Azara Blog: Half the world lives in a city

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Date published: 2005/05/21

The BBC says:

More than half of all humans will soon be living in cities, according to a prediction by the United Nations.

"Psychologically it is an important step for mankind," Hania Zlotnik, director of the United Nations Population Division, told the BBC.

There are concerns that, in developing countries, basic provisions in cities will lag behind population growth.

Observers will see increased pressure placed on resources and services as humankind becomes an urban species.

"It's an increasing trend that is becoming more obvious. People do not realise how rural the world was until recently. That is changing," Zlotnik said.

Despite almost four millennia as centres of civilisation, it was only fairly recently that cities attracted more than a small percentage of the global population. With hindsight, the 20th Century was the century of urbanisation.

In 1900, only 14% of humanity lived in cities. By the century's close, 47% of us did so. This change is revealed in the growth of the number of medium-sized cities. In 1950, there were 83 cities with populations exceeding one million; but by 2000, this had risen to 411.
...
Developing countries and medium-sized cities are the main contributor to increasing global urbanisation, according to Ms Zlotnik.

"Most of the urbanisation is happening at the lower level. The growth is most rapid in cities of the range half to one million population. It seems that once a region becomes a megacity, it has limited growth potential - there is just not the room available to grow," she said.

"Our surveys and projections indicate that all urban growth over the next 25 years will be in developing countries. In developed countries, urbanisation will remain the same or decline."

The UN team says the milestone of more than half of all humans living in cities will be reached in the next few months.

Of course urbanisation is due to the fact that you can make more money in the city and there are (often) more services in the city. But hardly anybody really likes living in big cities. People, like cats with cats, prefer to not have other people too close by. This is why in the West the ideal is to work in a big city and live in a suburban city or village. Of course the urban planning elite in the West, ever since Le Corbusier, think that everybody should be forced to live in an urban highrise apartment, allegedly because this is more "sustainable". But the bottom line is that the human pressure on the planet is not really due to where people live, but more to the sheer number of humans. That is the problem that needs addressing.

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