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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Are cities growing too much?
Slums and High-rises in Bombay, India

Anna Kajumulu Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat was our guest on Talking Point.

Humans are on the brink of a historic turning point - changing from being a rural to an urban species, a new United Nations report says.

According to UN-Habitat, 60% of the world's population will be living in cities by 2030.

The urban population will grow from 2.86 billion to nearly five billion.

The report says that nearly 200 million people are now on the move in search of better lives, mostly in Africa and Asia.

But it warns that the benefits of international migration - multicultural cities, economic growth, and higher incomes - are rapidly being offset by increased poverty, diminishing social safety nets for the poor, and rapidly expanding slums.

Are cities growing too much? Will governments be able to cope with the demands of rapid urbanisation? What would the impact for rural areas be if people keep moving to cities? What should urban planners consider when building 21st Century cities?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

A forest turned into a massive shopping centre
Bryan Short, Minnesota, USA
Some cities in the US are growing by up to 7% per year. My town (30,000) is growing by 2% per year, and the effects are horrible on the environment. Farmland turned into a 1000-home subdivision, a forest turned into a massive shopping centre. The sprawl never ends!
Bryan Short, Minnesota, USA

Cities are simply growing in response to population growth. The result will be higher land prices (and taxes) in rural areas and a marked decrease in the quality of living. As long as the world is doing nothing to reduce world population, and actually encourage it then there is no solution. Future urban (land) planners will have to focus on increasing the quality of living and looming problems such as pollution, and water supplies, and the large issue of potential worldwide epidemics of disease.
Pete, USA

On the basis of current government policy, Britain will eventually consist of about forty urban centres importing food from abroad, with the countryside consisting of nothing more than holiday homes and wind turbines. Welcome to the future!
Joseph Wilkinson, Whitehaven, UK

Living in a city is fine if you are young and can afford to enjoy all the facilities it offers, but I'd rather be poor or elderly within a rural community. Cities aren't the natural home of humans, but they suit governments, communications providers and big companies, and being wealthy the heads of government, communications and big companies like being based there. I don't think the rest of us will have much choice against these odds.
Diana, London, UK

This huge migration to the cities and the urban explosion is part of a cycle. When the wheel comes up, we will see a reverse migratory trend. It has already started, with the more affluent seeking out the relative calm and peace of the villages. As property prices go down, the middle classes are sure to follow. But then again, if more people opt for the countryside, it's going to become another stylised version of a city. And is that a good thing?
Ramya, Hertfordshire

Governments and organizations fail to see the importance of rural regions
Hasnain Khimji, New York, USA
Urban life is often over-glamorized by the media, offering larger than life promises for any immigrant. Rural regions of the world carry abundant natural resources that have not been tapped. Governments and organizations fail to see the importance of Rural regions to the overall system of world-life. What is being done to enhance rural living in developing countries?
Hasnain Khimji, New York, USA

Cities are stimulating, but they are not sustainable because of the density. Garbage and other environmental problems can't be overcome, but compensated for a little bit. People here lament the high number of homeless people and their high visibility, for U.S. standards. They think we're being too generous in our social services. I don't agree. But San Francisco is sought out by people of all classes and walks of life, so I don't wonder what it is we're doing wrong. Most people move to cities because of problems where they already are, and those causes need to be dealt with compassionately. When people get territorial or tribal and develop preferentially, people will be oppressed and need to move, or think they'll ride the coattails of where preference seems to be given.
Jim Haber, San Francisco, CA USA

We currently have a system in which the rural regions of the world-especially in poor countries-work to support the Urban system through the supply of resources and commodities. How can this flow of energy be turned around so that the Urban system works to support Rural regions as well?
Hasnain Khimji, New York, USA

Urbanization and related problems will be a major concern of this century.
Abraham Karammel, Mainz, Germany
In a world which is becoming increasingly complex and dynamic, most people, including their leaders are failing to understand the problems and find solutions thereof. Urbanization and related problems will be a major concern of this century. If one observes development efforts in many parts of the world, one will easily recognize that very effective solutions have evolved and are in practice in many places. Porto Alegre has successfully managed acute socio-economic problems in that Brazilian city; their solution, 'Participatory Budgeting' is now a world famous model and is emulated in Germany and other countries. In spite of the communication revolution through the TV, Internet etc many leaders and people do not know about this. As countries and localities are quite different within even small areas, popularization of success models like Participatory Budgeting, and their local adaptation is the only solution for the World.
Abraham Karammel, Mainz, Germany

