Historically, there have been three major global modifications for human settlement, migration and mobility on earth. These can even be decribed as tectonic transformations of our lifestyle, which have shaped and reshaped human life and affected human streams around the globe: agriculture, urbanization, and industrialization. These three can very well denote stages or phases of socio-economic developments without specific order though agriculture and food production are essential, central and common needs for us and will remain to be so. It is not strange that agriculture and food production were among the first activities for humans on earth, thereafter came industrialization and urbanization. However, science and technology were, and still are, natural prerequisites for any socio-economic development to take place anywhere. Implementation of innovations in science and technology is not straightforward, i.e. in the process of industrialization and urbanization, as it might seem in the first place. I do agree with Albert Einstein who is one of our great thinkers and philosophers of all times “The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them.”
Urbanization is a major effect of the expansion of industrialization, and both urbanization and industrialization are very much dependent on science, technology and education. Urbanization, however, unlike industrialization has different dynamics and evolution, and can be much more dependent on policy-making and management, at least in terms of socio-economic planning. Even though, the simple definition of urbanization, i.e. the process by which towns and cities are formed and become larger as more and more people begin living and working in central areas (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/urbanization), the full definition does involve the quality or the state or the process of becoming urbanized. Increasing urbanization is hardly a new phenomenon, this has been happening since the time of the first city, somewhere between 6,500 and 8,000 years ago. Urbanization was even associated with many glorious and famous civilization, e.g. in ancient Egypt that brought excellent examples of harmony, social and cultural developmemts. Among important new issues that make us to re-think and re-consider what urbanisation brought with it: are sustainability; the implementation of UN-SDG; the emerging needs for adaptation to the post fossil-fuel era and what urbanization should be in terms of preservation and protection of water, energy and natural resources.
Post-agricultural urbanization caused dramatic increase in population in cities and towns versus rural areas. A process that began during the industrial revolution, when workers moved towards manufacturing hubs in cities to obtain jobs in factories as agricultural jobs became less and less common. Urbanization in China, for example, has brought hundreds of millions of people from rural locations to the bustling coastal metropolises. The effects of urbanization, however, are more tangible and better recognized than those of agricultural land-use; e.g. air pollution and increasing child asthma; forced choice between rural hopelessness and urban despair; does urbanization creates a good living places for all citizens and people, particularly families; increased loads of sewage discharge into the streams. Above all, the severe expansion of slums within and around major/mega cities and towns.
Across the world, slums are home to a billion of people, one in seven of the world’s population. By 2050, according to the United Nations, there could be three billion. The slum is the filthy secret of the modern mega-city, the hidden achievement of 20 years of untrammelled market forces, greed, neglect and graft (http://www.newstatesman.com/global-issues/2011/08/slum-city-manila-gina-estero). Megacities will often turn into Megaslums under the coming and increasing urbanisation, fueled by migration and differential birthrates. We see this occurring first of all in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As current immigration trends continue, we will see the emergence of true Megaslums in Europe, North America, Oceania, and even in Japan and other presently low-migrant wealthy nations that are losing the demographic race (https://alfinnextlevel.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/urban-world-utopia-or-global-dysgenic-idiocracy/).
For older cities in developed countries – London, Paris or New York – urbanization took place gradually over a century and with tight interactions with industries and engagenment from research, technology and education. They had time, resources, know-how and knowledge to adjust. In contrast, in developing Asian, intense urbanization is taking place within few short decades in random fashion and completely degenerated from supporting infra-structures and with complete absence of public and basic services, e.g. education, health, transport, water and sanitation. Unlike the Western cities that urbanized earlier, developing Asian cities simply do not have the administrative, management, institutional and financial capacities to manage urbanization and resulting socio-economic upheaval within such short periods. Urbanization is, indeed a complex challenge, with implications that are difficult to forecast especially in the absence of coordinated policies, management and administration (http://thediplomat.com). Most disastrous consequences arise with rapid and random urbanization in the developing countries (http://www.iied.org/study-warns-failure-plan-for-rapid-urbanisation-developing-nations). Governments in Africa and Asia must have strict plans for urbanization or risk harming the future prospects of hundreds of millions of their citizens with knock-on effects worldwide. They should heed lessons from Brazil whose failure in the past to plan for rapid urban growth exacerbated poverty and created new environmental problems and long-term costs that could have been avoided (http://knowledge.zurich.com/risk-interconnectivity/the-risks-of-rapid-urbanization-in-developing-countries/).
By 2050 more than two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, while the many benefits of organized and efficient cities are well understood, we need to recognize that this rapid, often unplanned urbanization brings risks of profound social instability, risks to critical infrastructure, potential water crises and the potential for devastating spread of disease. These risks can only be further exacerbated as this unprecedented transition from rural to urban areas continues. The increased concentration of people, physical assets, infrastructure and economic activities mean that the risks materializing at the city level will have far greater potential to disrupt society than ever before (http://www.afdb.org/en/blogs/afdb-championing-inclusive-growth-across-africa/post/urbanization-in-africa-10143/). Urbanization in Africa has largely been translated into rising slum establishments, increasing poverty and inequality. However, there are large variations in the patterns of urbanization across African regions. The relatively fewer slums in North African countries is mainly attributed to better urban development strategies, including investment in infrastructure and in upgrading urban settlements. More broadly, 60% of African citizens live in places where water supplies and sanitation are inadequate. As most of the migrants from rural areas are uneducated/unskilled, they end up in informal sector with low income and intermittent, and naturally seek for shelters or become tenants of slum landlords. Many African cities have, therefore, to deal not only with slum proliferation but also with increasing insecurity and crime. Weak institutions have contributed to poor urban enforcement, resulting in dysfunctional land and housing markets, which in turn has caused mushrooming of informal settlements. Furthermore, African governments have neglected the key drivers of productivity which include small and medium-size enterprises, human resource and skills development, and technological innovation. These factors are essential in advancing predominantly informal, survivalist and basic trading activities to higher value-added work (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=35556&Cr=URBAN&Cr1#.VtsxxUV86nM).
Relevant slideshare: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/PECSweb/urbanization-brief-history-future-outlooks; https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/RajendraPSharma/urbanization-a-theoretical-view-perspectives-growth-cause-and-problems
Here is a short summary on How Slums Are The Fastest Growing “Lifestyle Communities”: http://www.theurbandeveloper.com/fastest-growing-suburbs-slums/