Archive for April 2015

Planning a Sustainable New City   Leave a comment

Pakistan, the sixth most populous country with 185 million people, grows in the last years at approximately
3.2 million people per year, generating a strong demand for new urban areas [1]. The
Defense Housing Authority (DHA), among Pakistan’s most reputable land developers, has been instrumental
in providing land for both residential and commercial use in several metropolitan
areas. In Karachi, DHA has provided urban land in phases, with such land being most desirable to
live and work, significantly improving the existing stock and allowing the growth of competitive
economic activities. When DHA started Phase 10, at a distance of 55 km from the center of Karachi,
the objective became to develop a self-sustained new city, although it should function as a satellite
to the main metropolitan area. Pakistan has had a best experience from the planning of Islamabad
by the legendary planner Constantinos Doxiadis, based on the Ekistics concept. So, the planners
for the new city, called DHA City Karachi (DCK), also followed the Ekistics concept, enhanced to
address the sustainability requirements of DHA. The resulting highly complex planning process,
resulting from an uneven terrain and an irregular boundary, was possible to be carried out by employing
advanced computer algorithms in the form of parametric design and GIS, tools that were
unavailable to Doxiadis in the 60 s but fascinated him at the end of his professional life. This paper
presents the sustainable planning approach for the new city of 600,000 people, handling physical
constrains and site issues whilst ensuring adaptation to context. Then, the paper introduces how
computing was employed towards applying Ekistics.

