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Cities

Briefing: Urban populations multiply

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Urban development put to the test
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Graph: an urban world
Almost half the world’s population now live in cities, and this proportion is set to grow.

Cities can be great places to live – lively, dynamic and full of opportunity. But they can also be overcrowded, crime-ridden and dirty. Urban poverty is on the increase, with more than half the population in some cities living in slums and squatter settlements.

Cities take up less than 2% of the Earth's land surface, but use 75% of the resources we take from the Earth. In other words, they have large ecological footprints.

London’s footprint is 120 times the size of the city, drawing on resources from the wheat prairies of Kansas, the tea gardens of Assam and the copper mines of Zambia.

But does the wealth they generate justify their large ecological footprints, and can development polices reduce them?

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