Top urban news, trends and reports curated for the world’s city leaders. Edited by David Hatch

Urban expansion is fueling deforestation

(hilipYb Studio/

There is a direct correlation between urban expansion and deforestation, researchers say. Can a City Be Sustainable?, a new book published by the Worldwatch Institute, documents the link between these two trends.

Cities can harm forests in two ways, according to a blog post by Gaelle Gourmelon based on an excerpt of the book. Migrants streaming into developing cities often embrace diets heavy on meat and processed food. As a result, more land is cleared for livestock and grazing. Some deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon is the result of huge demand for soybeans and other crops from distant Chinese cities, Worldwatch says.

The other way cities harm natural habitats is with encroachment that destroys forests and waterways. “Cities worldwide are growing by 1.4 million new inhabitants every week,” Gourmelon writes. “Urban land area is expanding, on average, twice as fast as urban populations.”

So what can cities do? They can start by encouraging citizens to reduce food waste and lower meat consumption, advises Senior Researcher Tom Prugh, who authored the section on deforestation.

Can a City Be Sustainable? is part of the Worldwatch Institute’s annual State of the World Series. Click here for Citiscope’s earlier coverage of the report. The entire book can be purchased here.

Worldwatch Institute

More from Citiscope

Latest Commentary