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Nature and the City

February 8, 2012

Nature magazine is running a Special on Science and the City (

“After spending tens of thousands of years living mostly in small settlements, humans have entered an urban stage of evolution. As of 2008, more than half the world’s people live in cities, and the urban population is swelling by 1 million every week. By 2030, almost 6 in 10 people will live in metropolitan areas, which exert a powerful pull as economic and social magnets.

That concentration of people gives rise to some of the world’s greatest problems, such as air and water pollution, poverty-stricken slums and epidemics of violence and illness. Yet throughout history, urbanites have produced soaring achievements, ranging from Notre Dame Cathedral to the mobile-phone networks that have revolutionized communication. Cities are also home to considerable scientific capital; they hold most of the world’s top universities and the vast majority of its researchers.

…The threats to cities and the opportunities they present are attracting increasing attention from researchers in many areas. Synthetic biologists, for example, are exploring molecules that could clad skyscrapers and trap carbon dioxide .”

Ref: (author?) The Urban Equation  21 october 2010 |  VoL 467 |  Nature |  899. (Image Credit : Oliver Munday)

(freely available, as at Feb 8th, 2012:

Some stats on the growth of cities:

Apparently: “In less than a human lifespan, the face of Earth has been transformed. In 1950, only 29% of people lived in cities. Today that figure is 50.5% and is expected to reach 70% by 2050”  –  “Megacities — which have populations of more than 10 million — are home to 1 in 10 people” “Cities are gluttons when it comes to resources. In 2006, about 50% of the world’s population was urban, but they consumed two-thirds of the total energy used and emitted more than 70% of the energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.” (

PS – This article looks interesting: A unified theory of urban living Luis Bettencourt & Geoffrey West  Nature 467, 912–913 (21 October 2010) doi:10.1038/467912a. Published online: 20 October 2010   (Abstract online states: “It is time for a science of how city growth affects society and environment, say Luis Bettencourt and Geoffrey West.”)


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