The past two days, I covered a list of 20 items from The Futurist magazine’s “Outlook 2010” (Nov-Dec 09 issuehttp://bit.ly/xFR5C) that will shape 21st c cities.http://bit.ly/w1po5 Now I am adding other trends, ideas, and forecasts beyond their list. First, a bit of context.
The Urban Century
As of 2007, more of us live in cities than not, which is an historic first. Furthermore, during the next four decades, the world population is predicted to add 3 billion more people and nearly all of that growth will be in cities.http://bit.ly/4DMSUD
In other words, during the past 10,000 years of civilization, we grew to the point that 3 billion people live in cities. Now we will add that many again by 2058.
Think about it: Are our cities prepared to deal with doubling size in the next forty years?
Cities In Crisis and Opportunity
Urban change will not be entirely incremental, just more and more of the same; cities will fundamentally transform, in many parts beyond recognition.
The reason I say this with such sureness is by looking backward. To see what lies ahead, futurists become great students of history. We look backward in order to see forward. If you look at 1950, cities are nearly unrecognizable. And 1900, even moreso.
A Very Brief and Recent History
When forecasting, I think about time in blocks or at particular milestones.
In 1900, London was the largest city, eight of the top ten largest were in Europe or the US, most people lived without in-door plumbing and many without power, and one of the largest problems was horse manure overwhelming streets. http://bit.ly/3qYMXD
By 1950, New York emerged as the first megacity and power and plumbing were solved in developed countries. However, cities beyond the industrialized west began to fall behind in their technology. The societies remained primarily agricultural.
You might say that’s the period when the urban divide emerged. Before industrialization, all cities were primitive – that is, they employed basic construction technology - and societies were primarily rural. Now cities diverged into two distinct paths. Power, transportation, and increasingly complex infrastructure arrived in some cities, and lagged in others. For those cities who industrialized, life changed immeasurably during the first half of the 20th century; it was a transformational change, not just more of the same.
By 2000, Tokyo was the world’s largest and a sea change hit the rest of the top ten list. Only London and New York remained from prior lists. The other largest cities are entirely in developing countries. By 2015, London falls out of the top ten. Furthermore, Tokyo and New York hold their spots by retaining, not adding, people. They are barely growing.
1. The Great Urban Divide
Growth in Asian cities is exploding. Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai, Calcutta, and Jakarta lead the world through a combination of rural-urban migration and population increases (not true for China of course that has low fertility rate).http://bit.ly/1Fabe9 Each country has its own problems. While China has organized massive long-term development plans, they build sub-standard buildingshttp://bit.ly/3cBtnB and their cities’ air is the most polluted in the world.http://bit.ly/15i1cj. India struggles with squatters villages, infrastructure, transportation, education, and jobs.
Cities in developing countries grow at a rapid clip of 3 percent annually – yes, those cities will gain the lion’s share of the next 3 billion people – while developed countries that have long been urbanized are maintaining existing population. Therefore, developing countries’ concerns are with massive amounts of new infrastructure, institutions and services while developed countries are repairing, renovating, and re-inventing. The Great Urban Divide looks to continue until the world population balances in mid- 21st century.
2. The Rise of Megacities
Defined as cities with populations over 10 million people, 20-25 mega-cities will exist by 2015 (depending on how you define the circumference).http://bit.ly/16E5JR While 6.9% lived in mega-cities in 1990, over 12% will be in the 23 largest cities by 2015. That represents an increase urban population from 98 million to 378 million people.
Imagine, in this 25-year period, 23 cities are adding 12 million new people each! Just the housing and infrastructure required is mind- boggling, much less jobs, education, health care, banks, shops, and so on. Look at your city and think about that magnitude of change.
Moreover, almost all of that growth is occurring not in Toyko, New York, or London, but in India, China, and Indonesia. Even mega-cities are experiencing an urban divide. There are two forms: those more or less built by now, and those that are still building. They have one thing in common: all are scrambling for resources.
3. Polycentric Cities
While developing countries are squeezing enormous numbers of people into incredibly dense megacities, developed countries are sprawling and eventually converging in what Sir Peter Hall dubbed the polyopolis, or poly-centric regions.http://bit.ly/3M3Pvk The distinction between mega-cities and poly-centric cities is due to transportation and historic growth. Polycentric regions emerge with multiple cities and urban cores, linked by networks in economically beneficial collaborations. Hall identified eight European areas as mega-city regions and three or four in North America.
Polycentric regions tend to be areas of highly developed technology and with historic social and political patterns. The problems are split governance and enabling a division of resources. In effect, with regional relationships paramount yet without centralized government, a new field of urban diplomacy and legal negotiations is emerging.
While it may seem like this tale of divided problems means we don’t need to worry about urban troubles half way around the globe, that is folly. Two things are shared and deeply linked: the environment and the world economy. Collaboration, risk, opportunity all converge.
No one has yet to build the perfect city. We can learn from each other.
Next I focus on some technological ventures: floating cities, robotics, and geo-engineering.