainable”.
From the point of view of total energy use (“operational” + embodied energy of all living/work spaces and supporting infrastructure) the question becomes a bit ambiguous… “it depends” might be the most appropriate answer.
From the point of view of “the human as a user” (total energy use + total embodied energy of all consumer goods – food, cars, clothes, stuff in general etc.) then the “sustainability” of cities begins to look a lot less plausible.
I think the point of view of “the human as a user” is the most realistic way to view a city. From that point of view, cities look like (possibly) relatively efficient hives that are sustainable only so long as the supporting hinterland is able to “feed” it.
So are cities sustainable?
Can a city “feed” itself or is it’s existance dependant on it’s hinterland?