The Worldwatch Institutes 2007 State of the World report published each year by Tema Foundation deals this year with the Our Urban Future issue. In this article, I want to share with you the main ideas of this study.
The twentieth century was of course the century of urbanization. Rural population which used to be much higher that urban has lost this leading position against the urban population and cities has grown more and more rapidly and in most cases, more than desired. They experienced unbelievable transformations which let behind extraordinary difficulties and opportunities. The twenty-first century will be the century of the cities. The struggles which will define the quality of the life will occur in the cities and the results of these struggles will determine the environment of the planet and human relations.
In 2008, 3.2 billions of people started to live in cities. The common impact of the growing population and of an unprecedented wave of migration from rural areas mean that more than 50 millions of people, what is equal to the population of France, will be added each year to the population of the cities and their suburban areas. The future of the humanity, of our economy and of the planet which supports us will be determined in the cities of the world and this much more than ever.
Urban centers gather both breathtaking artistic innovations and most pathetic and miserable poverty of the world. They lead the global economy but foster at the same time alienation, religious extremisms and other sources of local and global insecurities. The cities are actually the pioneers of the groundbreaking environmental policies but also the direct and indirect sources of global pollution and resource consumption.
In 1950, only New York and Tokyo counted a population of more than 10 millions. Today we 20 of such so-called mega-cities and most of them are in Asian and in Latin America. But most of the future growth will happen in smaller cities. Demographers anticipate that there would be in Africa 59 cities population of 1 to 5 millions by 2015. Latin America and Caribbean countries would have 65 and Asia 253 cities of that size. Only in 2030, 4 over 5 urban people in the world would live in the areas we call today developing countries.
The demographic and political impacts of this transformation will be challenging for us. In China for instance, each year millions of people move to cities. Although China has been more successful than many other nations in satisfying the needs of the new urban population, social tensions arise in this country. The African continent, which actually has the least number of cities, is the area where the urbanization is fastest and this tendency will obviously create increasing social, economical and political pressures in this area of the world, which is already under tension.
Most of the population growth in he new urban centers of Africa and Asia occurs in the suburban areas called as shanty towns which are unplanned and under-serviced. More than quarter of the urban people in developing countries lack clean water and sanitation and as the result of this, 1.6 millions of them die each year. The face of the cities of the 21st century is the face of a child living in a shanty town of a city like Abidjan, Calcutta, not far from a new opera building, shining business places and highways blocked by cars, which today we used to see even poor countries.
This child lives frequently without electricity, clean water and even without a WC in the vicinity. Though the quality of the air has significantly improved in most European and American cities, China only shelters 16 of the most polluted cities of the world. For a child living in a shanty town, education and health are only far dreams and sicknesses due to pollution and violence are ordinary daily threats. Our inability to fulfill the needs of the poor people living in the cities constitutes one of the biggest human difficulties of this century. And this will determine basic global processes from the security of the people living next to the luxurious apartments to the stability of the glaciers. Its very ironical that the struggle to save the remaining healthy eco-systems of the world will not happen in the tropical forests or coral reefs but in the streets of one of the most artificial landscapes of the world.
A city is a common dream. It is very important to build a dream. Without this, it is impossible to ensure the so needed participation of the people living in a city. Thats why the people that have the power to determine the fate of a city should openly write their scenarios and these scenarios should be desirable by the majority and able to mobilize a whole generation.
A city is a changing structure, rather than being a planning model, a tool of political economy or the center of the social polarization. The spirit of city the power that enables it to breathe, exist and move ahead- exists in each individual living in this city.
Cities are the shelter of the solidarity. They can ensure the protection from the inhuman results of the globalization process. They can protect us from isolated regions and from the lack of identity. On the other side, the wildest struggles happen in the cities, in their marginalized suburban areas, between rich neighborhoods and deprived shanty towns. The heaviest environmental burdens are produced here, because we cant put ourselves in the place of the existing and future generations. And exactly for this reason, we can manage to move forward to a more peaceful and balanced planet in our cities and thereby can look at an urban world with optimism instead of fear.
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THE EU NORMS, OR THE NORMS
OF BEING HUMAN?
KNOWING THAT YOU HAVE ENOUGH THINGS MEANS THAT YOU ARE RICH