Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Jun 28th 2007 at 9:16pm UTC

An Urban World

The UN has just released a major report on world urbanization.

In 2008, the world reaches an invisible but
momentous milestone: For the first time in history, more than half its
human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By
2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new
urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in
developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very
much on decisions made now in preparation for this growth.

While the world’s urban population grew very rapidly (from 220 million to 2.8
billion) over the 20th century, the next few decades will see an
unprecedented scale of urban growth in the developing world. This will
be particularly notable in Africa and Asia where the urban population
will double between 2000 and 2030: That is, the accumulated urban
growth of these two regions during the whole span of history will be
duplicated in a single generation. By 2030, the towns and cities of the
developing world will make up 81 per cent of urban humanity.

Urbanization—the increase in the urban share of total population—is inevitable, but it
can also be positive. The current concentration of poverty, slum growth
and social disruption in cities does paint a threatening picture: Yet
no country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant economic
growth without urbanization. Cities concentrate poverty, but they also
represent the best hope of escaping it.

Click here for the report. New York Times coverage is here.

One Response to “An Urban World”

  1. Michael Wells Says:

    Paul Hawken wrote a wonderful and hopeful tribute to cities in the Foreword to “How Green is your City?” In it he says:

    “One of the reasons population rates continue to drop is because of cities. A contributing factor to birth control in the world is the urban environment….People are leaving rural areas where children are an asset, and relocating in cities where too many children are a liability.”


    “Urban migration represents a kind of collective wisdom, and how we configure our cities will be critical to our survival. Regardless of the myths about living close to the land, cities are where human beings have the lowest ecological footprint. It takes less energy, wood, material and food to provide a good life for a person in a city than in the country”

    Hawken isn’t a Pollyanna, he doesn’t say cities will automatically save us, but that they provide the potential if we grab it.

    The essay is here: