World Cities Adding One Million People Every Week

mex_city.jpg

Syndicated columnist Neal Peirce asks whether our planet will be able to absorb the population "mega-surge" currently underway in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

From Common Dreams:

The problem is that the global population base has increased so radically that even seemingly modest birthrates can have momentous consequences. Joel Cohen (head of the Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University) calculates that if we do add 2.5 billion people by 2050, and virtually all the increase, as expected, goes into poor countries’ cities, then the world will have to build one city of one million people every week for the next 43 years. "Is this," he asks, "feasible — physically, environmentally, financially, socially?"

One sort of shudders at the answer. But there is a first step: get a handle on growth of the world’s cities. Without that, how can city leaders estimate the peripheral areas they’ll have to urbanize, or, alternatively how much they’ll have to "infill" their current territory with higher density development?

The bottom line is clear: the developing world’s cities — and the developed world’s cities still expanding significantly — must plan early, much more carefully, or expect to be overwhelmed by a virtual growth tsunami.

Good planning, for example, can recycle underused urban land, or schedule better use of expansion areas, to achieve much greater people-carrying capacity. Good planning can avoid some of the worst modern traffic jams, put public transit first, make walking and biking convenient, and preserve pockets of "green" critical to humans’ physical and emotional health.

Photo: Mexico City, by dantebusquets/Flickr

  • Zach

    This has already happened. (Planet of Slums is a very good book about it.) Been to Bangalore recently? Manila? Vast peripheral shanty-cities are going to be the home of more than half the world’s population soon, and ain’t no infrastructure.

  • Biosphere | Automobile

    pick just one.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Urban Density and a Pocketbook Plea for Congestion Pricing

|
Of the ten largest cities in the United States, New York has far and away the greatest population density: 26,402.9 people per square mile, more than double the second densest big city, Chicago. The chart at right shows how the largest metropolitan areas stack up in terms of core population, overall population and core population density.  […]

What Should We Learn From Moses and Jacobs?

|
There is probably no more beloved figure in urbanism than Jane Jacobs, who fought to preserve some of New York City’s most treasured neighborhoods and who gave urbanists some of the field’s fundamental texts. As Ed Glaeser notes in the New Republic this week, Jacobs died in 2006 "a cherished, almost saintly figure," while her […]
STREETSBLOG USA

If Walmart Urbanizes Its Headquarters, What’s Next for Its Stores?

|
The Washington Post reports that Walmart, the retail behemoth whose name is synonymous with big-box sprawl, is looking to attract young people to work at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. To make that happen, the company is investing in amenities to make its hometown — population 40,000 — more urban. To remain competitive, the Post says, Walmart must draw professionals “who might […]

If a 26.2-mile, Half-Day Street Closure Generates $188M…

|
Why not Close New York City’s Streets to Traffic More Often? Sunday was New York City’s 26.2-mile block party, a once-a-year occasion for residents and visitors alike to actually enjoy the city streets. A recently announced economic-impact study of the 2005 race calculated that the marathon–complete with participants and spectators from near and far, sponsors, charities, media, prize […]
STREETSBLOG SF

Berlin’s Striking Cycling Renaissance

|
Berlin is a hugely under-appreciated cycling city. Often overshadowed by the accomplishments of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, over the past two decades Berlin has quietly experienced what is perhaps the most striking cycling renaissance in the world. On any given day, more trips are now made by bicycle in Berlin than any other European city. Berlin […]