1. Introduction
In 2010, DHA, following an international competition, contracted with the Osmani Group, Doxiadis Associates
and RMJM, to plan the new DHA City Karachi (DCK). Prof. Spiro N. Pollalis, a Doxiadis scholar and practitioner,
was appointed as the chief planner of the consultants for creating a model sustainable city of international
appeal. When contracted, DHA had already sold almost 25,000 plots to individuals, ranging from 200 sqyrds to
2000 sqyrds with most plots at 500 sqyrds. Initially, the new city was conceived as a bedroom community to
Karachi. However, its distance from the center of the city dictated a more integral approach towards a self-sufficient
mixed-use city.
2. Project Site and Requirements
2.1. City Location
DCK is approximately 44 square km, situated inland, to the east of Karachi. The distance to the city center of
Karachi, the largest seaport and economic hub of Pakistan, is 56 km and it is 30 km away from the Jinnah International
Airport of Karachi. DCK is near the cities of Hyderabad, Thatta and Jamshoro and the Karachi-Hyderabad
Super Highway is its northern boundary.
2.2. Scale in Relation to Other International Metropolitan Centers
As a first step, a comparison with other metropolitan areas was carried out to understand the scale of the site. Islamabad,
the capital of Pakistan designed by C. Doxiadis, New York, Zurich and Athens were laid over the site.
The comparison showed that that DCK covers 14 sectors (each 1.5 × 1.5 km) of Islamabad, an area similar in
size to Manhattan, all the metropolitan area of Zurich and the entire center of Athens. Within this framework,
DCK was considered and designed as a self-sufficient urban entity, incorporating the attributes of a sustainable
and livable metropolitan center.
2.3. Physical Constraints and Site Issues
Numerous hills and a dense network of streams (nullahs) originating from the Malir River at the southwest of
DCK, shape the overall landscape of the site. A dramatic physical characteristic forming a unique topography is
defined by a 70 m high ridge, which extends along the site’s south boundary, dividing the area of the new city
into two distinctive parts. Due to the low annual precipitation and the area’s subtropical/dry climate, there is lack
of water reservoirs in the area, but with sufficient quantities of water at the aquifer. The level of average annual
precipitation is rather low and unusual for Pakistan and rainfalls peak during the monsoon period from July to
Air pollution from an adjacent cement factory at the northeast boundary of the site was a significant constraint.
However, the prevailing southwest-northeast winds alleviate the problem of air quality.
2.4. Program, Land Uses and Standardized Plots
DCK has been envisioned as a model residential development with the aim to achieve a balance among environmental,
social and economic sustainability. Incorporated supra-regional facilities within a proposed network
of local activities form the connective tissue of the development. The creation of lively communities defined by
both the new city’s future residents and the visitors, residents of the adjacent urban centers including Karachi,
will promote DCK to be a safe urban hub.
The initial estimate for required land uses is in accordance with the Karachi planning regulations (KBTPR).
The breakdown of the planned land use is residential 55%, green and open areas 13%, retail 5%, street network
22%, and other uses 5%.
The starting element for planning was the land division to provide the pre-sold residential and commercial
plots. These plots should be orthogonal with standard dimensions, to fulfill the promise of DHA to the buyers.
2.5. Social Cohesion
With limited planning and a constant influx of migrants, Karachi, a 19-million-population urban center, ranks
low among international city centers regarding the quality of its livable environment [2]. In contrast to the deS.
N. Pollalis et al.
veloped western countries and cities with higher quality standards, Karachi lacks upgraded infrastructures and
utilities, and it is in need for improved public health, water supply and energy.
3. Main Design Principles
3.1. Social Parameters as Strategic Directions for Design
The objective in planning DCK was firstly to provide quality infrastructure such as safe and abundant potable
water, security, proximity to daily activities, non-polluted neighborhoods, social services as well as to ensure
viability and sustainability. Planned under the umbrella of the Ekistics concept (Figure 1) and sustainability,
DCK aims to become a prototype city of urban design and planning for Pakistan and the region.
3.2. Masterplan and Urban Design in Relation to Context and the Ekistics Theory
The irregular contour of DCK’s boundary, in combination with its topographical relief, provided an excellent
setting of expanding Ekistics from the traditional flat squares of Islamabad to the dynamic, organic shapes of
DCK (Figure 2).
The preservation of the topography of the natural landscape, including the relief, the streams, the ridge, and
the flood areas, and their incorporation in the urban fabric became a fundamental design strategy, possible only
with advanced computing techniques.
At the same time, observing the concept Ideal Dynapolis of Doxiadis [3], we planned a linear city center
crossing the site to form the backbone of a possible future expansion of the center and the city itself. The selected
axis was organic and curved, connecting Karachi through the Super Highway to the north with the future
Education City, which is under planning, to the west.
The land use distribution and road network were organized on an organic grid determined by the relief of the
landscape and the boundaries of the site, forming 16 distinctive sections (sectors). The sectors have been
planned to function as autonomous urban units, with multiple local centers, being self-sufficient in terms of
everyday facilities and services.
The multi-center system of the Ekistics theory [3], already familiar to Pakistanis through Islamabad’s design,
is based on a fractal division of sectors into sub-sectors. Every sector is divided into four communities: class IV
communities or subsectors. As shown in Figure 3, these in turn consist of smaller communities: class III communities
or neighborhoods. Three types of centers (c5, c4, c3) emerge, each one with specific land uses. The
latter serve the three scales of residential areas: sector, subsector and neighborhood respectively. The number of
communities and the centers’ size and land use depend on their estimated population, which depends on the area
that is determined by the irregular boundaries, as well as the size of the plots, as different plot sizes produce a
different population density.
3.3. Self-Sufficiency and Resources
The reduction of energy consumption and mitigating climate change were taken into consideration in planning.
Figure 1. Diagram of Doxiadis’s concept of the Ekistics theory.
S. N. Pollalis et al.
Figure 2. DCK land-use plan.
Figure 3. Multi-center system diagram mapped on the boundaries of each sector.
Therefore the strategic location and linear form of the Central Business District (CBD), contributed in the reduction
of using private cars. It is estimated that the maximum time required to reach the city center by car is approximately
