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Census shows city growth trends that could threaten climate efforts

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Jeff Tyson

New 2020 census data released on Thursday shows that nearly all the nation’s growth was in cities. Population growth in urban environments can signal an important trend in fostering sustainable, dense communities, but only if that growth occurs in the right way.


Sara Bronin

Professor of City and Regional Planning

Sara Bronin is an architect and attorney who studies how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed, and connected places. Bronin was nominated by the Biden administration to chair the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. She says much of the growth in American cities has been outward, and not upward, which can negatively impact the climate and sustainability efforts.

Bronin says:

“Pandemic-era commentary predicting the death of American cities has been greatly exaggerated. Quite the contrary: people of all walks of life are giving urban life a chance. But there’s a catch: many of the cities growing the fastest are growing outward, not up. This is problematic because every time we tear down farmland and forest for a new subdivision, we are forcing people to drive and worsening our climate crisis. Policymakers must develop infrastructure that supports Americans’ preference for cities but also prioritizes environmental sustainability.”

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