Isn't it the case that sustainable cities depend on sustainable rural communities? In my view, unless we enhance sustainable rural economies and employment, we can't have cities that are viable.
Obiba Afrikani, New York, USA

If people are moving to cities, there must be something that is attracting them. Are cities so bad, after all? Rural areas do have one big advantage, and that is the feeling of living in a community (rather than anything that has to do with agriculture). Community gives identity, a sense of belonging. The best cities are actually those that still keep this sense of community in urban 'villages'. Perhaps urban planners should plan more community centres and well-defined zones within cities.
John Zammit, Valletta, Malta

One of the biggest challenges we face is to find a new urbanism that is flexible enough to accommodate a continual influx of population. Such a growth pattern seems to follow an organic model open to continual change and reorganisation.
Gopesa Paquette, Quebec, Canada

It is the impoverishment of the rural economy that lies at the heart of the problem
Tom, Netherlands
The growth in use of the internet and the telecommunications revolution already exports keyboard industries such as call centres around the world. Many offices no longer require geographical proximity to their clients for success. It may be better to provide real incentives to create such small enterprises in rural areas. It is the impoverishment of the rural economy that lies at the heart of the problem, and is the cause of the migration to the cities.
Tom, Netherlands

I'm a Londoner born and bred and I love this city and the way it's developing. I love cities to be big, bright, fun and noisy. I also think that the international migrants coming to London make it a more interesting and varied place. Large cities should be multicultural world and national centres, with all the buzz and vibes that brings. I love being able to go to different areas of one city and experience many different cultures through them, such as Chinese, West Indian, and Asian. The bigger and more varied the city, the better!
Kathryn Bradford, London, England

High population density can be blamed for a lot of the social problems that exist. Places where you don't know your neighbours, where you are afraid to make eye contact, where everyone is anonymous and no-one feels any fellowship or responsibility towards others - it's a recipe for breeding crime, delinquency and mental illness.
Abby O'Neil, Daventry

People and diversity are what makes cities
Jim, Ashtead
Having lived in NYC, Paris and London I love them all. The math of population growth says they have to grow. Urban sprawl and rural planting of urban populations just pollutes the countryside and disperse urban problems over a wider area. The answer is thoughtful and forward thinking urban planning and maintenance. There is nothing inherently wrong with high rises if living space, both internal and external is built into them and micro-communities planned and anticipated. Equally important is infrastructure especially road, public transport, urban green spaces and public safety. People and diversity are what makes cities. Creativity forward thinking can make the urban future an enriching one, with the countryside preserved for all to enjoy.
Jim, Ashtead

Overcrowding always seems to produce problems - poor physical and mental health, violence, social and political unrest and numerous and widespread environmental problems. If we don't find a reasonable solution to reduce the human population as a whole - as well as its growing density in cities, some other, less palatable "solution" will almost certainly happen.
Edwood, Malvern, UK

Being from a big city, most poor people there want to leave it, for a slower simpler life. Governments can offer programs for low income families to move to rural areas to help the decreasing population. That way the people who want to move can and the people you want to be in the city can feed off the work of the farmers who want to be there.
Camron Johnson, NYC, USA

Mankind as a whole is welcome to become an urban species - I for one will be doing my best to avoid ever living in a city. After a countryside childhood, a town is bad enough!
Stu, Warwick

In the past 38 years, I have witnessed the one huge urban sprawl spanning from Ensenada, Baja California to Santa Barbara and working its way through the desert towards Las Vegas. And we still have housing shortages. Problems: healthcare, education facilities, water/electricity shortages, traffic all hours of the day and so forth. One attempts to escape to a rural area and within 20 years, it's become urban. It's only going to worsen.
Anonymous, Orange County, California

Create facilities in all the rural areas
Dr.S. Shanmugam, Tirunelveli, India
Any step in this direction is not properly programmed by any of the governments in the world till date. Best thing is to create facilities in all the rural areas. So, there won't be migration to cities. This is the only way out. All other ideas won't work.
Dr.S. Shanmugam, Tirunelveli, India

Cities only grow with population increase. Look at the cause and suggest a way to reduce the world population.
Bill Potter, Telford, England

As our cities evolve so to must its inhabitants. Recycling, healthy living and community development are issues that will become more urgent.
Graeme Findlay, London (Scottish)

