The Spread Of Urban Cities
In 1800 fewer than 3 out of every hundred in the world lived in a settlement that, by any stretch of imagination, could be considered urban. London was the only city in the world, outside china, which a population approaching one million. Cities were truly exceptional environments for human beings. Of the close to one billion persons estimated to have been alive in 1800, less than 25 million experienced life in a place where at least 20000 persons had settled together densely enough for their community to be considered a town or city. Most people lived in the small-scale personalized settings of the nomadic tribe, the isolated farmstead, or the tiny village. Indeed, most had never even seen a big city, much less entertained the thought of adapting to life in one. Clearly, urbanization, as measured by the proportion of a region's population residing in cities or towns, remained at a very low level.
In sharp contrast to this, by the late 1900s, more than 2 out of every 5 people in the world lived in an urban place. This number of city dwellers (2 billion out of 5 billion) was twice as great as the entire world population in 1800. Approximately 250 cities in the world have populations of more than a million, and large metropolises, an excess of 15 million habitats.
For better or worse, cities have become a normal lifestyle of people. It is now a rare sight to see people living in an isolated farmstead or village with no road or trace of communication with the outside world. The trend toward universal urbanization shows no sign of abating. According to the United Nations projection, by the year 2025 some 62 percent of the world's 8.2 billion inhabitants will be living in urban places. By then, over 5 billion persons will be living in cities, while most of the rest will be affected by what goes on in them.
No prior transformation in human life has been as radical or as rapid as the urbanization that has occurred during the last two centuries. Are human beings capable of living successfully in such large and densely settled environments? What dislocations to their existence have these changes caused? What social, economic, and political reorganizations have they required? What ways have been developed to cope with the enormous problems caused by such a transformation? Can we meet the challenges created by the urbanization of our planet?
It is fashionable nowadays to deplore urban conditions and to dream wistfully of a simpler life. Nostalgia for the small settlements that are believed to make possible a humane sense of community seems pervasive. Yet we do not have such a choice; the process of urbanization is not reversible at will. We have only one real choice - between cities that are increasingly degraded and full of problems and those that are humane and livable.
How do we choose the latter? How to we improve and
improvise to the growing world population? How can we ensure a good life? That
is the ever-lasting human question.