Can cities of the present survive the future?
The journey of humanity out of its primitive, nomadic past, into a state of becoming a globally inter-connected species within millennia, learning to communicate across the planet (and outer space) via radio-waves traveling through various mediums, to wherever they were directed by a human elsewhere; this has got to have some drawbacks. The majority of humanity, increasingly migrating into cities to pursue their ambitions/needs, as is shown by Geohive’s Urban /rural division of countries for the years 2015 and 2025, the highest density of rural populations being present in countries which are still developing. But, are constantly increasing their rate of migration into urban areas, as the individual countries experience progress across their various sectors.
Cities, unlike rural settlements, provide a plethora of conveniences — anything from medicine to fast food — all within relatively close proximity of each other. The ability of cities to facilitate the existence of millions of people (and their work-leisure spaces) within the radius of a few miles, is a marvel of human ingenuity in its own right. Tens, even hundreds of thousands, can easily gather at organized, well supplied venues, and co-participate in all kinds of festivals, sports events, charity work, health activities, etc.
A business can cater to more customers, without having to exert itself as much as it would have to in the distant, scattered villages. Reciprocally, more people are able to choose from a larger pool of services, and their relative characteristics, such as quality, cost, etc.
The intellectuals of our present world also have an easier time finding each other, rallying their ideas on all relevant topics, occasionally weeding out the bad ones, and moving humanity a few steps closer to freedom from wishful thinking and delusions, to name a few vices.
With great progress, comes an even greater responsibility to not let that progress threaten the existence of all life (and progress) on this planet, let alone the ones transiently reaping its benefits.
The unwanted residue of our life enhancing cities, which mostly goes as unnoticed as the leaves on a distant tree in the life of a passerby, sits there, accumulating, growing in mass. A concentration of people leads to a concentration of businesses, modes of transport, etc., all reciprocally contributing to massive amounts of daily waste production, released into, and affecting all parts of the environment. Ultimately, people and businesses need to exist close to each other (until we have surrogate robot bodies doing our bidding, while we sleep in an egg-shaped tech pod somewhere in the Swiss Alps) to improve the level of their relative output in whichever aspect they may desire. Unfortunately, the tools are too often made accessible before adequate information about their potentially harmful effects, is; often on purpose.
Most cities of our world, are modifications/expansions upon the quaint towns or villages they once were. Meaning most do not possess infrastructures that predicted, and took into account their eventual growth-explosion(s). Roads are built through residences arbitrarily to connect another arbitrarily built road, and then expanded upon as the city grows furthermore, needing larger lanes.
Metropolitan cities have their roads flooded and obscured withing minutes, potholes becoming deadlier traps than they usually are. Poor Sewage systems allow giant rats, cockroaches, all kinds of pests conveniently access human residences, bringing the pathogens, as well as structural degradation with them. Houses themselves, often get flooded. Sedentary water, becoming a breeding ground for the biggest predator of humans; The Mosquito. Detachment from the experience of a natural environment and interaction with different lifeforms, you can’t miss the things you never knew. The advancements in medical science are of greater value than they might ever have been. They especially help balance out a huge portion of damage done by the increasing dangers of pollution in the city — where the largest population density (and exposure to health hazards) is present, which is one of the biggest challenges faced by city’s authorities, and civilians alike.
The challenge of making amends for all the mistakes of our civilization is truly onerous. It will surely take its toll, but when, and if the task is completed, humanity will have balanced the shaky unicycle it was riding towards a comparatively better future. Whether that becomes a reality for this world, is ultimately up to its members. It’s not only a matter of finding better ways to plan, and handle the growth of cities, but also making efforts towards minimizing the damage each individual may “inadvertently” do to the environment throughout their lives and and far-reaching actions.
Understanding the consequences of otherwise, seemingly harmless actions ought to be each person’s priority, as well as being genuinely empathetic towards those who are affected by the individual’s decisions.
There is hope, but time may run out (at least for us) long before it is realized. Quantifiable action is perhaps our only remedy, for our idols, rituals, and prayers don’t seem to protect us, other life forms, or the environment they live in. Individuals must halt their own actions that lead to existential decay in all parts of all lives on this planet, even their own. Preferably, the action does not stem, solely out of the need for self-preservation.