Firstly, as more and more people become dissociated from the planet by inevitably experiencing less of where their food comes from (it doesn't actually grow in supermarkets), there will be greater alienation and disrespect for our planet, I fear.
JC, Hampshire, UK

This has been going on for 500 years. Why is it a crisis now? Most of these people move by choice for a better life. Having grown up living off the land on a homestead, I am now very happy to live in the city, go to a cinema or coffee shop, and let the big commercial farmers grow my food. I just have to take the bad with the good.
Kurt, Baton Rouge, USA

I live in Rome. This is a big city and the life has a very frenetic rhythm. I love my city but I would like to live in the country, without traffic, smog and pollution.
Veronica, Roma, Italy

What annoys me is the amount of derelict property and land in cities. Town planners all want to build and build all over new countryside but ignore the brown field sites. The result is a patchwork of dereliction and affluence and the countryside gets eaten up rapidly.
Gavin, London UK

We should look at the problem from its origin
Hassan Suleri, Lahore, Pakistan
The real point of concern is why populace has decided to move from their rural livings, what are the reasons behind this and what actions can be taken to prevent this from happening. We should look at the problem from its origin.
Hassan Suleri, Lahore, Pakistan

In either the urban, or rural setting, achieving sustainable economic activity, environmental preservation, and acceptable standard of living for all the world's inhabitants is the great challenge of the 21st century.
Steve, Anchorage, USA

The decrease of rural population affects local industries, such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The self-supply of foods has not only economic but also cultural importance. Well-planed governmental policies towards these industries are particularly important to maintain rural industry attractive especially for young people.
Ms. Miho Ishihara, Nagoya, Japan

Assuming that the migration being referred to is that from villages to cities, it seems that the path lies in turning villages into towns so that people do not have to move away from their settled lives in the countryside to highly chaotic and financially depleting city dwellings in order to avail of an urban lifestyle and urban facilities. How this is to be done is the moot question and the answers would have to be found by involving people at all levels - the UN down to individual citizens of the world.
Pranab Biswas, Delhi, India

Living a modern life have been the wish of most people and this has partly played a significant role in the rapid expansion of most cities in Africa were conditions in the rural areas leaves much to be desired. But this development is not healthy one in the sense that governments have had loose control given rise to slums which have become save havens for uncultured practises.
Osei Victor, University of Cape Coast, Ghana

The main problem is the lack of money available for new investments
Leandro Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In Brazil we face this problem since 1888 when slavery was banned. At that time the black population had nowhere to live but in slums. Nowadays the only way to provide decent houses for the poor people is building them at low costs. Thus the people have the opportunity to pay for the investment. But the main problem is the lack of money available for new investments in projects like that in poor countries.
Leandro Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

We are sadly feeding the uncontrollable machine that is advanced capitalism. The system was supposed to serve mankind, not mankind the system. The incentives in the system are skewed, and we will suffer the social-environmental consequences.
Lawrence, New York

I think it is about time we shifted our thinking from decades-old laments (e.g. "Cities are in constant crisis.") and conventional prescriptions (e.g. "Governments should do this or that"). There are effective efforts right under our noses. As I describe in my forthcoming book, Planning for the Unplanned: Recovering from Crises in Megacities, crisis recovery programs such as "Renovacion Habitacional" Popular in Mexico City have been successful in not only returning to normal living conditions but also improved the quality of life. Let us spend more of our time on finding out what works, and why.
Aseem Inam, Ann Arbor, USA

What alternative is there? Have we seen any meaningful and realistic plans for the development of our cities? Tee bottom line is money and birth control. Are we ready fir it?
Haraldur Blondal, Reyjavik, Iceland

From Studies of population growth that we carried out, a pattern is that poorer countries seemed to have high birth rates, partially due to the high mortality rates. This type of growth was evident during the 17-19th century in England, but this has begun to slow. In fact we believe the population in Europe will begin to decrease, due to rising costs of children and house prices.

