"Life will be hard: more Dickensian squalor than 'Sex and the City' chic".
An interesting article in that it is typical of various scientists and 'social observers' who, by fact of their 'professional superiority', are both institutionally and intellectually protected from 'the very ignorance and squalor of the madding crowds
What Mr. Grimmond does not address -because it's 'easier and foreseeably more comfortable' not to, is the prevention of the futurological situation he describes:
it is addressable, and it takes no more than the convention of some initial handful of scientists fundamentally knowledgeable enough about 'the biological and anthropological nature of the organism' to challenge and
invade the genuinely primitive and 'pecking-order-based' mentality of all thus-far government today -inevitable, and only a matter of time before some such body rises to it.
March, 2006 Economist Magazine
THE WORLD IN 2006
Is Homo sapiens wise to forsake the countryside?
asks John Grimond
UP in town, down in the country. Some time in 2006 more than half the population of the world will, for the first time, be living in a town or city. You may quibble about what constitutes a town or city, and your quibble may determine when exactly
the half-way point is crossed. Inexorably, though, the urge to urbanise is gaining the upper hand. For most people, the landscape they wake up to will henceforth be concrete.
This is all a bit odd. Homo sapiens has been around for at least 25,000 years, and for almost all that time he has been a rural creature, his habitat dominated by the need to find food. Villages came about only with the
development of farming -at the end of the last ice age, about 9,000 years ago- and even then the vast majority of people had to be close to their animals and crops. Cities of more than 100,000 people were not developed until the days of classical
antiquity, 3,000 years ago.
By that time'improvements in farming were leading to surpluses of meat and grain, and improvements in transport were making possible the development of trade. Some people were thus freed from the duty to produce their own food, and so
to live in towns. But it took another huge leap in technology, the invention less than three centuries ago of engines and machinery, to draw peasants in large numbers from the land to the cities, there to work in the new factories of the industrial age.
They survived, some even thrived, in these conditions, thanks to other inventions, such as soap, medicines and sewerage. Even in 1800, though, only 3% of the world's population was urbanised.
The current surge of urbanisation is almost entirely driven by the relative impoverishment of the countryside. True, it is medical and other scientific advances that have in the past 50-60 years made possible the vast growth of the
world's population, from roughly 2.5 billion to 6.5 billion people; and nearly two-thirds of these extra souls have been absorbed by the cities. But they have not been drawn by the demand for jobs so much as the hope of jobs. The reality is often
unemployment and poverty. Moreover, the cities growing fastest today are not, as they used to be, in the richer parts of the world. They are in the poorer parts, notably Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Many are vast. In 1950 the only city that could claim more than 10m inhabitants was New York. It was the epitome of sophistication. Today there are probably 20 such mega-cities. In the near future, though, most people will live in
smaller metropolises, including the 480 or so whose populations will reach 1m or more within ten years. Two-thirds of these will be in poor countries, and life will be hard: more Dickensian squalor than "Sex and the City" chic. Already some 20m
people in the five great conurbations of South Asia -Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata and Mumbai- exist in slum conditions. Over 99% of the urban population of Chad and Ethiopia live in slums. And 70m people occupy a corridor of insalubrity between Abidjan
and Ibadan in west Africa that probably counts as the largest stretch of urban poverty in the world.
Where will it all end? Man is adaptable, and has in the rich world often created a passable rus in urbe: many urbanites seem happy with parks, not open country, and gyms, not manual labour. Man has urban outfitters, urban music
and even urban myths to help him. But today's cities may be growing a bit too fast for their own good. Only if the new cities of the developing world can find the prosperity associated with the older ones of the rich world will they seem a natural
habitat for the yokels of everyone's yesterday.