1st April, 2003
With human beings about to become a predominantly urban species, Dan Box asks whether cities can ever be sustainable.
We are fast approaching a unique point in human history. Within five years half the earth’s population will live in cities. By 2006, we will be a predominantly urban species.
In 1800 London was the only city with a population over 1 million. Today, there are 20 cities around the world with more than 10 million residents, 35 with more than 5 million and hundreds with a million or more residents. Every two weeks, the combined population of these cities swells by a million more.
This rate of change is driven by the shift from rural to industrial economies in the developing world. Asia alone accounts for half the world’s urban population. Within 10 years China plans to create 100 new cities – each with a population of more than a million people. And the cities of Latin America are growing at five times the rate of their smaller, scarcer North American counterparts. The scale of this migration marks the greatest social change since agriculture began 15,000 years ago.
The growing number of people living in cities is matched by massive increases in the resources they consume and the pollution they create. Cities rely on their ability to...
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