15 minutes. At the same time, the street network orientation is aligned with the direction of streams
and green corridors, allowing for prevailing winds to cross the urban fabric, enhancing natural ventilation. In
addition to the multifunctional land uses of the CBD, each sector’s multiple mixed use community centers are
S. N. Pollalis et al.
strategically located in order to reduce average walking distances between the centers and residences to 2 – 10
minutes (Figure 4).
Based on the general energy strategy of Pakistan, DCK’s energy strategy aims to achieve 30% of the total required
energy from renewable energy sources, such as 10% from wind, 5% from solar, 10% from biomass and 5%
from waste to energy.
At the same time, it is fundamental to have a minimum dependence on water outside the site. So, we framed
the water management strategy by creating two small lakes with the construction of two small dams for rainwater
management, the distribution of a distributed network of sewage treatment plans and the reuse of treated
wastewater as gray water for domestic use and for irrigation.
3.4. Ekistics and Sustainability
The Ekistics concept and sustainability have a twofold association in the planning procedure of the new DHA
City Karachi (DCK).
First, Ekistics is approached as a concept that introduces fundamental design principles, which promote the
social, environmental and economic sustainability of a new city. Specifically, the Ekistics concept is articulated
around the combination of the five elements: man, nature, society, shells and networks. The planning of DCK
was based on addressing the economic aspect of plots, the physical constraints of the site, the quality and efficiency
of the urban environment, the self-sufficiency of the community, and reliable infrastructure networks.
Second, the Ekistics concept provided a design framework through the Community Class system that proved
critical for achieving integrated urban planning across different scales. The multi-scalar spatial organization dimension
of Ekistics facilitated all design stakeholders to attach specific input on sustainability issues across different
scientific fields and different scales. The Ekistics spatial framework played an important role on decoding
problems and embedding sustainable solutions.
In planning DCK, the extensiveness of the usability and applicability of Ekistics was revealed. The Ekistics
concept is a sophisticated system for thinkers and practitioners, which was developed further using contemporary
technological means and therefore we engaged it in addressing the urban challenges of this project.
4. Research Fields and Innovation
4.1. A New Approach on Ekistics
4.1.1. Digital Technologies and Ekistics
The application of state-of-the-art computing technologies played an important role during the design process of
DCK, so that the complex demands of the project were confronted holistically, accurately and fast. So, the response
to the imminent planning needs of the project and research formed a parallel process, where one part was
reinforcing the other, producing innovative methods and systemic tools. The central methodology focused on the
modification of the hierarchical structure of Ekistics to a flexible hierarchical system (Figure 5). The qualitative
and quantitative criteria of Ekistic units are translated to a system that incorporates information technology in
combination with contemporary planning methods and techniques.
4.1.2. Systemizing Ekistics
A new approach on Ekistics has been developed to respond both to the need for informational feed to the design
process and embodiment of the urban planning qualities of C. Doxiadis’ Ekistics system. Fundamentally, Ekistics
were approached simultaneously as a design and analysis tool, possible with the integration of computational
techniques. Therefore, while as a design principle it was guiding the distribution of Communities Classes
throughout various scales in the master plan, it was operating simultaneously as an evaluation medium that provided
data on population, urban density, land use areas, energy & water demand, length and surface of the road
network. Since the original concept of Ekistics concerned the harmonious allocation of populations across
neighborhoods in an inter-scalar interconnected system, the formation of residential sectors was directly affected
by the computational output. Another basic upgrade on Ekistics was implemented through the integration of
Ekistics’ qualities, such as walking proximity, controlled-moderate population density, and equitable distribution
of public spaces. Thus, the master plan approach went beyond the orthogonal forms and was adjusted to
free-form geometries imposed by the terrain and formulated through computational design.
S. N. Pollalis et al.
Figure 4. Proximities to mixed-used centers—sector and city scale.
Figure 5. Modifying the hierarchical structure of Ekistics to a flexible hierarchical
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4.2. Parametrization of Urban Design
The implementation of the aforementioned elements has been realized in multiple levels and phases of the
project: from the main project management strategies to the simulation techniques of 3D volumes. One of the
central challenges of the project was the configuration of areas through the allocation of plots of predefined sizes
(200 to 2000 square yards). This decision was critical, since it would define the development character of each
area of DCK, configure the population distribution implicating intensity of activities and transportation loads,
and respond to the overall economic and technical development brief. Therefore, the residential sectors are
bound through parameters, such as the categorization of the plot sizes, the respective population, equivalence to
the total percentage of pre-sold plots, and the development phases of the city. Thereupon, the study and management
of different scenaria of development was feasible and could produce results quickly.
A similar logic of a holistic design management at the master plan scale was used for locating the centers in
the residential sectors. The parametrization of the rules of Ekistics on deploying centers in each community category
facilitated the feasibility studies of different scenaria in the sectors, mainly for Community Class V, by adjusting
the spatial territory, population, building density, building regulations and the physical constraints such
as ridges and streams on the area.
4.2.1. Adjustment to the Terrain
DCK is located in an area of complex topography that implies high slopes in residential areas. Slope analysis
was necessary in order to identify the appropriate areas with low slopes that permit construction. Slope analysis
was implemented through various levels of criteria concluding to three basic scenaria of earthworks: 1) keep all
ridges, 2) keep ridges more than 10ft high and with more than 15% slope and 3) flat the entire site. Due to the
size of the site, the costs for options 1) and 2) were prohibitive and the cost of 3) was chosen the optimal. Furthermore,
floods are common in the area, resulting from sudden rainfalls. Thus, the accumulation of water in the
low areas of the site was analyzed and followed by the designation of the safe areas for urbanization. The low
