The world has changed remarkably in the last century. We've moved from a largely rural world citizenry to one that is rapidly becoming largely urban. In 1905 the largest city in the world was London, with a population of 6.5 million. Today it is dwarfed by Tokyo, with a population of 34 million. London, now with a population of 7.5 million, doesn't even make today's top twenty largest cities. In 1900, only 14% of the world's population lived in cities. It's likely that, as is my case, your ancestors did not live in a city. Today, roughly half of the world's population lives in cities, and unlike my ancestors, I do. Here in the United States, 80% of our population now is urbanized. Cities continue to grow larger, and many towns are becoming new cities.
The ramifications on our lives of this new societal placement are many. A common refrain of those less than thrilled about urban life is that this new settlement pattern is bad for the earth. As it turns out, this is really not the case. Many of today's most ardent environmentalists recognize that a city designed for sustainability offers the best opportunity for us to most sustainably populate the world. The best way to help our planet may be urban living. Of course, this is only if it's done correctly.
So what can be done to make a city sustainable? It's an important goal as currently cities comprise a mere 2 per cent of the Earth's land, but use up seventy-five per cent of its resources. What is good, though, is that the size of cities create inherent economies of scale that make living on less natural. First steps include reducing the need for cars and creating spaces for urban agriculture. Smart urban planning is needed to ensure vibrant communities centered on good transit options, with space for all socioeconomic groups to find a corner.
As the future becomes now, will urbanization result in more slums and poor educational systems; or will the world's resources be managed more efficiently in bringing a good life to the masses?