The problem lies in trying to encourage the same in poorer countries. If we help overcome problems such as Aids and other diseases, parents in these countries will no longer have to have so many children as death rates will drop and so will the need for children to work the land that they leave behind. Hopefully this will stop things like the use of countryside as housing development areas.
Peter Fennell, Liverpool, England

We are 16 years old and we live in a suburb near Rome. We think that live in a village is better than in a big city because these are more polluted and grown. But in poor countries like Asia and Africa, people have to move in big cities to search a job. So towns become full of people and smog. It's difficult to resolve this problem because if a person wants a better life, he musts go in a city with more factories and jobs.
Matteo e Paolo, Latina (Italy)

There is nothing wrong with growing cities as such, IF they are properly planned
SK, Finland
There is nothing wrong with growing cities as such, IF they are properly planned. Sadly, today's cities grow uncontrollably, spreading all over the landscape with very little thought given to the infrastructure. From this lack of planning we get traffic congestion, slums, and vast apartment building areas without any services, suitable only for sleeping, not for living in. And cities need to grow up and down, not all over the place; it is more expensive, but saves the landscape from being paved over to make room for roads and parking lots, and also reduces the reliance on cars.
SK, Finland

We think that the cities should grow only in the poorest area in the world.
Augusto & Andrea, Latina, Italy

I live in Soria (a Spain's province) where the population index (8,8 inhabitants / square kilometre)is between the lowest of the world (together with Laponia and north of Scotland). Luckily here, the cities aren't growing and our quality of life is wonderful.
Jorge Sanz Garcia, Almazan (Soria) Spain

Population growth will continue despite our best efforts to put a brake on it. The question then arises where are these people to be housed? Unless there is a rise in urbanisation and people are accommodated within cities in greater numbers, the pressure on nature, land and our environment will intolerable. To save the planet it may be desirable to actively encourage the growth of cities.
Steve Molloy, Wigan, UK

Citizens from industrial countries have developed a city conscience and they are attracted to the cities not only because of the higher salaries but also because the city provides better access to art, cultural diversity, education and technology. In the developing countries people are attracted to the cities because they are starving, are being displaced by civil wars or they lost their land through natural disasters.

People arrive completely confused and criminality shoots up. Moreover, industry directors start developing the most complex industries they can find, such as car and steel factories, without any regard for town planning and then they forget the main resource the countries have which is rural land. After that it's a cascade effect with pollution leading the list.
Juan Molina, Bremen, Germany

With the leaps and bounds in Communication technology, physical proximity is slowly waning as the reason for urbanization. In the developing world opportunities and better living choices are still the driving force, however in the coming future the reasons for urbanization will probably be social, political and security.
Bharat Singh, Piparpur, INDIA

Governments could encourage the building of communications infrastructure in smaller communities
Bogdan, Bucharest, Romania
Our "post-industrial civilization" is going to be completely changed after the communication revolution will be over: In many cases, there would be no need of an actual presence at the workplace; everything could be solved via the internet with email and video meetings. This could strip the cities their most attractive feature: better jobs and higher incomes. The one thing the government could do is encouraging the building of communications infrastructure in smaller communities.
Bogdan, Bucharest, Romania

I am only 20, but I remember the rapid urbanization my city and shire has been having for 15 years. Industrial and commercial areas multiply and develop, soon followed by residential ones. Human impact is reduced thanks to a good building plans to match living requests (spaces for green, children, parking; houses with few flats; etc.). But the urbanisation of once countryside areas creates many environmental matters: smog or "urban heat island", less snow come and stay on the ground in winter, and summer days are hotter, water is polluted, etc.

It is a common problem to all the Padano-Veneta Plain, the big northern plain of Italy. I think we cannot stop it because we need it, as a modern society: our duty is to regulate it and to develop it in a sustainable way.
Filippo, Padova, North-Eastern Italy

The most environmental friendly lifestyle is to live together. It can reduce the growing demand on oil and reduce damages to the natural environment. Why not?
Patrick, Hong Kong

Where are all these people coming from when the birth rate here in Germany is 1,3 children per couple and Britain's population is almost 6 million lower than it was in the 50s, even London's population is lower than it was in the 60īs. I can only think there is lot more single people owning their own homes today, because there aren't that many 8-10 children families anymore.
Steve, Berlin

Cities are not evil juggernauts that destroy everything
Ramesh Biswas, Vienna, Austria
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have never heard in the history of mankind of a mass migration to villages! Cities are not evil juggernauts that destroy everything. On the contrary, the facts are:
1. that due to the economic, cultural and media dominance of cities, more than half the world's population already lives an urban life now, even if the places they live in look like rural villages;
2. cities are not "disaster zones", but places of hope. They offer millions of people the possibility to realize their personal potential, something impossible in villages. That's why cities continue to be attractive.
Ramesh Biswas, Vienna, Austria

Massive growth in urbanisation is a worldwide phenomenon, primarily effecting the developing countries. In India this process has taken catastrophic proportions in terms of non planned growth in urban areas leading to the social a chaos and anarchy. The problem is massive and solution too is massive that is sustainable development of growth.
Athar Husain, Lucknow, India.