areas were designated for the creation of artificial lakes contributing to the water supply of the city.
4.2.2. Parametrization of Urban Design
The multitude of the experts and the complexity of the factors that influenced the design under highly tight
schedules, were managed by the parametrization of some of the most critical elements in the planning process.
The implementation concerned the designation of the smallest “ekistic” community (Community Class II) to be
parametrized and then being optimized through the modification of variables. Different types of plots configure
a genealogy of multiple variations that are generated by the codification of the dimensions of the plots, street
width, plot orientation, drainage, and the geometry of the ekistics community outline.
This process was enriched during the execution of the project, since the need rose for a detailed analysis and
evaluation of the respective road construction earthworks that are required in each sector and each partial Ekistics
community. The variable of the slopes of roads was added, so that in each design-arrangement of neighborhood
scale, a road categorization was generated in real time. Roads were categorized in segments that did not
require earthworks, in segments that earthworks were necessary, and in segments that earthworks were possible
but economically undesirable.
4.2.3. Optimization of the Planning Process
Each residential sector contains a different number of centers: C5, C4, and C3. Each center, according to its
classification and the population distribution of the sector, has a different size (Figure 6). Furthermore, because
of the irregular boundaries and the topographic relief, each center has a distinct shape. The resulting relations are
connected parametrically with the main design directions of the centers, so that the spatial arrangement of the
different land uses is assisted through parametric design. Particularly, due to the large number of case centers C3,
with 12 centers per sector in average, automation provided a better control of data and changes.
4.2.4. 3D Parametric Simulation
Computational techniques were applied for the three-dimensional simulation of the buildings at the residential
sector level. The design ranges from planning large scale areas to the designation of the shapes of the plots called
for an efficient way to represent multi-scalar proposals. This was achieved through the parametric association
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Figure 6. Distribution of community centers of variable number and size
across the sectors.
of plots with the building regulations that give instructions on locating the buildings inside the plots. Based on
the permitted building footprint and floor areas, a three-dimensional massing simulation was generated in multiple
options achieving maximum coverage. Thereafter, the building volumes were adjusted parametrically in the
three-dimensional terrain (e.g. 6500 buildings in sector 6), in order to provide both general and detailed views.
Then, by using the 3D representation of building volumes in the centers C5 and C4, shading analyses were conducted
to assess the impact on public spaces and commercial areas.
4.3. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a Tool for Sustainable Planning
Beyond a sustainable master plan, an important feature in planning a sustainable city is its infrastructure. It is the
set of physical systems, services, and networks that support the society of a city for achieving economic prosperity
while protecting the natural systems and providing high quality of life. Infrastructure entities, networks
and systems are organized under seven main types of Infrastructure that support the whole function of the city:
Energy, Water, Waste, Landscape, Transportation, Information and Food [4].
Infrastructure Planning in DCK was approached first by decoding and second by evaluating the infrastructure
systems and the interconnections, conflicts and relationships of the entities. Their final design was based on sustainability
A platform collecting information on various scales was continuously developing in order to provide a database
initially for parametric design, and later for the control and management of the project in the next phases of
detailed planning, construction and operation. The database contains basic metrics on land uses, areas, zoning,
population, FAR, regulations, phasing strategy etc. related to the master plan.
Geographic Information Systems were used to initially upgrade the collected data to data with identified geoS.
N. Pollalis et al.
graphic location to facilitate the processes of automated mapping, visualizing and interpreting the data related to
the infrastructure systems at any scale.
In combination with the master plan database, metrics on noise pollution, materiality, shading, CO2 emissions,
proximities to city attractors, energy consumption, water demand, waste generation, and landscaping were carefully
analyzed and mapped in order to create a tool that allows for a continuous evaluation of infrastructure
planning alternatives, with regard to the sustainable objectives. Through this multiple-criteria-decision-making
tool, we secured an overall surveillance of infrastructure interrelations, synergies and impacts, contributing to a
holistic sustainable planning across all infrastructure systems and scales throughout the whole city.
5. Conclusions
Ekistics formed the basis of the planning of DCK. The theory of Ekistics was extended to include sustainability
of both the master plan and the infrastructure as a key driver of the planning process, respecting the natural
world and the relief of the landscape. In parallel to determining land uses, the planners considered the proper infrastructure:
energy, water, solid waste, transportation and food, to address sustainability issues at the scale of
both the city and its neighborhoods. Furthermore, socio-economic conditions were considered in relation to the
environmental and climate characteristics to form a dynamic system whose balance contributes to a sustainable
and livable environment.
The extensive use of advanced computing techniques allowed both the real time decision-making in handling
multiple data during the planning process as well as the optimization of the phasing of the projects at the interconnected
various scales. These tools enabled an innovative planning process addressing multiple objectives
simultaneously, which was not possible without computing.
Special thanks to Arif Osmani and Atif Osmani of the Osmani Group, Petros Kanas of Doxiadis Associates, Peter
Morrison and Ziyad Mahmoud of RMJM, and our colleagues Eugenia Chatzistavrou, Demos Lappas, and
Vicky Sagia for their contribution to this project, to Dimitris Papadopoulos, who initiated this collaboration, to
A. Salim, Ε. Marinou, Ε. Tzavellou, and to the team’s transportation consultant Panos Kostaninidis.
[1] The World Bank (2013) Data: Population Growth.
[2] Economist Intelligent Unit (2012) A Summary of the Livability Ranking and Overview, August. 7
[3] Kyrtsis, A. (2006) Constantinos A. Doxiadis, Essays, Plans, Settlements. Ikaros, Athens.
[4] Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Institute
for Sustainable Infrastructure (2013) ENVISION—A Rating System for Sustainable Infrastructure.


