The ‘Ruralization’ of Urban Areas

It’s a statistic that is highlighted in all the urbanism and city conferences: for the first time in the history of the planet, the majority of the population lives in cities. In 2050, 70 per cent of the population will live in urban areas. These numbers are already a cliché since they are often repeated and a way to reveal the “importance” of the “cities”.

However, according to Sarah Goodyear, an expert dedicated to the theme of cities and urbanism, “these statistics hide a deeper and more complex reality”. This reality shows that the distinction between urban and rural, between cities and suburbs and countryside, is disappearing as populations grow and traditional social structures dissolve. “The boundaries between different ways of life are blurring,” she says. This means that “urbanization” is currently different than it was in the past.

The distinction between urban and rural is disappearing

A somewhat provocative essay was published a few weeks ago in the “Future Capetown” and written by Beloved Chiweshe, that transforms the idea of urbanization in essence. Chiweshe, former secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, discusses what he calls the “ruralization of urban areas.” And he specifically points out to the hardness of this “ruralization” in regards to the female gender, especially in most African and Asian countries, where the cities are attracting people from isolated and remote regions who abandon their “ancestral” way of life in search of opportunities. Many of these people, mostly women, end up having a worse life and inhumane living conditions on the outskirts of cities, due to the population growth, they cease to have minimum conditions to maintain well being, including citizens who already live there. There is water shortage, power failure, lack of food and lack of solutions to solve a human drama that underdeveloped countries are feeling as a result of globalization and the abandonment of fields and rural areas.

Meanwhile, in the Western world…

In occidental world, the reality is almost the same. Population movements are oriented to the cities and urban areas throughout the Western world, hence the importance of finding appropriate solutions in order to maintain a quality of life and liveability within acceptable parameters of mankind and in particular for the Western citizen. The aim of cities is to discover these “smart” solutions that support the well being of citizens both in their basic needs (water, electrical energy, food), and in the needs that are the source of those fluxes (economy, employment, culture and education).

In the case of Portugal, we have been witnessing the abandonment of fields and of the countryside for decades. This phenomenon has brought problems to the cities along the coastline, which are now seeking to solve them, however, the central government policies must focus in the country’s interior, reimbursing the rural life to urban areas, for example, promoting the emergence of suitable and strategic clusters (agro-industry, tourism, etc.) and simultaneously replicate the factors of attraction of cities, that in theory, serve firstly, to attract population, secondly, to prevent its loss.

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