You've overlooked the point that by 2030, 40% of the world's fast growing population will be living in rural areas. That's a lot of people.
Chris Hunter, Bedford, England

Depends on where you are talking about really. In the UK and other densely populated countries, increased urban living (and density) is preferable to the destruction of the countryside and natural habitats.
Richard, Chesham, UK

Make a visit to 'Urbis' in Manchester if you can and see for yourself what vibrant, exciting places cities can be with some forethought.
Derek Blyth, Bolton, UK

Hopefully the miracle of technology will allow us to devise new industries within city that will provide enough employment
Anthony Steed, Bedford
The rapid improvement of farming technologies have left many agricultural employees obsolete. Hence the migration. Hopefully the miracle of technology will allow us to devise new industries within city that will provide enough employment for the population. Japan (Tokyo) is a good example of this. Will technology be able to keep up?
Anthony Steed, Bedford

I think that today's modern word is finding it very hard to cope, If we don't do something soon, we may soon find ourselves in a world that is just full of cities, and we will be choking on our own fumes.
Richard Fish, Bradford

Here in Oslo, we're surrounded by a Forest. The attitude here is that they won't cut down the forest. As a result, the city doesn't expand. It works. Keep a nice small city, and the environment is safe.
Wendy, Oslo

The population is out of control. There are too many families having more than 2 or 3 children. It is better that the excessive population live in dense cities rather than sprawl everywhere without restriction.
Lisa Starrfield, Gregory, USA

I think instead of complaining that there are to much people on earth, wealthy societies like Americans and Europeans should share their well-being with poor people.
Krzysztof, Katowice, Poland

If 60% live in cities then who would take care of farming, there would be a great food shortage & everyone would realise how important the farmers work is.
Toosy, Guildford, England

People want basic facilities of life, security and job opportunity therefore they migrate from villages to cities and from backward areas/countries to developed areas/countries.
Maqbool Ali, Quetta, Pakistan

You pessimistic people should come to San Francisco to see a delightful model of a city.
Kevin, San Francisco, USA

I believe we have to plan carefully
Lani, Brisbane, Australia
I live in inner city, with family in the country. I believe we have to plan carefully - well into the future. And we need to plan HOW our use will affect the land - water run off, geographical influences, food and agriculture - then we will adapt and change and cope as we always have.
Lani, Brisbane, Australia

Hey, it's an ADVENTURE driving around Los Angeles! About 140 miles from top-to-bottom, and a hundred or so from side-to-side at the extremes, it can take a while to see just from the air. Of course, the freeways are the product of a deranged mind, and house prices are becoming like telephone numbers in length. But at least it's not raining.
Ian, Brit in USA

I can see that the time approaching fast when living in rural area would become a luxury. Only rich would be able to afford it.
Agha Ata, Houston, Texas.

Perhaps the only beauty that is truly universal is that which nature provides. Huge sprawling metropolises simply do not make adequate doses of the kind of respite that the human soul receives from nature, available to us. I know this is true from having lived in Tokyo. I can only hope that there is a swing or at least a decrease in rapid urbanisation in the world, with other trends like telecommuting available. But ultimately, more awareness about what is essential for true quality of life is what is necessary.
Joy, Kamakura, Japan

It is impossible for villages and small towns not to become large urbanized areas because of the world's rapid population growth. People complain that property, food and the general cost of living is too high, but have you stopped to think that these things are so expensive because you are now competing for your place in the world? People are praised for having large families, but they don't comprehend their impact on the rest of the world.
Emilee Farber, California, USA

I love living in a metropolis like Seoul, but development in the world is way over-accelerated to be sustainable. It is in our best interest to be maintain the human-scale and stop emulating Manhattan, Hong Kong, or Shanghai - in spite of the impressive chic urban image they present.
Jay, Seoul, Korea

A factor in the move towards cities is the belief that life is better there. Unfortunately there are lots of examples around the world of people who have made this move only to end up in slums, with poorer quality of life than if they had remained in rural areas. As cities grow we stand to lose agricultural land and also the workforce needed to produce food. The real problem is our ever expanding population and we should be addressing this as we think of planning future urban developments.
V Gray, Fort William, Scotland

