March 07 2013

The Dirty Truth About Urbanization in Milan, Italy

What happens when we run out of farmland, green recreation space, and forests that inhale carbon dioxide? An increasingly significant global problem is the amount of land and soil that is lost to urban development. With 70% of the world’s population expected to live in an urban area by 2050, efficient urban planning is essential to maintain a balance between urbanized land and its necessary agricultural component. Worldwide, approximately 14 million hectares of land will be used for urban purposes in developing countries between 1990 and 2020.

Soil Loss and Land Consumption in Milan, Italy

The problem is not just limited to developing countries. According to ISPRA, the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, urbanization in Italy occurred at a rate of 8 square meters per second in 2010. This is substantial, as 2% of the Italian GDP comes from agriculture, compared with 1.2% for the United States.

If we could give a slogan to the real estate boom of the last decade, it would read: “Bigger is better.” This event also seemed to be predicated upon the fact that society is fueled by wealth accumulation, instead of the very land that is at the heart of survival. And although it took an economic crisis to help bring this to light, we now have renewed focus on fixing this problem as well as many others over the coming century.

Farmland Consumption and New Development in Orestad, Denmark

One simple solution is to reuse and renovate existing buildings as much as possible. The Popularise website is based on this objective. The concept takes crowdsourcing and applies it to local development to build bottom-up communities based on the needs of citizens, rather than the often garish visions of major development firms.

Even if 2000-2010 will be remembered as a lost decade, the next ones can still be successful. This will not come easily, but hard work and innovation will pay off. So, it is exigent that we create new models of urban development, food management, and sustainable practices.

What are your country’s most pressing issues, and how could we fix them?

Credits: Photographs by Maxwell Vidaver. Data linked to sources.

Maxwell Vidaver

Maxwell Vidaver is a graduate student in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, and also holds a B.A. in Geography from Binghamton University, where he focused on urban economic analysis. He is originally from Baltimore, Maryland, and developed an early passion for urban planning and environmental design as an avid cyclist, mechanic, and commuter. His planning interests include exploring alternative transportation options, maximizing energy efficiency in new urban projects, and improving access between city users and government. Max’s goals are to help promote smart design initiatives, and facilitate community-city collaboration in order to create more sustainable, as well as comfortable, urban environments.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2013 at 9:32 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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