Visualizing East Asia’s Explosive Urban Growth   Leave a comment

A winning data visualization highlights the successes—and perils—of the recent East Asian city boom.

In January, the World Bank released a monster report—an eBook, really—on the rise of urban East Asia. Between 2000 and 2010, the international financial institution reported, nearly 200 million people moved to East Asia’s urban places. 200 million! As the World Bank points out, if just those people were to create their own nation, it would be the sixth largest in the world.

These sorts of gigantic numbers can be difficult to comprehend. So the World Bank set up a contest, with first prize going to whomever could design the best data visualization to accompany its expansive database on urbanization. Data scientist Nadieh Bremer answered the call. Her winning entry is below.

There are a bunch of fascinating takeaways from this visualization and the accompanying World Bank report. The first is that China’s Pearl River Delta has grown like crazy, overtaking Tokyo as the world’s largest metro area in terms of both size and population. The area, made up of the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan, contained 27.7 million people in 2000; in 2010, it had 41.8 million. China as a whole is by far the most urbanized country in East Asia, with 600 of the region’s 869 urban areas. The Chinese government’s aggressive urbanization policies seem to be paying off.
(Nadieh Bremer)

But China’s enormous Pearl River Delta has not seen the most growth in urban population density among large East Asian countries. That title belongs to Indonesia. The graph to the right shows the growth in urban population densities during the decade studied, with 2000’s figures in black and 2010’s in red. Indonesia’s urban density ballooned by nearly 30 percent, from around 7,400 people per square kilometer to 9,400. As Bremer notes, this jump is not necessarily a good thing: It’s “likely due to constraints in investment in urban infrastructure and housing.”

Finally, the World Bank data—and Bremer visualization—draws a firm link between urbanization and economic growth. Smart policy, of course, plays a role in this: it’s hard to argue that China’s ghost cities, huge cities built by the government but mostly uninhabited, are good for the country’s long-term economic future. But as Bremer’s graph below shows, there is a link between the size of a country’s urban population and its GDP per capita.