Some things must really be done because the villages are almost depleted of human resources
Steven Mvula, Lusaka, Zambia

Of course cities are growing too much, hence the need for city planners to consider such when building city infrastructures like roads. In Lusaka where I live we are only about two million people yet the roads are ever full of cars. There's always traffic jam, whether morning, noon or evening. One of the solutions I guess is to improve the rural setting by building schools, roads, hospitals and ultra modern structures. Ok let's look at it this way; why do people come to urban areas? Some things must really be done because the villages are almost depleted of human resources. Personally I can not claim to know my village simply because I was born in a city and my parents have never been to the village since 1960 and I believe they never will.
Steven Mvula, Lusaka, Zambia

I moved from Singapore (a 5 million city-island-state) to a 140 people village in the Pyrenees. I am not going back!
Jade, France

Thankfully humanity is always good at solving problems like this. As overcrowding increases there will be a drop in hygiene, wages, health facilities and then a war/famine/plague will sort us out again.
Mark, Sussex, UK

Migration for education and work is the problem. Perhaps if there were more job opportunities and better schools around this country of ours people would not feel the need to migrate.
Leanne, Dundee, UK

The problem isn't urbanisation; it's population. Whether people live in cities or in small settlements scattered over the countryside is irrelevant, especially in the internet age. The critical parameter is the size of the population, especially a population which "needs everything". Limiting population has to be our number one priority for the World.
John M, Lyne Meads, UK

The unrestricted growth of cities is simply down to the greed of international capitalism
James, UK
The unrestricted growth of cities is simply down to the greed of international capitalism. This will mean that communities will be destroyed and the gap between rich and poor will widen. The current problems with crime and the destruction of society's basic institutions like the family will be made even worse. And uncontrolled migration will be responsible for the destruction of our country's culture (As well as the cultures of many other countries). Action is needed on all of these fronts, and rural communities need to be helped to survive in the current climate of commercial greed so their way of life can be preserved.
James, UK

All will be well if the urban areas are planned properly
Leon Kay, Picton Ontario Canada
All will be well if the urban areas are planned properly. The concept of the Garden City which was a success in Britain and was copied overseas is an example. Several boroughs in London benefited from the green squares mandated by planners. It is a sign of a civilized society that men plant trees they may never see fully grown.
Leon Kay, Picton Ontario Canada

I live in what used to be a small suburb of Milwaukee, WI, USA. It is growing bigger and bigger - what used to be farm land are now very expensive housing projects. There is less land to farm (where will our food come from?) and because there is more concrete instead of land we are starting to have flooding problems - plus, the wildlife has no where to live so we have increased problems with wild animals coming into town. What is the solution?
Kristine James, Menomonee Falls, WI, USA

Cities aren't growing too much, the global population is growing too much.
Steve , San Jose, CA, USA

Maybe the world is becoming a friendlier place, everyone wanting to live together.
David, Singapore

Larger cities will reduce the amount of land available for food production.
James, Atlanta, GA, United State
I think this migration underscores the real problem, too many people. We have or will soon exceed the carrying capacity of the planet. We need to get population growth under control. Larger cities will reduce the amount of land available for food production. Responsible growth with green spaces, integrated mass transit and mixed-use complexes would be the best course of action regarding developing cities.
James, Atlanta, GA, United States

Despite what some nostalgic of the past may argue, cities are much more eco-friendly than a population spread around the country side: efficiencies in heating, power and transportation and waste disposal are available. Of course, it remains for governments to ensure that these efficiencies materialize through adequate regulations and investments.
Alain, Washington, DC

I don't think the problem is urbanization. The problem is suburbanization. Large expanses of land are rarely threatened by multi-storey housing built next to the downtown core. It is those people that want to live in a huge house in the suburbs (former farmland) and commute for 2 hours a day. It is a waste of land and lowers our air quality.
Nilesh, Toronto, Canada

Having grown up in the suburbs and tried living in the city in my early adult life, I moved to a rural area finding even the suburbs unbearably overcrowded, polluted, noisy, and stressful. Peace, quiet, clean fresh air and water which is the birthright of every human being alive now seems like a luxurious self indulgence.
Mark, USA

We must ask what cities are supposed to be and what they are.
Blake Hanacek, Vancouver, Canada
The current global population should be an urban one. Because of the continuation of "urban sprawl" we are loosing much needed land. Our watersheds are being reduced; our agricultural land is being developed. So the higher the cities go is a plus from certain environmental perspectives. The "ecological footprint" (Rees) has shown us that the city has become such a big consumer of our goods that we need to pay attention to the current development of cities.

