The Fight Against Urban Sprawl Goes Global

Magazine Cover: November/December 2001

January 1, 2002 - The world’s capital cities should take the lead in creating alternatives to car-centered urban sprawl, according to Worldwatch researcher Molly O’Meara Sheehan, author of “What Will it Take to Halt Sprawl?” in the January/February issue of World Watch.

“As roads stretch cities to new limits, paving over farms and forests, polluting air and water, and wasting motor fuel, sprawl is beginning to seriously endanger the planet,” says Sheehan. Road transportation is by far the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions, hastening global warming. And car-centered development leaves millions of non-drivers dependent on unreliable or nonexistent forms of public transit.

“It is unlikely that the momentum of sprawl will be broken by citing studies of transportation alternatives, harm to water supplies, or public health damage in the abstract,” says Sheehan. “What we need now is for some prominent national capitals to demonstrate what a shift toward more compact, energy-efficient, and people-friendly urban design can do.”

Sheehan describes new efforts to counter car-centered development in Washington, DC, Santiago de Chile, and Prague. These initiatives follow earlier successes in cities like Copenhagen, Portland, Oregon, and Curitiba, Brazil, where local governments and anti-sprawl activists have been pioneering less car-intensive modes of urban development for several decades.


A rule excluding foreign family planning organizations from U.S. government aid if they provide abortions or counsel women about them may actually lead to more abortions, says Ann Hwang in “Exportable Righteousness, Expendable Women.” The measure has already led to family planning clinic closures from Nepal to Peru. As a result, women’s access to contraception and basic reproductive health services has become restricted, leaving more women exposed to crisis pregnancies and life-threatening methods of abortion.

With record numbers of young people in developing countries entering their peak reproductive years, family planning will be essential to manage population growth. The legal absurdity of decreasing access to safe abortion in developing countries puts the U.S. administration in clear violation of the 1994 Cairo Program of Action which declares that people should have the “right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children … and to have the information, education, and means to do so.”

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