Growing Cities   Leave a comment

​The growth of the number and size of our cities is dramatic. In the year 1800 only Beijing was over 1 million people. One hundred years later, in 1900, there were twelve; by 1950, eighty-three. By March 2015, 536 cities surpass one million inhabitants.
Our cities are more numerous, but also larger in scale. In 1950 only two of the world’s cities were home to over ten million people: Toyko and New York. Mexico City joined the ranks in 1957. In March 2015, thirty-two cities are over ten million and thirteen of those cities are larger than twenty million, with Tokyo clocking in at an unprecedented 39.4 million.
An equally dramatic increase in the world’s population is taking place. The United Nations estimates that in 2011 the world’s population reached seven billion. It took twelve years to grow from six to seven billion people; it took almost 2000 years to grow our first billion. This population growth is taking place in cities. The United Nations’ State of the World Population 2011 estimates that one in two people live in cities today, and in thirty-five years two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities.
A grand migration
Geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells has a time machine. In 1987, scientists found that all humans share an African great-great… grandmother who lived approximately 150,000 years ago. We also share an African great-great… grandfather who lived approximately 60,000 years ago. For Wells, these two points in time, where genetic data coalesce, indicate that there were no modern humans living outside Africa prior to 60,000 years ago. Using genetic markers in our DNA, Wells has mapped the human population’s journey from a tribal village in Africa to the expanse of the planet.
This migration happened fast. Wells plots it over the course of a calendar year. Imagine ‘New Year’s Day’ is twenty three million years ago, when apes appear. At the end of October our first hominid ancestors walk upright; only by December 28 do our first modern ancestors appear in Africa. It isn’t until new Year’s Eve that modern humans leave Africa to populate the world. For Wells, it was the first big bang of human evolution  and it took place in an evolutionary eye-blink. This leaves us with a big question: what sparked our ancestors’ mass migration on New Year’s Eve? What sparked their drive to brave unknown and unfamiliar terrain?
To travel, we constantly adapted to life in conditions that were unfamiliar; we grew and evolved our understanding of the world as we migrated – and in order to migrate. Wells wonders if one single fortuitous event changed the course of human evolution, if the right person was in the right place at the right time that provided the spark, but the truth is we just don’t know. This all took place before our traditional recorded history, but we do know that three archeological shifts took place around 60,000 years ago (Wells):
First, the tools used by humans became far more diverse and made more efficient use of stone and other materials. Second, art makes its first appearance, and with it a presumed leap in conceptual thought. And finally, it is around this time that humans began to exploit food resources in a far more efficient way. All-in-all, the evidence points to a major change in human behaviour [sic].
We began to think new things, make new things and do new things.
There is a pattern within us that generates and regenerates our cities:

A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development   Leave a comment

The average citizen of Nepal consumes about 100 kilowatt-hours of electricityin a year. Cambodians make do with 160. Bangladeshis are better off, consuming, on average, 260.

Then there is the fridge in your kitchen. A typical 20-cubic-foot refrigerator — Energy Star-certified, to fit our environmentally conscious times — runs through 300 to 600 kilowatt-hours a year.

American diplomats are upset that dozens of countries — including Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh — have flocked to join China’s newinfrastructure investment bank, a potential rival to the World Bank and other financial institutions backed by the United States.

The reason for the defiance is not hard to find: The West’s environmental priorities are blocking their access to energy.

A typical American consumes, on average, about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The citizens of poor countries — including Nepalis, Cambodians and Bangladeshis — may not aspire to that level of use, which includes a great deal of waste. But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy.

Continue reading the main story

Energy Poor

The world’s poorest countries consume only a fraction of the energy used in advanced economies.

Average electricity consumption

Kilowatt-hours per capita per year, 2011


United States




























Too often, the United States and its allies have said no.

The United States relies on coal,natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power for about 95 percent of its electricity, said Todd Moss, from the Center for Global Development. “Yet we place major restrictions on financing all four of these sources of power overseas.”

This conflict is not merely playing out in the strategic maneuvering of the United States and China as they engage in a struggle for influence on the global stage.

Of far greater consequence is the way the West’s environmental agenda undermines the very goals it professes to achieve and threatens to advance devastating climate change rather than retard it.

“It is about pragmatism, about trade-offs,” said Barry Brook, professor of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania in Australia. “Most societies will not follow low-energy, low-development paths, regardless of whether they work or not to protect the environment.”

If billions of impoverished humans are not offered a shot at genuine development, the environment will not be saved. And that requires not just help in financing low-carbon energy sources, but also a lot of new energy, period. Offering a solar panel for every thatched roof is not going to cut it.

“We shouldn’t be talking about 10 villages that got power for a light bulb,” said Joyashree Roy, a professor of economics at Jadavpur University in India who was among the leaders of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

“What we should be talking about,” she said, “is how the village got a power connection for a cold storage facility or an industrial park.”

Changing the conversation will not be easy. Our world of seven billion people — expected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century — will require an entirely different environmental paradigm.

On Tuesday, a group of scholars involved in the environmental debate, including Professor Roy and Professor Brook, Ruth DeFries of Columbia University, and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif., issued what they are calling the “Eco-modernist Manifesto.”

The “eco-modernists” propose economic development as an indispensable precondition to preserving the environment. Achieving it requires dropping the goal of “sustainable development,” supposedly in harmonious interaction with nature, and replacing it with a strategy to shrink humanity’s footprint by using nature more intensively.

“Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being,” they wrote.

To mitigate climate change, spare nature and address global poverty requires nothing less, they argue, than “intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world.”

As Mr. Shellenberger put it, the world would have a better shot at saving nature “by decoupling from nature rather than coupling with it.”


Nepal, where a festival took place Tuesday in Bhaktapur, is joining a Chinese-led infrastructure bank. CreditNavesh Chitrakar/Reuters

This new framework favors a very different set of policies than those now in vogue. Eating the bounty of small-scale, local farming, for example, may be fine for denizens of Berkeley and Brooklyn. But using it to feed a world of nine billion people would consume every acre of the world’s surface. Big Agriculture, using synthetic fertilizers and modern production techniques, could feed many more people using much less land and water.

As the manifesto notes, as much as three-quarters of all deforestation globally occurred before the Industrial Revolution, when humanity was supposedly in harmony with Mother Nature. Over the last half century, the amount of land required for growing crops and animal feed per average person declined by half.

“If we want the developing world to reach even half our level of development we can’t do it without strategies to intensify production,” said Harvard’s David Keith, a signer of the new manifesto.

The eminent Australian conservationist William Laurance, who is not involved with the eco-modernists, put it this way, “We need to intensify agriculture in places that we have already developed rather than develop new places,” he said. “What is happening today is much more chaotic.”

Development would allow people in the world’s poorest countries to move into cities — as they did decades ago in rich nations — and get better educations and jobs. Urban living would accelerate demographic transitions, loweringinfant mortality rates and allowing fertility rates to decline, taking further pressure off the planet.

“By understanding and promoting these emergent processes, humans have the opportunity to re-wild and re-green the Earth — even as developing countries achieve modern living standards, and material poverty ends,” the manifesto argues.

This, whether we like it or not, would require lots of energy. Windmills or biofuels would put large swaths of the earth’s surface in the service of energy production, so they have only limited usefulness. Solar panels and nuclear plants, by contrast, could eventually provide carbon-free energy on a very large scale.

The new strategy, of course, presents big challenges. Notably, it requires improving the safety of nuclear reactors and bringing down their price. Solar energy at scale requires new energy storage technologies.

“Decoupling of human welfare from environmental impacts will require a sustained commitment to technological progress and the continuing evolution of social, economic, and political institutions alongside those changes,” says the manifesto.

Until they are developed, poor countries will require access to other forms of energy — including hydroelectric power from dams, natural gas, perhaps even coal.

“There are enormous energy demands,” Professor DeFries noted. “It will be some time before we can fulfill them with wind and solar energy. It is only realistic that there will be a lot of coal and gas along the way.”

For all the environment-related objections one could pose to these paths, the alternative seems indefensible: Let the poor of the world burn dung and wood, further degrading the world’s forests. Or put solar panels on their huts so they can recharge their cellphones.

“Sustainable development” has been around for over a quarter century, since the United Nations’ Bruntland Commission proposed it in 1987.

Even then, it acknowledged its energy problem. “A safe and sustainable energy pathway is crucial to sustainable development,” it stated. “We have not yet found it.”

A quarter of a century on, the discourse has changed little. Today, the International Energy Agency states that it is within our grasp to provide modern energy access to everyone. What does it mean? Five hundred kilowatt-hours per year to urban households and 250 for rural ones.

Maybe enough to power a fridge.

China’s urbanization   Leave a comment

Urbanization Should Be Led by Market Rules

The Knowledge Series lecture “Chinas New Urbanization” was successfully held at the New York campus of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business


March 31, 2015, New York, USA – Large-scale urbanization in China during recent decades has led to astonishing accomplishments in its economic development, continuously improving the lives of its people. Recently, the State Council released the National New Urbanization Planproviding macroscopic guidance for the healthy development of urbanization during the period from 2014 to 2020. At the same time, leftover problems related to the old administrative system could still become restricting factors.


For this reason, the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business together with the National Committee on United States-China Relations held a lecture at Cheung Kong’s New York Campus titled China’s New Urbanization: Macroscopic Planning and Potential Improvement. Dean of Beijing Normal University’s Emerging Markets Institute and Professor of Economics Dr. Hu Biliang was invited to explain the new direction of Chinese urbanization. He examined how to carry forward the National New Urbanization Plan in this new period from the angles of residency permit (hukou) reform, urban carbon emissions reductions, and other initiatives. He also looked at effective measures for neutralizing their restricting factors. This event was part of the Knowledge Series lectures of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business – New York Campus. It attracted the active participation of many scholars and a large number of professionals.


Population Movement Should Be Determined by Market Rules


China’s achievements in urbanization are remarkable. In 1949, the urbanization rate was 10.6%, and in 2013 it had reached 53.7%. However, large-scale urbanization left behind many problems. “For example, 270 million rural residents have migrated to cities and towns but have no way of obtaining a household registration. Another example is how more and more farmland has become zoned for construction,” Professor Hu Biliang said. “This new-style urbanization planning was launched in order to solve these two issues and will use people-centric policymaking.”


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Picture 1: Dean of Beijing Normal University’s Emerging Markets Institute and Professor of Economics Dr. Hu Biliang


In his lecture, Professor Hu Biliang called on China to conform to the objective patterns of urban development and to change its model of singular government leadership while implementing its new urbanization policy, allowing the market and government to act in concert. He advocated reforming the household registration system, eliminating social exclusion and discrimination, and creating a new path towards a sustainable, new type of urbanization.


“To bring about a new type of urbanization, household registration system reform must take the path of emphasizing market rules,” Professor Hu Biliang pointed out. “Through reform, the current household registration system is expected to attract more people to small cities, and thus the household registration controls in small and medium-sized cities are being lifted first. On the other hand, at the same time, the development of large cities is being encouraged, which results in people moving towards the large cities. Therefore, the final result might be conflicting and contradictory with the goal.” Professor Hu Biliang proposed that the restrictions of administrative policy on the flow of the labor force should gradually change. He added that controls on the household registration system should be completely lifted and market rules and price signals should be allowed to determine the movement of population. While comparing the administrative mechanisms of globalized metropolises, he mentioned: “The household registration system should be determined by the free market. For example, many people want to come to New York or London in search of opportunities, but whether or not you have the ability to come here and find work, earn money, and rent an apartment should be the factors that determine if you can stay in this city.”



Old Ways of Thinking Spur the Creation of “Ghost Cities”


“For a long time, China’s urbanization has used government planning as the single leading factor, neglecting coordination with market patterns. The ‘ghost cities’ that have appeared across China, which have lots of housing but no residents, are the result of not respecting the power of the market,” Professor Hu Biliang pointed out. “The thinking behind the National New Urbanization Plan is to try hard to increase the ability of cities to sustainably develop, slowing down the speed of urbanization to create an environment for industry and employment, and not to artificially create a city.” At the same time, Professor Hu Biliang criticized past urbanization policies for excluding farmers and creating social inequalities. Attention to environmental protection should also be strengthened. He said: “Excluding some people and giving others special privileges is really a form of social discrimination. Now this old-style thinking in the new plan must be improved. Aside from this, the new plan does not value the critical environmental issue of carbon removal enough. These parts must be unceasingly supplemented and perfected.”


Finally, he added that: “In past urbanization, we did not consider the history, culture, and characteristics of each city. Demolishing houses and relocating people at will, destroying places of cultural significance, this caused all cities to look very similar in the end. I hope that in future planning and construction, cities everywhere will learn from this lesson.”


National Committee on United States-China Relations Chairman Steve Orlins stated: “I hope that this lecture held together with the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business will help more Americans understand what is happening in China and what the impetus of China’s economic development is. This way they can better handle US-China relations and have more business opportunities.”


The Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business strives to drive economic development and social progress through interaction with communities of high-level academics and business elites, thus becoming a catalyst of positive social transformation and an advocate of new business culture. This lecture was one of the “Knowledge Series Lectures” conducted by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. This series is centered on hot topics in China and Asia. It is hosted by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and its world-class New York resident professors, together with scholars from first-rate global partner organizations. Each month it will present different topics in different forms, including lectures, discussions, etc., with the purpose of spreading cutting-edge knowledge and perspectives related to China and promoting deep dialogue in Chinese, Asian, and global academic and business circles.


For more information, please contact Julie Zhu at or +1(607)379-5783 and/or visit our New York office.

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