If we are building these concrete jungles to cage us into smaller dwelling to preserve the ecosphere and reduce human impacts it can be positive. But if we build these cities for commerce then they will begin to crumble. We must ask what cities are supposed to be and what they are. We must see how the resources flow through the city to really understand what the city truly is. As for what urban planners such as myself should do...we need to focus on moving away from linear systems toward ones that are more regenerative.
Blake Hanacek, Vancouver, Canada

In Enfield they are constantly cramming more houses and flats onto brown field in already poor and dilapidated areas. All the while they are failing to improve roads, services and other amenities sufficiently to cater for the increase in population.
Matt, Enfield

Urban planners need to consider the unintended consequences of city design. Low income neighbourhoods will drive out mid to high income populations - ultimately bankrupting a city.
Rob Campbell, Marietta, GA , USA

I live in a very peaceful city. People live side by side in relative harmony. Yet, we have, to my knowledge, the second highest per-capita population in the world. However, I fear it will not continue. As has happened again and again in history, people will begin to fight over available resources.
Kees, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Urban planners should think of an urban setting which is self sustaining and environmentally friendly
Eric, Limassol, Cyprus
Urban planners should think of an urban setting which is self sustaining and environmentally friendly. By the time these cities are built, most of the natural resources maybe dwindling into very low levels, which may turn to widespread panic in getting these resources. Educating the people who will live in these cities should also be a priority, as well as basic services should be in place and be able to cope if the demand for them would be greater than originally planned.
Eric, Limassol, Cyprus

The majority of the population need to have access to cities either for employment or education. The rise in population means that towns will be enlarged and compete with cities and cities will have to expand for demographic trends in society.
Kofi Bean, Delhi, India

I moved from Rugby to Leeds because of work. I simply didn't want to commute for miles every day in order to get a decent job. So long as the decent jobs are in the cities, people will always be moving there. The is also the stigma of better lifestyle, yet I would much rather live in the country
Dean, Leeds, UK

Hardly anyone chooses to live in a city for anything other than economic reasons
Katherine, London, U
I live and work in a city and can't say I like it much. I appreciate the benefits, but over the long term they don't outweigh the downside - smells, pollution, crowds, extra travel time. I live in a post-industrial revolution country though and will be able to afford eventually to move back out of the city back to where I came from. The evolution towards city living will, I think, eventually evolve into a move back out again when (and if) people in the world can afford to do so. Hardly anyone chooses to live in a city for anything other than economic reasons and maybe some day those economic reasons will go away.
Katherine, London, UK

Katherine states ``Hardly anyone chooses to live in a city for anything other than economic reasons''. I could not disagree more. I moved to Manhattan from a much more rural setting because all you can do in the country is sit around watching birds and contemplating your navel. In a real city, there is always something to do. The country is great for a vacation, but I wouldn't want to live there.
Joe, New York, USA

Houston, TX is expanding the highway that runs east and west through it to be 22 lanes across. All the agricultural areas surrounding the city have been swallowed by housing and commercial development. Where do we go after we consume three or four more agriculture areas? Our local government can't maintain the city without going bankrupt and not being able to pay city employees and the national government thinks all the SUV's in the city are great.

We can't keep up. And the fact that Houston has had to build a highway that is 22 lanes across screams there is a huge problem. The government obviously doesn't have a clue about what to do with the insurgence of residence. Our slums are neighbouring multi million dollar homes and you would be a fool to attempt to walk anywhere in the city after dark. Warn Away! Houston isn't listening!
ED, Houston, TX, USA

There is little to prevent cities from growing. Fuelled by the promise of economic growth (or "greed", depending on your point of view). The real cause for concern is not what the impact would be on rural areas from people moving to the city, but rather, what would the impact be of the city moving to (and consuming) the rural area?
Andy, Cheshire, UK

I believe that nothing can stop the simple truth that more people are going to have to work in cities in the future. If we want to preserve a rural way of life, then hard choices will have to be made to do with commuting into cities. Improve public transport, build better roads to train stations, get rid of congestion charges and build more car parks in cities. Failure to do this will result in the British countryside becoming a weekend retreat for the rich.
Richard, UK

'Sustainable relief' is needed
14 Sep 04  |  Science/Nature


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