Human Population VII: Urbanization

As countries move through their development phases, not only do they industrialize and institutionalize, they also urbanize-- an increasing proportion of their populations move from rural areas to urban centers. The notebook page reproduced below shows the global trend from 1850 through 2011 and the prediction for 2050. The page is based largely on data from the U.N. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision.

I have seen some U. N. estimates for 2100 suggesting that by then 99% of humanity will live in urban areas.

This raises some interesting questions.

1. Will present urban areas simply grow larger to accommodate the increase?

2. Or, will new urban areas germinate to cover portions of the Earth's surface otherwise required either to supply resources to urban dwellers or to provide refuges for the wild?

3. Is there a tipping point between the demands of urban populations for vital resources (food, fuel, water, raw materials, etc.) and the ability of the non-urban areas to provide them?  (Non-urban areas = croplands, rangelands, forests, wilderness, etc.)

An increasing global human population offers significant challenges; increasing urban (dependent) populations adds another dimension to these challenges.

Human Population VII: Urbanization. © Fred Montague

Human Population VII: Urbanization. © Fred Montague

Environmental Science Classroom: Poems with a Point

The following poems have been approved for use in university environmental science courses.

I have found over my years of teaching that students appreciate a variety of perspectives.  Poets are said to be the sense organs of our species-- often with deep and intuitive understanding of the big picture and the underlying factors associated with complex issues.  They are often able to deliver the lessons more succinctly and memorably than the professors.

The four poems listed below are a few of the ones I have found to be particularly appropriate.  These are not recently published poems, but their themes are even more important and relevant today than when they were written.  I have provided the publication dates for two of them.  

Your assignment:  Read these poems, then begin writing your own.

"The Flight"  1930.  (Rudyard Kipling)-- describes the displacement of wildlife by human disturbance.

"The Purse-Seine"  1937 (Robinson Jeffers)-- describes the vulnerability of urban populations. Consider that today about 54% of the world's 7 billion people live in urban settings, that by 2050 about 74% of the predicted 9.6 billion people will be urban, and that by 2100, 99% (according to the UN) of the expected 10 billion humans on Earth will be urban-dwellers.  

"The Wages of History" (Wendell Berry)-- a humble poem of agricultural land abuse and the challenges that lie ahead.

"For the Children" (Gary Snyder)-- down-to-Earth advice for tomorrow.