Where Pittsburgh Has the Sun Belt Beat

The city is better prepared to utilize a key resource: water.

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In this illuminating TED talk, Don Carter of Carnegie Mellon University places the future of Pittsburgh and other post-industrial cities in the context of global environmental trends and concerns. He makes the point that, like many so-called “shrinking cities,” Pittsburgh hasn’t really been shrinking but, in fact, expanding in the wrong way while its population remains stable.

Nonetheless, the city hasn’t been growing. But Carter believes that the proper measure of a city’s future prospects is not population growth but, rather, growth in per capita income. On that measure, it turns out, Pittsburgh is doing just fine. The problem with Sun Belt cities, he argues, is that the Sun Belt is going to become the "Drought Belt," on its way to running out of water.  

Pittsburgh and other post-industrial cities are much better positioned for a future where "water is going to become more important than oil." Twenty percent of the surface fresh water in the world, it turns out, is in the watersheds and water bodies of the Great Lakes and American Upper Midwest.

Enjoy:

This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

About the Author

  • Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. More
    Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. He is the author or co-author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), and Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). In 2009, Kaid was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" on Planetizen.com, and he was named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. He blogs at NRDC's Switchboard.