Thursday, March 3, 2011

Urbanization Reducing The Rate Of Global Population Growth

AN UNANTICIPATED ENVIRONMENTAL benefit of increasing global urbanization is the remarkable reduction of the rate of population growth that intentional socio-political efforts could not achieve.  Stewart Brand suggests that urbanization provides the global tipping point in stopping the “population explosion.”[i]  This decreasing rate of population growth may have an astonishing effect upon human development by eventually addressing the rapid growth of cities so that they gradually become more manageable.

Urban birth rates decline because the child that is an asset in underdeveloped countries becomes an economic liability in cities.  While this may seem to demean the child, the child in underdeveloped countries is valued as a social security resource rather than for purely intrinsic value.  A child in underdeveloped countries contributes to the reduction of available resources and increases competition for those resources rather than eases those economic pressures.  Further, this child personally experiences major economic and health barriers that compromise nutrition and life expectancy. 

All countries have lower rates of population growth than their 1960 rate.  An ecologically optimistic view is that global population may plateau at 8.4 billion (up from the current 6.9 billion) within twenty-five years, and potentially not reach a United States Census Bureau estimated population of 9.224 billion persons in 2050.[ii].  Globally, every 110 hours, a million more human beings are born than die,[iii] with 220,000 births daily.[iv]  However, the “exploding” population appears to be leveling off from a peak rate of 2.2% in 1963-64 to the current global rate of 1.14 %.  Ecologically optimistic views speculate that this current rate is anticipated to drop to .91% by 2020 and .46% by 2050.[v]  Less optimistic population statistics suggest a population of 13 billion by 2067 should the current rate of 1.14% continue.  The global population estimates vary from 7.5 billion to 10.5 billion by 2050. And eco-optimistic trends also suggest the possibility that the global population might decrease to 3+ billion people by 2150.

There is an “urbanization explosion” [rate of urbanization] that is reducing the “population explosion.”  It has been posited that there is around an eighty-five percent chance that the global population will stop growing before the end of the century, and a more guarded probability that the global human population may be lower at the end of the century than it was in 2001.[vi]  The highest rates of population growth are in developing countries, but developing countries also have the highest rates of urbanization that are likely to reduce population growth.  Also, the population is older, with the current percentage of persons over age 60 is anticipated to increase to 34% by 2100.[vii]
Stabilizing human population and having the majority of the population now shifted to the city may provide the opportunity to address the fundamental cause of urban blight—the very rapid expansion of the city through migration.  While the rapid rate of urbanization has created major ecological problems, urbanization itself might be seen as creating a concentrated opportunity to address ecological concerns more comprehensively than we have done in the past.

[i] Stewart Brand, “Emerging technologies and their impact.”
[ii] “World population,” United States Census Bureau, [www.census,gov].
[iii] Annie Dillard, For the Time Being. New York: Knopf, 1999, p.109.
[iv] “anthrosphere,” []
[v] “World population,” United States Census Bureau.
[vi]  Wolfgang Lutz, Warren Sanderson and Sergei Sherbov, “The end of world population growth,” Nature, Vol. 412, Number 6846, August 2, 2001, pp. 543-545.
[vii] “Global population estimates are revised downwards,” Sept 01 2001, Stats at George Mason University, [].

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