This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Copenhagen as a Beacon of Urban Sustainability

We humans increasingly live in cities, separate from nature and often paying little attention to the resources required to maintain our lifestyle. According to BBC News, Copenhagen, Denmark, has made a concerted effort to create a sustainable urban environment. This is pretty important, if you think about it, since if most of us live in cities and we want to sustain that life, then our urban life must be sustainable. Duh! 
While Denmark’s capital may not be perfect, its successes in a few key areas provide teaching points for metropolises around the world. Family is central to Danish life. According to BBC News, parents typically receive an entire year of maternity/paternity leave (which can be spread out over nine years), half fully paid and half up to 90% paid. In addition, government subsidies often cover 75% of pre-kindergarten childcare costs and the majority of education and healthcare. Culturally, BBC News adds, there is little pressure to work overtime, leaving people more time to spend with their families. 
As is true in other northern European countries, these measures help to keep fertility higher (close to, albeit slightly under, replacement) than in southern or eastern Europe.
The importance of liveability in Danish culture is exemplified in the sustainable infrastructure of its capital city. Copenhagen is friendly to pedestrians, and perhaps even friendlier to cyclists. Nearly 35,000 people (40% of residents) commute by bike each day, causing some to call Copenhagen the number one cycling city in the world. Sustainable architecture is also central to city policy. Most new buildings, for example, are required to have roofs covered with plants and vegetation, and most old buildings have been retrofitted to meet these standards. Green roofs reduce storm water runoff and help control the building’s interior climate, reducing both utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition city plans say that by 2015, 90% of residents will be able to walk to a green space in just 15 minutes.Copenhagen is also trying to diversify its energy portfolio, purchasing some wind energy, for instance, from the nearby Danish island of Samsø. Samsø is an inspiration for Denmark’s capital, as it is an entirely carbon-neutral island that produces 100% of its electricity with wind power.  
Here is the rub, of course:
While all of this leads to much higher taxes (Denmark has the highest income tax in the world), Danes are willing to bear the cost since, studies show, they have a high degree of trust in their government.
Now, the lesson is well-known, but one we regularly forget--TANSTAFL (there ain't no such thing as a free lunch).

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