15 December 2010

Megacities for Better and for Worse

Frost & Sullivan forecasts that about 4.5 billion people globally will be living in cities by 2025—about 60% of the world’s total population. The growing urban population will lead to the rapid expansion of city borders into neighboring suburbs, resulting in the formation of Megacities. _GCC

When you hear about the coming urban age, it's really a story about rising Asia and the two countries that will define this new era of the megacity: China and India. Half of Asia will become urbanized, and nearly a billion people will shift from countryside to cityscape. Trillions of dollars will need to be spent on roads, trains, power plants, water systems, and social services. _FP
That is the projection, anyway. All very nice, clean, and orderly. But really now, what will it be like?
...the high density of people can generate problems, including health issues such as the rapid transmission of 'flu viruses and psychological problems caused by poverty and stress.

But whatever we think of them, megacities are not only here to stay: They're growing. New Delhi, for example, is projected to have 29.49 million inhabitants by 2025, according to Demographia -- up from 20.99 million in 2010. _CNN

Megacities are metropolitan areas containing more than 10 million people.
For better or worse, urban-watchers are clear on one point: The quality of life for most people in the future will be determined by the quality of cities.

Those cities will be bigger than ever. A megacity has more than ten million inhabitants. In 1995 there were 14; in 2015 there will be 21. And the ranking will have shifted: Today the five largest cities are Tokyo, Mexico City, São Paulo, New York City, and Mumbai (Bombay), and in 2015 they will probably be Tokyo, Dhaka, Mumbai, São Paulo, and Delhi.

And yet, population numbers by themselves don't determine a city's prospects; after all, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Hamburg, Germany, have the same population. Nor is explosive growth necessarily the determining factor. "City problems," one authority points out, "mostly have to do with weak, ineffective, and usually unrepresentative city governments." _NatGeo
Wikipedia article on megacities

Megacities are a dynamic sprawl of human interaction. Some of them will work fairly well, and some of them will fall into the coming anarchy. Dense concentrations of low intelligence humans will not lead to the benefits of cities which Jane Jacobs wrote about. It will lead instead to the less savoury aspects of Sao Paulo, Nairobi, Lagos, and the Paris banlieus.

Cities are complex organisms which must be fed, cleaned, energised, and have their waste hauled away. In the routine and massive power failures of third world cities of today, we see the bare beginnings of the chaos, and a growing potential for devolutional suffering within many of tomorrow's megacities. Not only will both old and emerging diseases spread through these megacities like wildfire, but all other forms of misery -- and inability to recover from more unpredictable catastrophes -- will propagate through these monstrosities.

As the cities of Europe, North America, and parts of Oceania slowly become one with the third world, we will see the same aspects of decay and a brittle inability to recover from setbacks and natural disasters. The disorder ratchets downward, and the "no-go" zones grow larger.

There are limits, of course. But what are the limits? China has no intention of surrendering to the forces of decay -- nor has Japan. But if the compulsively "politically correct" west continues to surrender to and imitate the voracious, corrupt, and undisciplined third world, we will see only sparse archipelagos of order in the middle of a sea of chaos -- where once lived the prosperous and orderly western civilisation.

Amazing technologies are coming, which will allow for a freedom of movement and a shocking abundance of necessities and luxuries. Other technologies may force a temporary shutting down of the "commons", and of free movement in the open air. In the middle of an amazing blooming of new and promising technologies, we will also see numbing cruelty, suffering, and death.

Luck will partially determine who will emerge on the other side, empowered by the best of the new technologies. Planning ahead may also be of use.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger Syncretism said...

Great post.

I did have to stop and wonder, though: In that first map, who the hell thought that Tokyo was located on Hokkaido?

Friday, 24 December, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...


I agree, it is simply amazing how quickly cities like Tokyo can grow to encompass multiple islands of the archipelago.


Friday, 24 December, 2010  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts