“Urban growth involves one of the most extreme forms of ecological stress and land alteration.”
A recent study published in Nature’s open access journal Scientific Reports “questions the long held belief of a ‘golden age’ of sustainable early urban development.” Researchers examined the past 6000 years of ecological history of the city of Akko, Israel. Akko (or Acre) was selected in part because it is one of the longest continuously inhabited sites on earth—having being settled in the Early Bronze Age about 3000 BCE—and has a well-documented ecological history.
Researchers were able to juxtapose the city’s ecological history with the history of human settlement and draw conclusions regarding the sustainability of urban development.
Researchers found that Mediterranean forest quickly gave way to a shrub-steppe landscape very shortly after the appearance of the large urban structures of the Middle Bronze Age. Other possible explanations such as non-anthropogenic climatic changes were examined but could not account for the changed landscape and the lost forest.
Increased agricultural production, commercial activity, and industrial activity “led to increased demands on local ecosystems…and to an encroachment on and a loss of natural biotopes” which necessarily means a loss of wildlife; the dead cityscape replaced the living landscape.
As population and population density grew, demands for water naturally increased. Drawing increased amounts of water from natural reservoirs prevented those reservoirs from mitigating the harm caused by human activity as they otherwise would have.
The same mechanisms that degrade or overexploit the ecosystems nowadays were already at work, even if technologies and agro-innovations were markedly different during the pre-industrial era.
Accepting large urban concentrations might need to concede an intrinsic impossibility to produce locally sustainable development.”
Human beings are a part of nature but the alien and artificial habitat of the city is not.
Cities are a failed experiment.