By next year, more than half the world’s population, 3.3 billion people, will for the first time live in towns and cities, a number expected to swell to almost 5 billion by 2030, according to a United Nations Population Fund report released today.
The onrush of change will be particularly extraordinary in Africa and Asia, where between 2000 and 2030 “the accumulated urban growth of these two regions during the whole span of history will be duplicated in a single generation,” the report says.
This surge in urban populations, fueled more by natural increase than the migration of people from the countryside, is unstoppable, said George Martin, author of the report, “State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.”
Cities will edge out rural areas in more than sheer numbers of people. Poverty is now increasing more rapidly in urban areas as well, and governments need to plan for where the poor will live rather than leaving them to settle illegally in shanties without sewage and other services, the United Nations says.
Most cities in the ‘developing world’ don’t have functioning water system, electricity, or transportation grids. These things in the US were paid for by public subscription programs or infrastructure taxes. Now, US city power and water systems are crumbling, but there are all these new economic opportunities. Let’s see…. are businesses going to invest in building new power and water systems in countries where workers have few/no rights and they can vacuum up wealth quickly, or in repairing failing systems in old countries which have at least nominal worker rights?
Oh, right… wealthy people all drink bottled water and have their own generators now. I guess that answers that question.