Where on Earth Are We Going to Put the Next Billion People?
By 2030, 1.1 billion more people are expected to be living on Earth—bringing the total to around 8.5 billion.
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In a new report published in the journal, Nature, authors Richard T. T. Forman, a Harvard University research professor, and Jianguo Wu, a distinguished professor of sustainability science at Arizona State University, said urban expansion alters a city's 'big seven': natural vegetation, agricultural land, clean water, jobs, housing, transport and communities.
Moving forward, the authors argue we need worldwide cooperation on a new approach to planning cities that will house all of these new people and stop our increasingly heavy ecological footprint.
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"It will require international and national policies for environmental protection, urban development and human migration. And each city must develop an urban regional plan," the authors wrote.
Aa far as where people can go, Forman and Wu said they see promise in large areas in the Americas, central Africa and Asia as well as pockets of Oceania due to its warm and moist climates suitable for growing crops such as cacao, coffee, palm oil, rice and corn.
They also said metropolitan regions should encourage and develop compact communities—like ones found outside Portland, Oregon, and Canberra, Australia—which provide space for sustainable communities and limits the loss of valuable land.
"Local officials and decision-makers will need policies and incentives to encourage sustainable development in these zones, particularly in rural villages, which tend to empty out as residents move to cities for work," the authors said.
The idea and execution of city planning, they said, should be reversed to focus on building structures around valuable natural resources, not on top of them.
"Society must think globally, plan regionally, then act locally," the authors concluded.
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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says he believes Tuesday's explosion in Beirut could have been caused by large quantities of ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
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